Monday Morning Quarterback
Dabo Swinney is not a fan of what guys like Mel Kiper, Jr., and Todd McShay do for a living.
They put out what he calls a lot of “rhetoric” about the NFL Draft that sometimes influences a player into making a decision that they are not always sure about.
Cases in point are Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins. Before the Sugar Bowl, Kiper and McShay had both players in the top 20 of their NFL mock drafts. Both even had Ferrell in their top 10, while Wilkins was 16 in one’s and 20th in the other.
Those rankings, and what other NFL Draft experts were saying, is what had Clemson’s two All-Americans confused and why it nearly took until the end of the Jan. 15 deadline for the two to decide they were coming back to Clemson for another year.
While guys like Kiper and McShay said Ferrell and Wilkins were surefire first-round picks in April’s NFL Draft, the NFL Draft Advisory Committee did not agree. Both received second-round grades from the board, an advisory council that has a track record of being right 85 percent of the time through the years.
“That’s one of the problems that we have out there,” Swinney said. “Some of the media people, and I don’t necessarily know if they are media people, but there is a lot of rhetoric that gets created in that process from these people, whether it is ‘this.com’ or this person who is putting out his mock draft and they have this person at this pick.
“Well guess what? That person does not own a team. He does not get a pick and has no influence either, but yet that gets put out there and it is just a machine.”
It’s a machine that sometimes can confuse a player and sometimes can persuade them to make the wrong decision. To try and combat those machines, Swinney attempts to give his players the most information he can.
Led by Woody McCorvey, Swinney’s Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration, Clemson provides players the resources they need to truly make an educated decision that is their own and is not influenced by anyone else.
“If you are not really educated in the process, you can make some bad decisions on bad information,” Swinney said. “So for us, we try to do a great job and we have unbelievable communication. Woody does an amazing job of kind of managing that with all the NFL people … he and Jeff Davis.
“Woody has great relationships with all of these people so we want to give our guys good information. Whatever they decide to do, they have to decide. But make your decisions based on reality. It is coming from the people who know it. This is their business.”
The reason Clemson was able to get Ferrell, Wilkins, defensive end Austin Bryant and offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt back, had nothing to do with Swinney recruiting them back or anything like that. The bottom line is they did not receive the grades they wanted.
“We had people get on the phone with them and kind of give them the same information and to help them,” Swinney said. “Their goal is to be a no-doubt first rounder. So they made the decision to come back. That is their reason. It is as simple as that.”
Swinney believes if any of those four players received first-round grades from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, they would have left Clemson and he would have completely supported them.
However, they did not. They got second round grades, and Hyatt received a third round grade. Added on to that, Ferrell and Wilkins were told why they did not get first-round grades.
“I think both of those guys are highly motivated to come back and have great years,” Swinney said.
While Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant were struggling to make their decisions, Swinney patiently hung on to their scholarships.
“I was going to make sure they had an opportunity to stay here if they wanted to. I’m just glad those guys decided to stay,” he said.
Of course others did not, despite getting grades that were not first or even second round for that matter. Wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, along with safety Van Smith, all left school with a year of eligibility left to pursue their dreams to make it in the NFL.
“First round, second round or stay in school. This is what they tell you,” Swinney said. “Sometimes guys get ‘stay in school grades,’ but they choose to leave. They have their own decisions. My hold thing is to make sure they truly understand their situation and the reality of their decision and the possibilities, and as long as they are at piece with all of that, then you support them.”
Especially when you know the players have truly heard all the opinions that are necessary to make an educated decision, and not just the opinions from a few on television or on blogs saying and writing how great a player is without some knowledge to know where a player truly ranks in the minds of NFL scouts and general managers.