NFL Draft Prospects: Clemson

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

With the College Football National Championship coming up on Monday night, I’m breaking down the 2017 NFL Draft prospects to keep an eye on from both Clemson and Alabama. With these being the two best teams in the nation, there are plenty of players on each team projected to be drafted this year.

I’ve listed Clemson’s best draft prospects below and will post Alabama’s next.

Clemson Draft Prospects:

#4 QB Deshaun Watson (6’2 | 215 | 4.64) – At this time last year, Watson was considered a lock to be the #1 overall pick in the draft, but his stock has slipped considerably in the last season. His passing stats were almost exactly the same (67.3%, 4,173 yards, 38 TD, 17 INT) from his breakout sophomore season (67.8%, 4,109 yards, 35 TD, 13 INT) but he didn’t show the expected improvement in ball security and decision making. Watson’s rushing yards also dipped from 1,105 in 2015 to 581 this season.

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There is a lot to like physically about Watson as an NFL prospect; he has a live arm with enough zip to make all the NFL throws, a lightning-quick release, impressive touch and anticipation at times, doesn’t lose any accuracy on the move, and is an elite athlete with the speed and elusiveness of a running back.

There are also some physical negatives, such as a lack of ideal height and a slight frame that might not hold up to NFL hits for long. The lack of ideal size might limit Watson to certain NFL schemes.

Watson’s ability to play in a standard NFL scheme is another important question. At Clemson, he’s played in a shotgun-heavy, quick read & throw offensive scheme that doesn’t often require him to progress through multiple options. Whether he will be able to adjust to taking snaps under center, turning his back to defenses on play-action calls, and read NFL defenses accurately are all legitimate concerns.

Despite plenty of questions about how Watson’s skills translate at the next level, his production is impossible to dismiss. He’s been responsible for 93 touchdowns over the last two seasons (73 passings, 20 rushing) while playing against top competition. Watson is also considered a good leader with a solid work ethic and no off-field concerns, which should boost his stock as well.

He has one more opportunity to win scouts over on the field Monday night against an Alabama defense loaded with NFL prospects. Right now he’s projected anywhere from the top of the first round to the bottom of the second.

Projection: Mid-first round