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NFL Draft Discussion Thread & Preview

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Clemson is projected to have five players selected in the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at each one and project where they may go.

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ACC Championship - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Update: We’ll be using this article as the discussion thread for the NFL draft. Join us in the comments below.

Trevor Lawrence

2019 Stats:

  • 15 games
  • 65.8 (268/407) completion percentage, 9.0 yards per attempt
  • 3,665 passing yards, 36 TDs, 8 INTs
  • 563 rushing yards, 9 TDs

2020 Stats:

  • 10 games
  • 69.2 (231/334) completion percentage, 9.4 yards per attempt
  • 3,153 passing yards, 24 TDs, 5 INTs
  • 203 rushing yards, 8 TDs

Measurables:

Overview:

Trevor Lawrence has been considered a near-lock for the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft ever seen he led the Tigers to a 44-16 victory over Alabama in the National Championship his freshman season. While that game was the high-point for Clemson during his time there, he continued to make steady improvements throughout his career. He added muscle and became a running threat as a sophomore and then improved his passing over the middle of the field a season ago. His yards per attempt, completion percentage, and passer rating improved each of his three seasons at Clemson. He came in as a generational college prospect, he honed his craft, and now he is a generational NFL prospect deserving of the top pick in the NFL draft.

Mock Drafts & Projection:

The top three players drafted are all but guaranteed to be quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence will almost certainly be selected #1. The Jets cleared the way to select BYU’s Zach Wilson #2 by trading Sam Darnold to the Panthers (a great move for Carolina). The 49ers traded up, presumably to take a QB at #3. Barring something weird happening between now and draft day, Lawrence will be the first of the QB trio that starts the NFL draft.

Travis Etienne

2019 Stats:

  • 15 games
  • 1,614 rushing yards, 7.8 yards per carry, 19 TDs, 2 fumbles (2 fumbles lost)
  • 37 receptions, 432 receiving yards, 11.7 yards per reception, 4 TDs

2020 Stats:

  • 12 games
  • 914 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 14 TDs, 4 fumbles (3 fumbles lost)
  • 48 receptions, 588 receiving yards, 12.3 yards per reception, 2 TDs

Measurables:

Overview:

Travis Etienne returned for his senior season and pushed his draft stock up by becoming an elite pass-catching back. He is commonly compared to New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara who ran for 932 yards and reeled in another 756 yards through the air. He will be one of the first two backs of the board along with Alabama’s Najee Harris (BetOnline.ag has Harris as a slight favorite be the first RB off the board). The question is how many running backs will be taken in the first round. Here’s how many running backs were taken in the first round over the past few seasons:

2017: 2 (Leonard Fournette 4th, Christian McCaffrey 8th)
2018: 2 (Saquon Barkely 2nd, Sony Michel 31st)
2019: 1 (Josh Jacobs 24th)
2020: 1 (Clyde Edwards-Helaire 32nd)

Etienne and Harris could both go in the first round or the trend of investing less and less draft capital in running backs could continue and neither go that early.

Mock Drafts & Projection:

The Draft Network lists running back as a need for Arizona (#16), Miami (#18), Pittsburgh (#24), Tampa Bay (#32), and Jacksonville (#1, #33). The most optimistic mock drafts I’ve seen have Etienne going 18th to Miami or 24th to Pittsburgh. Those are best-case scenarios, but with the way the running back position has become commoditized in the NFL, they may be slightly too optimistic.

I project Etienne to go at the tail end of the first round to Tampa Bay or in the first four picks of the second round.

Joining Tom Brady and an excellent offensive line would be a great landing spot. Getting selected by the worst team in the NFL, Jacksonville, with the first pick of the second round would be a tough break, but it would be fun to see Etienne and Lawrence revive that franchise together. The New York Jets could scoop him up at #34 - that’s where Sports Betting Dime projects him to go - or the Dolphins could use the pick the swindled away from Houston and take him at #36. With Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami all in play, he may be moving to the Sunshine State.

Jackson Carman

2019 Stats:

  • 15 games, 793 snaps
  • Third-team All-ACC

2020 Stats:

  • 12 games, 798 snaps
  • PFF Grade: 79.3 (second on team behind Jordan McFadden)
  • Second-team All-ACC

Measurables:

Overview:

Jackson Carman was a five-star recruit from Ohio who chose Clemson over the Buckeyes. After playing in a reserve role (209 snaps)in 2018, Carman became the Tigers starting left tackle in 2019. He played very well as a true sophomore and allowed the Tigers to avoid a drop-off at the position after losing all-time great Tiger Mitch Hyatt.

Expectations were sky-high for Carman in 2020, but he seemed to take at least a small step back (or perhaps simply didn’t take the expected step forward). That may be due to the weird COVID season, the four new OL starters he was playing alongside, or both. Nevertheless, his pass blocking was good, but not great. His run blocking, given his size and strength, remained very good. It's for that reason that some NFL teams could consider moving him to guard.

