The 2023 NFL Draft was held last weekend, offering many collegiate athletes the life-changing opportunity to be selected by an NFL team. For many players, this day represents the culmination of a lifelong dedication to training, practicing, and working hard.
The NFL is often said to be an entirely different game by players, and collegiate success does not always translate to a robust professional career. Nevertheless, college fans are routinely surprised by which seemingly proven play makers fall to later rounds and which players who appeared wildly inconsistent at the NCAA level are taken early due to some combination of measurables, potential, and raw skill. Florida’s Anthony Richardson is a great example from this year, being taken fourth overall despite an average collegiate career that featured only 13 starts.
In addition to the annual drama of who may or may not be taken with the first 1-5 picks, for most casual fans, the NFL draft is a fun chance to see where their favorite college stars will be playing at the professional level. Clemson fans have seen a wide variety of talented players come through Tigertown, none more than during the last 15 years thanks to Dabo Swinney’s continued success in both coaching and recruiting. In fact, Dabo ranks second behind only Nick Saban for most players drafted among active head coaches, with 77 picks as of this year’s draft.
I wanted to take a look at every player who has been drafted to the NFL during Dabo’s time at Clemson as head coach for several reasons, but primarily because it’s the offseason, and what else are we supposed to talk about if not obscure football data? I’m also curious to see which position units have had the most taken over his 14 full seasons of coaching (I’m assuming DL and WR).
I’ll start with the 2009 NFL draft and work forward, providing a brief glance at which players were drafted, how long they played, and any major career achievements they collected. I’ll keep my opinion on whether or not they were a bust in the NFL out of this, as I’m mostly just trying to get a big picture of all Dabo’s NFL draft picks. Additionally, it’s an incredible accomplishment to be drafted at all, regardless of how long a player remains on an active roster.
I’ve done my best to include at least one highlight clip from each player where possible, but for those who didn’t produce much in the NFL, I’ve tried to at least share a memorable Clemson play for some good old nostalgic value.
2009 NFL Draft
|4||103||Darell Scott||DT||St. Louis Rams||4 years|
|5||165||Chris Clemons||S||Miami Dolphins||7 years|
|5||166||Michael Hamlin||S||Dallas Cowboys||3 years|
|6||195||James Davis||RB||Clevaland Browns||3 years||(Clemson) ACC Highlight Reel|
2010 NFL Draft
|1||9||CJ Spiller||RB||Buffalo Bills||8 years||Pro Bowl (2012)||95-yard kickoff return TD|
|4||108||Jacoby Ford||WR||Oakland Raiders||6 years||47-yard reception to set up game-winning field goal|
|5||134||Ricky Sapp||DE||Philadelphia Eagles||6 years|
|5||164||Crezdon Butler||CB||Pittsburgh Steelers||7 years||Defended pass prevents 2-point conversion to help break 24-year losing streak in Wisconsin|
|7||240||Kavell Conner||LB||Indianapolis Colts||7 years||(Clemson) Goal-line tackle against Wake Forest|
2011 NFL Draft
|2||41||Jarvis Jenkins||DE||Washington Redskins||8 years||(Clemson) Blocked field goal against NC State|
|2||50||Marcus Gilchrist||S||San Diego Chargers||10 years||Interception off Joe Flacco pass|
|2||51||Da'Quan Bowers||DE||Tampa Bay Bucaneers||5 years||(Clemson) Sack against Maryland|
|4||122||Chris Hairston||OT||Buffalo Bills||7 years|
|4||130||Jamie Harper||RB||Tennessee Titans||2 years||Front flip after touchdown run|
|6||173||Byron Maxwell||CB||Seattle Seahawks||8 years||Super Bowl Champion (XLVIII)||(Clemson) Body slam against USF|
2012 NFL Draft
|2||38||Andre Branch||DE||Jacksonville Jaguars||8 years||Game-ending sack on Marcus Mariota|
|3||64||Dwayne Allen||TE||Indianapolis Colts||8 years||Super Bowl Champion (LIII)||Third touchdown in first half against Jets|
|3||93||Brandon Thompson||DT||Cincinnati Bengals||6 years||(Clemson) Batted pass against South Carolina|
|4||115||Coty Sensabaugh||CB||Tennessee Titans||8 years||Interception off Jameis Winston's first NFL pass|
2013 NFL Draft
|1||27||DeAndre Hopkins||WR||Houston Texans||2013-present||Pro Bowl (2015, 2017-2020)||Game-winning Hail Mary touchdown catch|
|4||127||Malliciah Goodman||DE||San Diego Chargers||5 years||(Clemson) Sack forces fumble against Boston College|
|5||143||Jonathan Meeks||S||Buffalo Bills||4 years||(Clemson) Pick-six against Virginia Tech|
|6||187||Andre Ellington||RB||Arizona Cardinals||7 years||Go-ahead touchdown run against Seattle|
I have seen that gif of Drew Stanton (#5 backup QB) celebrating on the sideline so many times and only just now realized it was from Andre Ellington’s big touchdown run. Hilarious moment.
