NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Clemson Prospects

DeAndre Hopkins Headlines a Group of Five Former Tigers Awaiting Selection This Month

DeAndre Hopkins Headlines a Group of Five Former Tigers Awaiting Selection This Month

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Clemson‘s resurgence over the past two seasons has largely been fueled by underclassmen contributors, so the team will once again lose just a few players to the Draft this spring. But also similar to last season, those few players did make a significant impact. Whenever your leading rusher, leading receiver and starting center are all on draft boards, it’s both a blessing and a curse. We’ll see where these Tigers could be selected in a few weeks:

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Junior (Projected: Mid-First Round)

Hopkins’s record-setting junior season has propelled him from well-regarded second receiving option to potential first-round draft pick. Scouts seem to love his blistering speed (his 4.5-second 40-yard dash time is not indicative of how fast he really is), along with his great hands and smart after-catch abilities. While his 6’1″ 200-pound frame is concerning for some, it’s also not a deal breaker for those looking to draft him, as he can certainly add some upper body weight between now and when the season starts. As it stands now, Hopkins may be the top receiver in a very thin class at that position, and may end up being selected as early as the middle of round one.

Andre Ellington, RB, Senior (Projected: Early Third Round)

Similar to Hopkins, the biggest concern around Ellington is his size (5’9″ 190 pounds) and how that will affect his durability as an NFL back in the long-term. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot to like from the speedy rusher who’s already drawing favorable comparisons to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Atlanta Falcon RB Warrick Dunn. This draft is thin at running back, so there’s always the chance he’s taken far earlier than projected. But given the changing NFL ecosystem away from featured rushers, it could end up dropping him into the latter part of day two of the draft. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, and could potentially provide Ellington with just the chip he needs to excel come camp in July.

Malliciah Goodman, DE, Senior (Projected: Fourth Round)

Despite a limited senior year, Goodman still tallied seven sacks, looking great throughout his final three games in particular (five sacks). While he’s purely a pass-rush threat, there is some thought that the quick (4.67 40-yard dash) and agile end convert to the outside linebacker position for the right team running a 3-4 defensive scheme. With a long frame weighing in at just 276 pounds, it would seem the most natural fit for him, as he’d otherwise be manhandled directly on the line. Expect his name to be called on day three with a real chance to get into a linebacker rotation come the fall.

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Clemson Tigers

Teams Thought Clemson's Sammy Watkins Was Intimdating Before, But Just Wait 'Till He Starts Handling Punts

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Clemson Tigers

Clemson enters 2012′s spring practice with the harsh, yet thrilling reality of inflated expectations. And why shouldn’t they? Sure, the Orange Bowl loss stung. But look at all the good that came from 2011: the schools’ best football season in 20 years, their first conference title in 20 years, three wins over ranked opponents… just to name a few of the accomplishments under head coach Dabo Swinney. Most of all, the team discovered the types of weapons it has at its disposal on offense. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington were all stellar last season, and all are projected to improve this season, too. Yet it all starts here in spring. For Boyd, he’ll look to improve upon his accuracy and decision-making under pressure (below average in 2011), while Ellington’s likely to gain more involvement in the passing game. As for Watkins — one of the most dangerously fast men in football — he’s actually demanding to take on punt return duties as well. When someone leads the conference in all-purpose yards as a freshman, are you honestly going to doubt him? The other key for the offense will be quickly developing camaraderie on  line tasked with protecting Boyd and their season. The less Boyd is flushed out of the pocket, the more effective he’ll be as the year wears on — the central cog in Clemson’s offense continuing to be as explosive as it was for most of 2011. Continue reading