With his size, athletic ability, and overall good production in college, most are expecting him to be a day two (rounds 2-3) selection.

Mock Drafts & Projection:

The NFL draft often focuses more on measurables and potential than collegiate production. Sometimes this is obviously foolish (see the Bears taking QB Mitchell Trubiski over Pat Mahomes), but in this case, it will benefit Jackson Carman. It’s not that he wasn’t a productive college player, but NFL scouts love his size and long-term upside. In that respect, he is the opposite kind of draft target as Mitch Hyatt who started for four seasons and was consistently the best LT in the conference.

PFF has Carman as the 8th offensive tackle in their rankings. They are projecting him to go 40th to the Broncos. CBS has him ranked as the 47th best NFL prospect. Sports Betting Dime is a bit less positive but still projects him getting taken in the second round at pick 55 to the Steelers.

With many feeling like he will need to move to guard at the next level, there’s some additional risk involved, but he still should go before the end of the third round as his big frame and powerful run blocker will entice NFL scouts.

Amari Rodgers

2019 Stats:

  • 13 games
  • 30 receptions, 426 receiving yards, 14.2 yards per reception, 4 TDs

2020 Stats:

  • 12 games
  • 77 receptions, 1,020 receiving yards, 13.2 yards per reception, 7 TDs

Measurables:

Overview:

Despite losing Tee Higgins to the NFL draft, Clemson figured to have a deep WR corps. Then they lost Justyn Ross when a congenital spinal fusion was discovered before the season. Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson missed most of the year with various injuries and suddenly the WR got pretty thin. Fortunately for Clemson, Amari Rodgers had a career year to lead the Tigers in receptions, receiving yardage, and TDs (tied with Powell at 7).

Rodgers is a slot receiver but isn’t limited to short passes over the middle. He challenges defenses deep, is dangerous on end-arounds and screen passes, and can return punts. He compares his game to that of Randall Cobb:

“I definitely see myself as a Randall Cobb-type of player being used in the slot, jet sweeps, and the return game as well.”

Mock Drafts & Projection:

Rodgers says his dream scenario is to go in the “second round to the Packers.” Most experts have Rodgers being taken in the second or third round so 62nd to Green Bay is entirely realistic. They seldom take a first-round WR yet need one. Sports Betting Dime projects him to go to Houston with the third pick of the third round (67th). Green Bay would be preferable given the poor outlook for the Texans, but anywhere in the late second/early third-round range seems likely.

Cornell Powell

2019 Stats:

  • 10 games
  • 15 receptions, 122 receiving yards, 8.1 yards per reception, 2 TDs

2020 Stats:

  • 12 games
  • 12 receptions, 882 receiving yards, 16.6 yards per receptions, 7 TDs

Measurables:

Overview:

Through four seasons plus the first four games of 2020, Cornell Powell had 386 receiving yards despite a relatively healthy career. The former 4-star WR from Greenville, NC looked like a classic recruiting bust. Then something changed. He had 95 yards over his next two games. Then, with Trevor Lawrence on the shelf due to a positive COVID-19 test, he tallied 266 yards in two games catching the ball from DJ Uiagalelei. In Lawrence’s return against Pittsburgh, he racked up a career-high 176 receiving yards. He finished his redshirt senior season with strong play over his final three games including against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. His big year has turned him from a bust to a NFL target. He may have benefited more than anybody from the #WeWantToPlay movement and the season actually being played.

Although Powell was at Clemson for five seasons, his track record is somewhat short. He was productive for less than one full season. He posted a good 40-time at Clemson’s pro day and looked absurdly chiseled, but his game speed is still questioned. At 6-foot, he isn’t particularly tall either. He is a great blocker on the edge, but he turns 25 years old this October. Likely a player with lower upside, he is widely considered a day-three pick.

Mock Drafts & Projection:

Seemingly every draft profile and mock draft on the web has Cornell Powell being taken on day three - rounds four through seven. That’s a big span, but it gets harder to project with any precision after the early rounds as team needs change with each proceeding pick.

CBS is optimistic about Powell’s prospects. They project him to go at pick 140 late in the fourth round to the LA Chargers. They note that “Powell is a chiseled, sharp route-runner with his best football in front of him.” Sports Betting Dime projects him to go in the 5th round (#170) to the Jaguars. Can you imagine Lawrence, Etienne, and Powell all in Jacksonville? Given his age and short span of collegiate production, I would be surprised if Powell went as high as the fourth round, but his strong pro day (the man hasn’t eaten a carb in a decade!) may have given him a shot at going that early. Either way, he went from a certain UDFA to likely day three selection all because of an insane eight-game run last season and that’s quite the story.