2021 potentially could be Clemson’s best year in the NFL Draft

2021 potentially could be Clemson’s best year in the NFL Draft


2021 potentially could be Clemson’s best year in the NFL Draft


In the history of its football program, Clemson has never had more than three players selected in the first round of an NFL Draft. Could that change next year?

Potentially, the Tigers could have as many as five players taken in the first round of next year’s draft. It’s too early to tell at this time, but you would have to think quarterback Trevor Lawrence, wide receiver Justyn Ross, running back Travis Etienne, left tackle Jackson Carman and defensive end Xavier Thomas could all be first-round prospects.

Lawrence has a shot to be the first overall player taken in the draft. Since he led Clemson to the 2018 National Championship as a freshman, everyone has believed he will be the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Sports Illustrated still believes Lawrence would be the top pick. On Monday, they had the rising junior going No. 1 overall in its ‘Way too Early Mock Draft’ for next season. SI.com also had Ross at No. 7 in the draft and Thomas at No. 14.

The 2019 NFL Draft is the only time Clemson had three players selected in the opening round. Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence all went off the board in the first 17 picks of the draft. Ferrell went No. 4 overall to the Raiders, while Wilkins went No. 13 to the Dolphins and Lawrence was the 17th pick to the Giants.

If you noticed, based on recent history of the draft, SI.com left Etienne out of the first round. The last two NFL Drafts have failed to see a running back taken in the first round. However, if Etienne has the kind of season most are expecting, this writer can see the Clemson running back getting into the first round.

As for Carman, the 6-foot-5, 355-pound tackle held his own against some of the best defensive ends in the country last year, including Ohio State’s Chase Young, who went No. 2 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Young failed to get a sack against Clemson in the Tigers’ win over the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl last December.

In his first year as a starter, Carman did not give up a sack and was not called for a holding penalty on his way to All-ACC status. Another season like that, plus continued improvement, the rising junior has the potential to be Clemson’s first offensive lineman taken in the first round of an NFL Draft since Lou Cordileone went No. 12 overall to the Giants in the 1960 NFL Draft.

There are four other players who could potentially be selected in next year’s draft … wide receiver Amari Rodgers, defensive end Justin Foster, defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney and cornerback Derion Kendrick. If you are doing the math, that is nine Clemson players that could potentially be drafted in next year’s NFL Draft. If that happens, it could tie the 2016 Class for the most Tigers selected in one draft.

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