Four Clemson Football Players Who Could be First Round NFL Draft Picks


clemson football

Clemson football is the program that comes closest to matching Alabama’s dominance in recent years. At least in the College Football Playoff era. In this the fifth season of the CFP, the 20 berths so far break down like this: Alabama 5, Clemson 4, Oklahoma 3, Ohio State 2, Notre Dame, Oregon, Florida State, Georgia, Washington and Michigan State all have 1. 

So of the 20 berths, 60% have gone to just three teams, and Clemson football is one of them. Dabo Swinney’s program beat Alabama for the 2016 national title, but lost to them in the 2015 national championship and 2017 Sugar Bowl semifinal. The odds makers have both teams as double digit favorites to win their semifinal games and play for the national title again; which would make it the third time in five years.

national title game

What sets Alabama and Clemson football so far above everyone else? Well, there are lot of factors and reasons, but defensive line talent and depth is critical. While quarterback is and always has been the most position in all of sports, the DL, as a position grouping is key.

It’s been a consistent college football paradigm in recent decades- the most stable and elite programs have top tier talent and an abundance of depth on the DL. Our 2019 NFL mock draft is loaded with Clemson football players, and here are four who could go in the first round.

Clelin Ferrell, DE

He had another spectacular season with 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He has a versatile skill set that makes him a potentially every down player at the next level. Probably could have left school last year, but definitely drove up the price of his stock by playing another year of Clemson football.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had a lot of praise for his opponent, especially the front seven, during the Fighting Irish’s on campus Media Day.

“Defensively, I think you obviously start with the defensive front. You probably have three guys there that could be top 50, top 60 players in all of college football,” said Kelly.

“So that’s a pretty good group. I mean, comparing them to maybe North Carolina State last year in some fashion, LSU, that kind of capability on the defensive line.”

Christian Wilkins, DE, Clemson

Wilkins was perhaps ready to jump in 2018, but since he stayed in school longer, his stock may be higher when he enters the process this spring. His ability to play any position on the DL makes his stock high. He’s crazy athletic and wicked fast too. At 6’4″, 315 he’s actually lined up at running back for Clemson; not fullback but tailback. His rushing TD at Florida State this season complements the receiving TD he had in 2016.

clemson football

He’s a prospect that knows how to split through gaps and create pressure on opposing back fields.

Dexter Lawrence, DT

You can see why the Notre Dame OL, or any offensive line for that matter which plays Clemson, will have their hands full. Lawrence was the #2 overall rated recruit in the nation when he came to South Carolina in 2016. At 6-4, 351 pounds, he’s a match-up nightmare for tackles and guards everywhere.

Lawrence won the 2016 ACC Defensive rookie of the year award on the strength of his breaking the Clemson freshman season sacks record which was held by William “the Refrigerator” Perry, Ricky Sapp and Shaq Lawson. Lawrence, like the Fridge versus the Green Bay Packers in 1985, scored a rushing touchdown this season, against lowly Louisville.

Trayvon Mullen, CB 

The junior just spoke out about his upcoming NFL Draft status decision a couple days ago, and said that he will weigh up all his options and make the call after the season is over. At 6-2 he has ideal size for a corner and the scouts will love his long arms. He has the requisite speed too, but overall his prospects have tended to fluctuate over the course of the season.

Even if he wanted to shut out all the draft chatter and mock draft projections etc. it’s pretty much impossible as family and friends have been keeping him updated on that stuff.

“I would say it’s kind of surprising, but I know I’m a really good athlete and I know it’s something that was possible, so I’m just embracing it,” Mullen said of one mock placing him top ten, and the first Clemson football player selected.

“It’s something that motivates me and helps keep me going and makes me get better every day.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation. 

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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