Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.
Clemson‘s resurgence over the past two seasons has largely been fueled by underclassmen contributors, so the team will once again lose just a few players to the Draft this spring. But also similar to last season, those few players did make a significant impact. Whenever your leading rusher, leading receiver and starting center are all on draft boards, it’s both a blessing and a curse. We’ll see where these Tigers could be selected in a few weeks:
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Junior (Projected: Mid-First Round)
Hopkins’s record-setting junior season has propelled him from well-regarded second receiving option to potential first-round draft pick. Scouts seem to love his blistering speed (his 4.5-second 40-yard dash time is not indicative of how fast he really is), along with his great hands and smart after-catch abilities. While his 6’1″ 200-pound frame is concerning for some, it’s also not a deal breaker for those looking to draft him, as he can certainly add some upper body weight between now and when the season starts. As it stands now, Hopkins may be the top receiver in a very thin class at that position, and may end up being selected as early as the middle of round one.
Andre Ellington, RB, Senior (Projected: Early Third Round)
Similar to Hopkins, the biggest concern around Ellington is his size (5’9″ 190 pounds) and how that will affect his durability as an NFL back in the long-term. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot to like from the speedy rusher who’s already drawing favorable comparisons to former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Atlanta Falcon RB Warrick Dunn. This draft is thin at running back, so there’s always the chance he’s taken far earlier than projected. But given the changing NFL ecosystem away from featured rushers, it could end up dropping him into the latter part of day two of the draft. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, and could potentially provide Ellington with just the chip he needs to excel come camp in July.
Malliciah Goodman, DE, Senior (Projected: Fourth Round)
Despite a limited senior year, Goodman still tallied seven sacks, looking great throughout his final three games in particular (five sacks). While he’s purely a pass-rush threat, there is some thought that the quick (4.67 40-yard dash) and agile end convert to the outside linebacker position for the right team running a 3-4 defensive scheme. With a long frame weighing in at just 276 pounds, it would seem the most natural fit for him, as he’d otherwise be manhandled directly on the line. Expect his name to be called on day three with a real chance to get into a linebacker rotation come the fall.
Dalton Freeman, C, Senior (Projected: Seventh Round)
After such a well-regarded career for the Tigers, it was strange to see Freeman left off the NFL Draft Scouting Combine invite list a couple months back. But the senior center still managed to blow scouts away at Clemson pro day in March, impressing attendees with his quickness, strength and agility. In terms of strength, speed and leaping ability, he was top-10 among all offensive linemen evaluated, and he’s even committed to improving those numbers. Sometimes all a player needs is to feel slighted in order to show off what he can really do. Maybe Freeman didn’t need that extra bit of motivation. But nonetheless, he’s performed his way up from the fringe of draft boards to a solid pick in the seventh round. Additionally, he’s been looking to portray himself as a jack-of-all-trades across the line, auditioning at the guard and long-snapper spots too. It’s a smart move that could be a difference-maker on how early his name’s called.
Rashard Hall, S, Senior (Projected: Seventh Round)
Hall fits the NFL’s hard-tackling free safety model well, and that alone is what has scouts highly intrigued by the former Clemson standout. His 166 tackles and six interceptions over the past two seasons are also a big part of what’s regarded as a well-rounded resume. While he does have the size and strength, there is the lingering issue of speed (Hall only runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash), but if he can continue to deliver big plays in coverage and keep receivers in front of him, that can obviously be overlooked. It’s no guarantee he’ll be selected, but I’d expect him to go late in the seventh round for a team that’s yet to pick up some talent in the defensive backfield.
Previously: Boston College