Monday Morning Quarterback
Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is over, we can go ahead and take a look at next year’s draft class and how Clemson will be represented in the draft.
As we know, just three former Tigers were taken in this year draft … linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (3rd round), wide receiver Deon Cain (6th round) and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (6th round). It marked the fewest number of players from Clemson selected in the NFL Draft since 2008, when only two former Tigers were taken.
However, there was a good reason for that as we all know. Defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, along with defensive tackle Christian Wilkin and offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt all decided to return to school for one more season.
So next year’s draft class should be stockpiled with former Clemson players, and I am not the only one who thinks so.
CBS Sports.com feels the same way.
“One thing to note is that there is some monster defensive line talent that could be available next year, including four players from Clemson alone,” writer R.J. White wrote.
In White’s way-too-early mock draft for 2019, he has defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and Ferrell going in the first four picks with Wilkins and Bryant going in picks 14 and 28 respectively. You can read what White says about the Tigers’ defensive linemen here.
Though White has four Tigers going in his mock draft, I can see the program with an opportunity to have five potential first-round draft choices in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Clemson has never had more than two players chosen in the first round of any NFL Draft. Besides Williams and Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft, the program had two players selected in the first round just three other times … 1979, 1982 and 2015.
Many considered left tackle Mitch Hyatt to be first-round talent at left tackle heading into the 2017 season, but the rising senior decided to come back to school because he felt like he needed to get better in certain areas before heading into the league. Another great year by the 6-foot-5, 305 First-Team All-American and he is sure to be a high pick as well.
“They made a decision that they thought was best for them, and as it turned out it was great for us, too,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Sometimes a decision that is best for them … is best for them. It does not always work out great for us, but this year, we had three young men that had a real decision to make and they wanted to stay and to finish.
“They have a chance to be first-round draft picks with a good year and that is what they are focused on.”
Clemson is sure to have others drafted next year as well. Hunter Renfrow, Albert Huggins, Jalen Williams, Mark Fields and Kendall Joseph will be in next year’s class after using up all of their eligibility in college. Others, like running back Tavien Feaster, linebacker Tre Lamar, safety K’Von Wallace, safety Isaiah Simmons, safety Tanner Muse and cornerback Trayvon Mullen, will be eligible to enter the draft.
In all, as many as 16 Tigers could be drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. I’m not sure all of them will be, but that is certainly a possibility.
“They want to leave a lasting legacy,” Swinney said. “Those guys are really locked into finishing. They have eight months left before the next chapter starts to begin and they want to make it a great eight months.”