Clemson had six players selected in last weekend’s NFL Draft. All six ended up going to franchises set up to deploy their strengths in a beneficial way. But which former Tigers will be in the best situations during the 2017 season? Here are my grades for each situation, with a greater emphasis placed on the player’s ability to make an impact than the decision made by the team:
WR Mike Williams, 1st round (7th overall), Los Angeles Chargers
Williams landed in a terrific spot early in the draft. The Chargers ranked eighth in the NFL in passing yardage a season ago and averaged 25.5 points per game without the services of top wideout Keenan Allen, who missed all but one game with an injury. Williams and Allen will be partners in crime this season, with Williams’ skills as a possession receiver perfectly complementing Allen’s all-around ability. With the other receivers Los Angeles has in tow, Williams should be both featured and available to produce with Philip Rivers throwing the ball around on a regular basis.
QB Deshaun Watson, 1st round (12th overall), Houston Texans
Watson couldn’t have possibly entered a better situation. The only thing the Texans need to take the next step as a franchise is a quarterback, and they traded up to get Watson in the first round. He has all-around baller Nuk Hopkins to throw the ball to, as well as a young stud wideout in Will Fuller and a proven commodity in the backfield in Lamar Miller. Technically, Tom Savage is still the starter, but that seems like a temporary fix. Watson is the future, and if he can convince the locker room he’s worthy of trust—something a Texans QB hasn’t done in a long time—the future could arrive very soon.
CB Cordrea Tankersley, 3rd round (97th overall), Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins already have cornerbacks in place to start next season, so Tankersley appears to have a bit of a struggle to see regular snaps. He could end up in the nickel if he proves he can handle run support, which has been a weakness for him at Clemson. One of the other cornerbacks is former Tiger Byron Maxwell, one of the players Tankersley has idolized as an NFL player. Maybe Maxwell will prove an effective tutor. The Dolphins were average against the pass this season, so it’s not a terrible fit, but it doesn’t seem ideal, either.
RB Wayne Gallman, 4th round (140th overall), New York Giants
Gallman’s fit isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. The former Clemson tailback joins an uncertain backfield in New York led by second-year player Paul Perkins. Behind Perkins, who averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2016, the order is up in the air, leaving space for a physical runner like Gallman. If he and Perkins can pair up to improve the Giants’ fortunes on the ground, it should make life easier for Eli Manning to deploy his stable of capable weapons down the field. By season’s end, it’s quite possible Gallman has seized control of this timeshare.
DT Carlos Watkins, 4th round (142nd overall), Houston Texans
A quick look at the Texans’ current roster shows two players currently listed as defensive tackles: Watkins and former Tiger D.J. Reader. Reader’s play last season as an unheralded fifth-round draft choice earned him incumbent status heading into 2017. Watkins could write a sequel to his story as a rookie given the lack of depth that currently exists in the interior of Houston’s defensive line. Expect to see Watkins on the field a ton in his first season with the Texans.
TE Jordan Leggett, 5th round (150th overall), New York Jets
Leggett was perhaps the drafted Clemson player who fell farthest below expectations in last weekend’s draft. He landed in a tough situation for any skill player looking to make a significant impact. The Jets currently have lots of young quarterbacks with major flaws, and none of them has emerged as the frontrunner. The running game is fine, but the passing game lacks pizzazz. This means Leggett has a great shot to become a featured piece, assuming a quarterback emerges capable of throwing him the ball. Lots of questions remain at this point.