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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Clemson TE Jordan Leggett

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Profile: Tight End Jordan Leggett

This is one of the more interesting draft breakdowns for the Clemson Tigers, as they have a number of interesting prospects for this draft cycle. While a lot of focus is on Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams, there were other major players on Clemson’s offense who could hear their name called on during NFL Draft Weekend. One such player is tight end Jordan Leggett.

This is Jordan Leggett’s scouting profile on NFL.com:

STRENGTHS

Outstanding size for the position. Has experience playing in-line, from slot, and as a wingback. Former high school receiver with natural, confident hands to snatch throws out in front of him. Just two drops over final two college seasons. Desired foot quickness in tight quarters. Seam-buster in Clemson's offense. Has feel for finding the throw when working over top of linebackers between the hashes. Able to drop and dig out the low throws. Shows some ability to turn out edge linebackers when he puts his mind to it. Rises to the occasion, with big games against Florida State in 2015 and 2016 and another against Alabama in National Championship. Saw his yards-per-touch increase to 17.1 in 2016.

WEAKNESSES

Has referred to himself as lazy in the past. Passion and urgency seem to be tied to a switch he flips for the big games. Lacks natural flexibility as an athlete. Shows stiffness in his routes. Leans into his breaks rather than sink hips and has no explosion out of his cuts. Struggles to get route back on track quickly once redirected with force. Catch radius is marginal. Fights his body to adjust to throws behind him and high. Loose with football after the catch. Aggressiveness and desire to block are questioned by scouts. Lacks instincts and block-sustaining as a move blocker. Accepts the brunt of the force at the point of attack. Is a little plodding coming off line of scrimmage and into his routes

First, we’ll start with The Good:

Leggett has been a huge staple of the Clemson offense his last couple of seasons, quickly rising to become a vaunted element of the Tigers’ passing attack. Here’s a breakdown of his basic production each year:

Freshman year: 12 receptions, 176 yards, two touchdowns

Sophomore Year: 14 receptions, 161 yards, touchdown

Junior Year: 40 receptions, 525 yards, 8 touchdowns

Senior Year: 46 receptions, 736 yards, 7 touchdowns

As you can see, Leggett’s involvement and production in the offense only became more and more relevant each and every year. His first two years limited him as he found himself splitting time between Sam Cooper and Stanton Seckinger, though he could have conceivably been starting over both of those guys (we’ll be getting to that soon).

Once Deshaun Watson fully took the reins as the quarterback and Cooper graduated, Leggett became a bigger target in the Tigers’ passing game. As his scouting profile suggests, Leggett had a knack for working himself into the soft spots in zone behind linebackers, which made him difficult to cover. He did especially strong damage as a flex-option, which could be seen during his clutch touchdown catches against both Louisville and Florida State, as well as his two touchdown catches against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. He was also a critical factor in The Drive against Alabama in the National Championship, using his 6’5, 258 pound frame to box out Crimson Tide defensive backs. As Clemson is not one to run many two-tight end packages, Leggett logged 855 snaps over the course of the season, so the guy rarely, if ever, left the field. Like Watson, he proved that the spotlights were never too big for him and seemed to kick in a second gear once the big games came. If there was someone who benefitted from returning for his senior season, it was Leggett, given he needed to prove that his junior year was not just simply a quick splash in the pan.

The Bad/Needs to Improve:

Of course, Leggett was not without his fair share of issues, one of which included a major factor that has concerned scouts to this point: motivation. While he was still Clemson’s offensive coordinator back in 2014, Chad Morris noted the tight end’s need to step his game up:

"Jordan Leggett is a guy, he's got to keep coming on. We need more out of him, as far as being physical. We need more out of him, from a speed standpoint, being one of the faster guys on the team at 6-6, so he's a guy that shows flashes, but really has to come on."

-The Clemson Insider

Mind you, this is his sophomore year, but Leggett’s main drawback is that he was not as physical as the other tight ends, and was more unwilling to do the little things like block in run support or pass protection. This remains one of his bigger weaknesses, as there were several instances in which he missed blocks during passing situations, and he was still not particularly effective as a run-blocker. This led to backup tight end Garrett Williams taking the field, which blatantly sends a red flag that the Tigers are going to run the football. This was also the primary reason that he didn’t start as a tight end a lot sooner.

But his blocking inconsistencies are just the tip of the iceberg, as this quote early in his career pretty much became synonymous with Leggett his entire Clemson:

“I’m a very lazy person so they are not able to trust me because of my practice habits,” Leggett said. “But when it comes to game time, I know how to flip the switch and do what I have to do to help my team have the best opportunity to win.” -GoUpState.com

Whether it can be considered owning up to your flaws or not, calling yourself lazy isn’t the best move to endear yourself to the coaches or the public. NFL scouts and personnel do their homework on all their prospects, and this lapse in judgment has resurfaced, especially as they still see these same habits emerge from Leggett on film. Every game matters, and there were plenty of instances in which the tight end took plays off or the effort wasn’t always there. In games that didn’t have the primetime spotlight, Leggett could disappear, which leads scouts to question the tight end’s passion and motivation.

Now, I think this criticism is a little off base, as Dabo Swinney and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliot have both raved about his progress from “Lazy Leggett” to “committed Leggett” & “Leggett the leader.” A Mackey Award finalist in 2016, it’s clear to see how far he’s gone since then. But it’s interesting to see how this still casts doubt among scouts over his ability and motivation. Once with a team, Leggett will have to continue proving his work ethic even more.

Now, in a football sense, while Leggett did somewhat improve his blocking, he’s still not quite where it needs to be, especially at the point of attack. His route-running could stand to be a little more consistent, especially when he comes off the line of scrimmage. As a tight end in the NFL, he’ll be asked to do a lot more than catch passes off of seam and crossing routes. He has the physical tools and size to be a productive tight end, though getting stronger as a blocker will determine just where he goes after NFL Draft weekend. In the NFL, it’s shown that if you’re willing to block, and can do it well, or be a special teams machine, you’ll stick around.

Overall, expect Leggett to be taken off the boards in the 4th or 5th round. While questions remain about his blocking ability and he could stand to shore up his route running route, his ability as a threat in the passing game and his great hands should make him a great value pick on Day 3. Tight ends have become quick game changers in an offense, and in a draft that doesn’t boast any truly elite prospects at the position, Leggett could be a steal for a team looking for a security blanket option while improving its passing game.