There’s really no comparison between Clemson and South Carolina when it comes to the NFL draft, at least not the last two years and past several years.
But, for the sake of the rivalry and this article, we’ll compare the two in-state schools’ draft fortunes anyway.
Clemson had six selections in the 2017 NFL draft, which ranks tied for eighth in the nation. In 2016, nine former Tigers were selected in the draft — the second most in the nation last year and second most in one season in Clemson history.
Clemson’s 15 total draft picks the last two years is the most the program has had in a two-year period since 1983-84, when Danny Ford’s teams had 16.
Clemson has produced three first-round picks the last two years (Shaq Lawson, Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams). South Carolina has had three total selections in that time (Pharoh Cooper, fourth round; Brandon Shell, fifth round; Jerell Adams, sixth round).
All of the aforementioned former Gamecocks were 2016 NFL draft picks. South Carolina is one of only two SEC programs that were not represented with a selection in the 2017 NFL draft (Kentucky).
Going further back, this year marks the ninth straight year Clemson has seen at least four of its former players picked in the draft. That is the longest active streak by an ACC program since Florida State had a 10-year streak from 1992-2001.
Since Dabo Swinney’s first full season as head coach in 2009, Clemson has had 48 former players selected, while South Carolina has had 33 in the same amount of time. Digging deeper, 19 former Tigers have been selected within the first three rounds since 2009, including eight first-round selections. South Carolina has had just eight former players selected within the first three rounds in the same span, with three first-round selections.
For five straight years, Clemson has had at least one player drafted in the first round. In two of the last three years, the Tigers have had two players taken in the first round, including this year when Williams was picked No. 7 overall by the Los Angeles Chargers and Watson went No. 12 overall to the Houston Texans.
South Carolina does have two No. 1 overall selections to their credit (George Rogers, 1981; Jadeveon Clowney, 2014) to Clemson’s none. However, Clowney stands as South Carolina’s lone first-round pick in the last five years.
Swinney has had eight first-round selections in his nine seasons as Clemson’s head coach. With the two first-round picks this year, he passed Danny Ford (7) for most first-round selections under a Clemson head coach.
The NFL draft, thanks to the Tigers’ success on the football field, has given the Tiger Paw and Clemson’s brand further exposure — and a lot it — in recent years. Of course, it can only help the Tigers recruit young athletes who aspire to follow in the footsteps of players such as Sammy Watkins, Vic Beasley and Watson.
“It helps (recruiting), but I don’t know how to measure a direct impact,” Swinney said on Wednesday before the draft. “What we are always after is trying to get the best player that fits our program and have consistency year in and year out.”
When making the NFL pitch to recruits, the Tigers have the facts to back it up. South Carolina’s draft facts don’t speak the volumes that Clemson’s does.