All of Cornell Powell’s hard work – and patience – paid off during this past college football season, and again on Saturday when the former Clemson wide receiver was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round (No. 181 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Powell had to wait four years for his chance to shine as a Tiger. But after taking advantage of unexpected opportunities as a fifth-year senior in 2020, the Greenville, N.C., native will now get his chance in the NFL.
Prior to last season, Powell had only 40 career catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns. However, instead of transferring to another school where playing time would be easier to come by, he stuck it out at Clemson and was rewarded for his stick-to-itiveness with an All-ACC campaign in 2020.
With Justyn Ross sidelined for the season and fellow receivers Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata hampered by nagging injuries, Powell took on a bigger role in the offense and easily surpassed his production from his previous four years, recording 53 receptions for 882 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games (all starts).
“He was a bit of a forgotten man for much of his career,” ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis said during ABC’s coverage of the draft. “But with Justyn Ross having to miss the season with spinal stenosis, Cornell stepped up in his final season as a Tiger.”
ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick believes Powell is a great fit for the Chiefs and that they were fortunate he was still available in the later stages of the draft.
“It took him five years until he got on the football field. But this is just a profile guy that Kansas City needs,” Riddick said on ABC. “A big-body guy – 6-foot, 204, about 4.52 in the 40-yard dash. Wins at the catch point. Smooth route-runner … Strong after the catch. Strong at the catch point. He’s much different than the profile of wide receivers that they have right now, and I have a feeling that Brett Veach, the general manager, wanted just this type of guy and is lucky to get him down here in the draft.”
Powell played well while helping his stock during his week at the Senior Bowl, and while his 40-yard dash time doesn’t jump off the page, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay pointed out that his speed nonetheless showed up in Mobile, Ala.
“He didn’t run the fastest 40 time,” McShay said. “But when they put the GPS on those guys down at the Senior Bowl, on Tuesday practice, he ran the fastest of any of the players there. There’s one thing to run a great 40, but to have football speed, that’s what he has.”
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper also chimed in on Powell during ABC’s telecast of the draft, complimenting his ability to make contested catches without costing his team in penalty yards.
“He has that knack, too, in a contested situation, of not drawing a penalty for offensive pass interference,” Kiper said. “Subtly just doing enough to get separation enough to make the catch.”
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