2014 NFL Draft
|1||4||Sammy Watkins||WR||Buffalo Bills||2014-present||Super Bowl Champion (LIV)||NFL Films breakdown of Watkins' Super Bowl catch against Richard Sherman|
|3||100||Brandon Thomas||OG||San Francisco 49ers||6 years||Interception off Joe Flacco pass|
|4||102||Bashaud Breeland||CB||Washington Redskins||5 years||Super Bowl Champion (LIV)||100-yard fumble return for touchdown|
|4||118||Martavis Bryant||WR||Pittsburgh Steelers||5 years||Acrobatic touchdown catch against Bengals|
|6||213||Tajh Boyd||QB||New York Jets||2 years||ACC Highlight Reel|
2015 NFL Draft
|1||8||Vic Beasley||DE||Atlanta Falcons||6 years||Pro Bowl (2016)||Sack on Jared Goff while being held|
|1||31||Stephone Anthony||LB||New Orleans Saints||6 years||Blocked PAT returned for 2-pt conversion against Panthers|
|5||137||Grady Jarrett||DT||Atlanta Falcons||2015-present||Pro Bowl (2019, 2020)||NFL Films "You Shall Not Pass"|
|5||165||Bradley Pinion||P||San Francisco 49ers||2015-present||Super Bowl Champion (LV)||Punt lands at the 2-yard-line|
|6||188||Tony Steward||LB||Buffalo Bills||2 years|
Not a Falcons fan, but I will forever be sad that Beasley and Jarrett (who had three sacks!) didn’t win that Super Bowl...
2016 NFL Draft
|1||19||Shaq Lawson||DE||Buffalo Bills||2016-present||Mic'd Up for AFC East Championship|
|2||33||Kevin Dodd||DE||Tennessee Titans||2 years||First NFL sack on Matthew Stafford|
|2||54||Mackensie Alexander||CB||Minnesota Vikings||2016-present||Interception off Ben Roethlisberger|
|2||57||TJ Green||S||Indianapolis Colts||7 years||(Clemson) Interception against Oklahoma|
|4||109||BJ Goodson||LB||New York Giants||6 years||Sack on Josh Dobbs|
|5||166||DJ Reader||DT||Houston Texans||2016-present||Spotlight on Reader's injury comeback|
|7||241||Charone Peake||WR||New York Jets||5 years||Fumble recovery for 40-yard touchdown|
|7||244||Jayron Kearse||S||Minnesota Vikings||2016-present||Acrobatic interception against Saints|
|7||247||Zac Brooks||RB||Seattle Seahawks||2 years||(Clemson) Wheel-route touchdown against UGA|
Anytime Charone Peake’s name is brought up I instantly think of this block against Miami:
2017 NFL Draft
|1||7||Mike Williams||WR||Los Angeles Chargers||2017-present||One-handed grab against Rams|
|1||12||Deshaun Watson||QB||Houston Texans||2017-present||Pro Bowl (2018-2020)||Multiple sacks evaded against Bills in overtime|
|3||97||Cordrea Tankersley||CB||Miami Dolphins||5 years||(Clemson) Interception against Virginia Tech in ACC Championship|
|4||140||Wayne Gallman||RB||New York Giants||2017-present||2020 highlights with New York Giants|
|4||142||Carlos Watkins||DT||Houston Texans||2017-present||Pick-six against Saints|
|5||150||Jordan Leggett||TE||New York Jets||5 years||Touchdown reception against Jaguars|
2018 NFL Draft
|3||100||Dorian O'Daniel||LB||Kansas City Chiefs||4 years||Super Bowl Champion (LIV)||Rookie year recap with Chiefs|
|6||185||Deon Cain||WR||Indianapolis Colts||5 years||(Clemson) 54-yard touchdown reception against Louisville|
|6||187||Ray-Ray McCloud||WR||Buffalo Bills||2018-present||71-yard touchdown run against Washington|
2019 NFL Draft
|1||4||Clelin Ferrell||DE||Oakland Raiders||2019-present||Sack on Sam Darnold forces fumble|
|1||13||Christian Wilkins||DT||Miami Dolphins||2019-present||Touchdown reception at the goal line|
|1||17||Dexter Lawrence||DT||New York Giants||2019-present||Pro Bowl (2022)||Mic'd Up against Titans|
|2||40||Trayvon Mullen||CB||Oakland Raiders||2019-present||Red-zone interception against Patrick Mahomes|
|4||117||Austin Byrant||DE||Detroit Lions||2019-present||Blocked punt against Ravens|
|5||149||Hunter Renfrow||WR||Oakland Raiders||2019-present||Pro Bowl (2021)||Big tackle prevents fake punt attempt|
That legendary 2018 National Title team had three players drafted from the defensive line in the first round, four including Austin Bryant later in the fourth round.
