Clemson had an uncharacteristically quiet NFL draft, with just three players selected; just one on the first two days. The Tigers were the youngest team in the College Football Playoff and with the team’s four best juniors opting to return, there wasn’t much top-end talent departing Clemson. Clemson had only six scholarship seniors and four early-departing juniors so there’s not a big list, but we’ll explore what’s next for these players. (Note: seniors DJ Greenlee, Maverick Morris, and Tyrone Crowder were not drafted or picked up as undrafted free agents and are not listed below.)
Dorian O’Daniel (RS Senior, SAM Linebacker)
Selected in the 3rd Rnd (100) by the Kansas City Chiefs
Over his five years at Clemson, O’Daniel developed into arguably the most important player on a Clemson defense ranked #2 in the S&P+ advanced stats rankings. He was often used to cover slot receivers and tight ends, but was also excellent tracking down ball carriers, often being seen running across the field to make a big tackle. He is the toughest player the Tigers have to replace next season.
The Kansas City Chiefs were somewhat aggressive in selecting him with the final pick of the third round, as most projected him to be a day three selection. Nonetheless, the Chiefs get a mature, talented, high-character individual who can thrive if the coaching staff has a plan for how they use him. O’Daniel had specifically said he wanted to go somewhere that has a plan for how to maximize his skill set and was thrilled when the Chiefs selected him for that very reason.
Deon Cain (Junior, WR)
Selected in 6th Rnd (185) by the Indianapolis Colts
Deon Cain left early only to drop about three rounds lower than he expected. He called falling into the 6th round “a shocker.” He was Clemson’s leading receiver, but arguably not a good fit for the “9” role in the Clemson offense which is where taller receivers who excel at winning jump balls thrive.
As late as he fell, the upside is intriguing for the Colts. Stampede Blue, SB Nation’s Colts site, had the following to say:
“Cain is a 6’2”, 202 lbs. receiver who ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. NFL.com gave him a pro comparison to Roddy White. In particular, Cain is respected as a route runner and had a productive collegiate career. He has some drops that he will need to work out if he wants to gain the trust of his coaches and quarterbacks at the next level but he could be a strong outside receiver who has the size and speed to take advantage of one-on-one coverage when the defense has to focus on another primary target.”
Ray-Ray McCloud (Junior, WR)
Selected in 6th Rnd (187) by the Buffalo Bills
Ray-Ray will get a shot to play WR in the NFL. Many Clemson fans would have liked him to return to convert to a CB, where he may have more upside in the NFL, but from his first interview with the Bills, it’s clear he views himself as an offensive player saying: “I can play anywhere on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously I played defense in college. I’m dominant with the ball in my hands, and that’s where I see myself at.”
McCloud will have to compete for a roster spot, but the Bills don’t have a particularly strong WR corps. He’ll also benefit from having a new QB, Josh Allen (Wyoming), coming in at the same time, and not with built-up rapport with the returning WRs.
Taylor Hearn (RS Junior, OG)
Taylor Hearn alerted coaches relatively early on that he would be leaving after the season. Going undrafted was always going to be a possibility (we projected him 6th-UDFA). Fortunately, he signed with the nearby Carolina Panthers and will now hope to stick with the team. Given that he already graduated, and all the recent information tying service time, not concussions, to long-term brain disease, I can’t criticize the decision.
Van Smith (Junior, S)
Van Smith was not drafted, though we projected him to sneak into one of the last two rounds of the draft, but later signed with the Atlanta Falcons. He’ll have to battle for a roster spot. Busts remained a problem even last season, but he was able to provide quality snaps at both safety positions. He will be missed dearly in a thin Clemson secondary.
Ryan Carter (RS Senior, NB/CB)
Clemson’s unheralded DB Swiss army knife and destroyer of screen players, Ryan Carter will get a chance to compete in NFL camp. The 5’9” former Rivals two-star recruit has accomplished so much more than anyone would have expected — from playing a major role on a National Championship team to signing in the NFL. He’s a Tiger-favorite and we’ll see if he can make an NFL roster or stick on a practice squad.
Marcus Edmond (RS Senior, CB)
Injuries unfortunately limited Edmond in his senior season, preventing him to make an impression on NFL scouts. Thankfully, the hero of the 2016 Louisville and NCSU games will get a shot at the NFL as he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. We’ll be rooting for him to stick on the NFL roster or practice squad.