Clemson, S.C.—As many as nine former Clemson players could be selected in the NFL draft this weekend according to those who evaluate college talent for a living. The annual draft of college players will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia, Pa. The first round will be held Thursday night beginning at 8 p.m. with the second and third rounds to following Friday evening, and the final four rounds on Saturday afternoon. ESPN and the NFL Network will provide live coverage.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams and quarterback Deshaun Watson are listed as strong candidates to be selected in the first round on Thursday night. If so it would be the second time in three years, but just the fourth time in history that Clemson had a pair of first-round selections.
Clemson has had a first-round draft choice each of the last four years. DeAndre Hopkins was the No. 27 selection of the 2013 draft by the Houston Texans, Sammy Watkins was the No. 4 pick by Buffalo in 2014, Vic Beasley was the No. 8 selection of the first round by the Falcons, Stephone Anthony was the No. 31 selection of the first round by the New Orleans Saints in 2015 and Shaq Lawson was taken with the 19th selection of the 2016 draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Draft predictions have Watson going as high as No. 3 to the Chicago Bears (Draftwire.com), while Williams’s high prediction is No. 5 to the Tennessee Titans (Bleacher Report, Charley Casserly, NFL Network). A look to 17 different mock drafts shows Williams going in the first round within the top 20 selections in all 17, while Watson is a first round choice in 16 of the 17.
Other Tigers who helped the program to the 2016 National Championship who could be drafted include Jordan Leggett, Carlos Watkins, Cordrea Tankersley, Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott, Jadar Johnson and Ben Boulware. All are rated in Todd McShay’s top 300 players.
Clemson has had a strong draft history in recent years under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers had nine selections last year, second most in the nation to Ohio State’s 12, and it was the second most in one draft in Clemson history. Only the 1983 draft had more Tigers taken with 10. The program has had at least four players chosen in eight straight years, the first ACC program to do that since Florida State had a 10-year run from 1992-01.
Swinney has six first round selections in his eight drafts as head coach. The Tigers have had 42 players drafted since Swinney became head coach, sixth in the nation.
Clemson Draft Notes
*Seven of the nine Clemson players selected in 2016 were defensive players, more than any school in the nation. Combined with the four defensive selections in 2015, Clemson has had 11 defensive players drafted over the last two years, also the most in the nation.
*The ACC had 26 players selected overall in 2016 and Clemson had nine of those selections. No other league school had more than three.
•Clemson had four players selected in the first three rounds in 2016, the most in school history. Clemson had three picks within the first three rounds in 2011, 1991 and 1987.
•Clemson’s four selections within the first three rounds were the fourth most in the nation. Ohio State led with a record 10, Alabama had 7 and Notre Dame had six.
•With the selection of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd in 2016, Clemson has had seven defensive ends selected in the last seven years.
*With the selection of MacKensie Alexander, T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse in 2016, Clemson has had 11 defensive backs selected in the last eight years. Cordrea Tankersley and Jadar Johnson could increase that total this year.
•With the selection of Lawson and Dodd within the first 40 selections, it marked the first time since the 1979 draft that two Clemson players who are natives of the state of South Carolina were taken within the first 40 picks.
•Clemson had seven defensive players selected in this draft, so the program has had 14 defensive players selected in he last four years, or since Brent Venables became defensive coordinator.
•Entering the 2017 draft, Clemson is third among ACC schools in first round selections (27) and total draft choices (237).
•Dabo Swinney has six first-round selections in his first eight seasons as Clemson head coach. He is just one behind Danny Ford (7) for most first-round selections under a Clemson head coach.
•Deshaun Watson will be the eighth Clemson player to attend the draft as a guest of the NFL. The others are Chester McGlockton (1992), Gaines Adams (2007), C.J. Spiller (2010), Sammy Watkins (2014), Vic Beasley (2015), Shaq Lawson (2016) and Kevin Dodd (2016). Mike Williams declined an invitation to attend so he could watch the draft with his family.
Clemson Players in First Round Mock Drafts
(As of April 26, 2016)
Mike Williams, WR
#5, Tennessee Titans (Bleacher Report, Charley Casserly)
#7, Los Angeles Chargers (Mel Kiper)
#10, Buffalo Bills (USA Today, Bucky Brooks, Maurice Jones-Drew, Sporting News, Draftsite.com)
#13, Arizona Cardinals (Reuter)
#16 Baltimore Ravens (Peter King, CBS Sports.com, Jeremiah NFL Network, Zierhart NFL Network, Sports Illustrated, Draftwire.com)
#18, Tennessee Titans (NFL Nation, Pro Football Talk)
Deshaun Watson, QB
#3 Chicago Bears (Draftwire.com)
#6 New York Jets (Bucky Books)
#12 Cleveland Browns (Charley Casserly)
#13 Arizona Cardinals (Bleacher Report, Sporting News, Pro Football Talk)
#17 Houston Texans (Peter King)
#25 Houston Texans (CBS Sports.com, Ziehart NFL Network,)
#27 Kansas City Chiefs (USA Today, Jeremiah NFL Network, Reuter)
#30 Pittsburgh Steelers (Draftsite.com)
#32 New Orleans Saints (ESPN NFL Nation)