2020 NFL Draft
|1||8||Isaiah Simmons||LB||Arizona Cardinals||2020-present||Pick-six off Drew Brees' throw|
|1||16||AJ Terrell||CB||Atlanta Falcons||2020-present||2021 highlight reel|
|2||33||Tee Higgins||WR||Cincinnati Bengals||2020-present||Contested catch in double coverage|
|3||100||Tanner Muse||S||Las Vegas Raiders||2020-present||(Clemson) Scoop and score against Syracuse|
|4||109||John Simpson||OG||Las Vegas Raiders||2020-present||(Clemson) Rushing touchdown against NC State|
|4||127||K'Von Wallace||S||Philadelphia Eagles||2020-present||(Clemson) Pick-six against Charlotte|
|7||250||Tremayne Anchrum||OG||Los Angeles Rams||2020-present||Super Bowl Champion (LVI)||Surprise nomination for Walter Payton Man of the Year award|
2021 NFL Draft
|1||1||Trevor Lawrence||QB||Jacksonville Jaguars||2021-present||27-point comeback against Chargers in playoffs|
|1||25||Travis Etienne||RB||Jacksonville Jaguars||2021-present||2022 highlight reel|
|2||46||Jackson Carman||OT||Cincinnati Bengals||2021-present||Block pushes Tyus Bowser into sideline|
|3||85||Amari Rodgers||WR||Green Bay Packers||2021-present||First NFL touchdown reception against Cowboys|
|5||181||Cornell Powell||WR||Kansas City Chiefs||2021-present||Super Bowl Champion (LVII)||(Clemson) Long touchdown reception against Notre Dame|
How cool is it that Trevor and Travis get to continue playing together (for now) in the NFL? An awesome duo who I hope do big things for the Jags.
2022 NFL Draft
|2||42||Andrew Booth||CB||Minnesota Vikings||2022-present||(Clemson) One-handed interception against Virginia|
|7||231||Baylon Spector||LB||Buffalo Bills||2022-present||(Clemson) Interception against Georgia|
2023 NFL Draft
|1||28||Myles Murphy||DE||Cincinnati Bengals||2022 highlight reel|
|1||29||Bryan Bresee||DT||New Orleans Saints||ESPN feature on Bryan and Ella Bresee|
|3||86||Trenton Simpson||LB||Baltimore Ravens||2022 highlight reel|
|5||137||KJ Henry||DE||Washington Commanders||2022 highlight reel|
|5||156||Jordan McFadden||OT||Los Angeles Chargers||College highlights|
|5||175||Davis Allen||TE||Los Angeles Rams||2022 highlight reel|
Now that we’ve seen the raw data, here are a few notes on these last 14 NFL drafts, starting with the position unit totals:
- 12 WR
- 12 DE
- 9 CB
- 8 S
- 8 LB
- 8 DT
- 7 RB
- 7 OL
- 3 TE
- 3 QB
- 1 P
Wide receiver and defensive end lead all position groups with 12 each; the overall number of defensive players drafted is 45, while only 32 offensive players have been drafted (Bradley Pinion being the only special teams player drafted during the Dabo era).
The Buffalo Bills have been the biggest fan of Clemson athletes over the last 14 years, drafting 9 total players from the Tigers since 2009. The Raiders are close behind with 7 drafted (5 of those coming in 2019 and 2020), while the Bengals and Chargers have both taken 5 Clemson players in that same time span.
Clemson has averaged 5 to 6 players (5.57) drafted during Dabo’s time as head coach, with the most in a single year coming from the 2016 draft, in which 9 players were taken from that formidable 2015 team. The fewest players picked in one year was 2 in 2022, the least since 2008 when Dabo became interim head coach.
Dabo Swinney has had 17 first-round NFL draft picks, the second-most among all active head coaches (guess who is first).
Who are some of your favorite players that have come through Clemson during Dabo’s time? My personal favorite has to be Hunter Renfrow, and I’m so glad he’s continuing to ball out in the NFL now.