Can life get any sweeter for the University of Clemson football program? The Tigers bested perennial threat Alabama 44-16 in the College Football Playoff on January 7 to claim the national championship. The victory gave Clemson its third title in school history and second in three years.
This year’s clash was also the third time in four years Clemson and Alabama have met in early January for the national championship. There’s a pattern here. The Tigers are the definitive college football powerhouse of the late 2010s and a factory for pro-level talent.
For the Clemson stars entering the 2019 NFL Draft in April, it stands to get sweeter still. According to a pre-season report from The Clemson Insider, as many as 16 players from this year’s squad may advance to the draft.
While it’s unlikely that many will be selected, Clemson could once again top Alabama; the Crimson Tide saw a record 12 former players scooped up in the 2018 draft.
Here’s a look at the top six Tigers set to make a splash in the draft.
Christian Wilkins | DL
Hands down one of the preeminent athletes in college football, Wilkins possesses likeable versatility as a defensive lineman. He can play two-gap or bring heat as a pure pass-rusher with equal success. Following a downturn performance in 2017, Wilkins returned to form this season. His stock is high thanks to a gifted combination of strength, burst, and field intelligence. Look for Wilkins be a solid pick in the middle of the first round.
Dexter Lawrence | DT
A menacing presence at 6-foot-4, 345 pounds, Lawrence has quick acceleration for his size and a nice array of pass-rushing moves. He’s also a skilled run-stuffer who figures to make a splash at the pro-level from jump. However, Lawrence does arrive to the Draft with baggage; he was suspended for PEDs and missed Clemson’s two playoff games, a blemish that may find his stock tumbling slightly come Draft day.
Trayvon Mullen | CB
Mullen’s size and strength will grab the attention of scouts. At 6-foot-1, 186 pounds, He also comes with desirable speed as evidenced by a 4.45 seconds time in the 40-yard dash. Mullen recorded 36 tackles with three passes broken up and one interception in 2018, a performance that roughly matches his output in previous seasons. Recent scouting reports suggest he’s likely to land in the mid-rounds of the draft.
Clelin Ferrell | DE
What’s not to love about a 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end from Clemson? Ferrell put his size to good use in 2018 as he racked up 11 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Toss in 29 solo tackles and a fumble recovery on the year and Ferrell emerges as a one-man wrecking crew. Some analysts pegged Ferrell as a first rounder in the 2018 draft had he chosen an early departure from the Tigers. We think he’s still first round material.
Kendall Joseph | LB
Joseph is a monster tackling machine well regarded for his football IQ. His read-and-react skills are primetime ready as he rarely takes the bait on misdirection and counter plays. At 6-feet, 225 pounds, Joseph is slightly undersized for an NFL linebacker, but he’s a proven playmaker having turned in 281 tackles during his three full seasons at Clemson. At the least, he should find an NFL home as a backup linebacker and special teams contributor.
Austin Bryant | DE
Surrounded by Ferrell, Wilkins, and Lawrence, Bryant may not be the standout star of Clemson’s stellar defensive line. However, he’s a hard worker who tallied 43 tackles, 14.5 of them for a loss, and eight sacks during Clemson’s latest championship run. A few analysts saw Bryant as a potential first rounder coming off the 2017 season. The current consensus sees him going in round three or four.
There are a lot of NFL teams missing when you look at a list of Super Bowl 2019 predictions, and these are the franchises that stand to gain the most in the draft. Expect Wilkins, Lawrence, Mullen, Ferrell, Joseph, and Bryant to get special consideration from the rebuilders.
Other Clemson draft hopefuls include OT – Mitch Hyatt, LB – Tre Lamar, WR – Hunter Renfrow, DT – Albert Huggins, S – Tanner Muse, and LB – Jalen Williams.
The 2019 NFL Draft will be held April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.
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