Back when Deshaun Watson was going through the NFL Draft process, Dabo Swinney told anyone he could that passing over Watson was like passing over Michael Jordan.
It is easy to understand the Clemson football coach’s thinking. Watson was 32-3 as a starter at Clemson. He set all sorts of records at Clemson and he did something know one else in the BCS or College Football Playoff era had been able to do before – he was the first to beat Alabama and Nick Saban in a national championship game.
Like Jordan, Watson did it with pizzazz, too. Four times in 2016, Watson engineered last minute or last second game-winning drives while leading the Tigers to their first national championship in 35 years.
Now, Swinney is singing the praises of a different gunslinger in Tigertown. Trevor Lawrence has come into Clemson and has become the next legendary quarterback. The 20-year old has already led the Tigers to one national championship and led them to a second title game, while compiling a 25-1 record as a starter.
In his two years at Clemson, Lawrence has thrown for 6,945 yards with 66 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. Last year, he earned First-Team All-ACC honors at quarterback, while throwing for 3,665 yards with 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He also rushed for 563 yards and scored nine touchdowns on the ground.
Lawrence did not throw an interception in his last eight games, ending the season with 239 consecutive passes thrown without an interception, breaking his own Clemson record. By the way, he also beat Saban and the Crimson Tide in a title game.
Many expect the 6-foot-6, 225-pound quarterback to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft. However, on Thursday, ESPN personality, Stephen A. Smith, asked Swinney a hypothetical question on “First Take.” If Lawrence was in this year’s draft with Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, which quarterback should go No. 1 in the draft?
“Well, I am always going to choose my guy, if you are asking. I am bias,” Swinney said. “If you would have asked me that when Deshaun Watson was coming out, I thought he should have been the No. 1 pick. That was my opinion then.
“That does not mean I am right. But I am always bias towards my guys and love my guys.”
Of course, Swinney has had the opportunity to coach against Burrow and Tagovailoa the last two years, so he has seen what both quarterbacks are capable of. Burrow lit Clemson up in this past season’s title game, while the Clemson defense had its way with Tagovailoa and Alabama in the 2019 championship game.
Burrow ended up having the greatest season ever by a college quarterback in 2019, while runaway with the Heisman Trophy. He is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25.
Tagovailoa, who many consider to be a top 5 pick, was in the running for the Heisman Trophy, and was having another great year at Alabama when he dislocated his hip late in the first half in a win at Mississippi State.
“I tell you what, Joe Burrow is an unbelievable player. I was so impressed with him,” Swinney said. “I was impressed with him getting ready for the game. But after the game, just watching him live, he is a special talent.
“Then, I am a Tua fan. I love Tua. I am on record with that, people can worry whatever they want to worry about. I would not pass up on Tua. I think he is a big-time winner. He is a great person and he is a great teammate. I think those are two unbelievable guys.”
But, and no real surprise, if Swinney was an NFL coach and he had to pick between the three, he said his choice would be easy.
“But I have only coached Trevor. So, if I was on the other side and I was picking. I am taking my man T-Law for sure.”
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