Former Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was the most impressive former Tiger at the NFL Scouting Combine.
CLEMSON, S.C. – There is no question that Clemson will have an impact on the 2014 NFL draft, slated for May 8-10 in New York City.
The Tigers, 11-2 in 2013, lost a wealth of talent to the NFL draft, much of it expected to go in the early rounds.
The only question, it seems, is how much early impact Clemson’s draft class will have.
Following the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, we have a little bit better idea.
Clemson’s group of NFL hopefuls, led by likely first-round pick Sammy Watkins, had some impressive results and some that were a bit poorer than expected, which will shape how they’re perceived by the NFL scouts, general managers and coaches who’ll make the final calls on their draft spots in May.
Let’s take a look at how they fared, shall we?
Tajh Boyd had a mixed performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Boyd’s NFL stock plummeted over the course of the 2013 season. He was once regarded as a potential first-round pick, but he struggled in defeats to rivals Florida State and South Carolina. Boyd completed just 17 of 37 passes for 156 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the 51-14 demolition at the Seminoles’ hands, losing a key early fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
At South Carolina, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 225 yards but threw for no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a key fumble early in the fourth quarter inside the Gamecocks’ 35-yard line with Clemson trailing 24-17, a key factor in the Tigers’ 31-17 defeat.
He also struggled at the Senior Bowl, completing seven of 16 passes for 31 yards and an interception.
On a recent NFL draft teleconference, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Boyd was a “fifth- to sixth-round pick.”
In addition, he was listed at 6’1” at Clemson but was officially measured at 6’0.875” at the Senior Bowl, just below his listed height.
Boyd told The (Charleston) Post and Courier that his overall record spoke for itself.
“I'm confident in my abilities. Game tape doesn't lie,” he said. “You can refer to the Senior Bowl if you want, but that doesn't take the place of three years.”
In Indianapolis, Boyd had a solid if unspectacular performance. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds, had a 30.5-inch vertical leap, a 106-inch broad jump, ran the three-cone drill in 7.23 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.23 seconds.
FoxSports.com said Boyd’s throwing effort was “inaccurate” and said he was trending in the opposite direction from fellow quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland had a mixed effort at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Breeland’s decision to forgo his senior season for the NFL draft was slightly curious, but it came after an impressive junior season.
He put an injury-filled sophomore year behind him, making 74 tackles (fourth on Clemson’s roster) with two sacks, a team-leading 13 pass breakups and four interceptions (tying safety Jayron Kearse for tops on the Tigers defense). NFL.com recently projected him as a top-50 pick and Yahoo! Sports pegged him as a potential first-round selection.
However, Breeland was not especially impressive in his big audition. He ran the 40-yard dash in a slower-than-expected 4.62 second and only completed 11 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press. His vertical leap was 34.5 inches, and he had a 123-inch broad jump.
Breeland had questions to answer among NFL executives in Indianapolis. It’s not clear whether he answered them sufficiently.
Former Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant had a solid NFL Scouting Combine effort.
Bryant’s college career nearly came to an end following the 2012 season. He was suspended by coach Dabo Swinney for academic reasons, missing Clemson’s Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU.
As a junior, Bryant fulfilled his potential and then some. Behind Sammy Watkins, Bryant emerged as an excellent second option and deep threat. He had 42 receptions for 828 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 19.7 yards per reception (best among Clemson receivers).
In Indianapolis, his measurements turned out slightly shorter than listed. Clemson listed Bryant at 6’5”, 200 pounds, while official NFL measurements pegged him at 6’3.5" and 211 pounds, giving his slight frame a bit more bulk.
Bryant’s workout stats were impressive. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, made 16 bench-press reps of the 225-pound standard, had a 39-inch vertical, a 124-inch broad jump and ran the three-cone drill in 7.18 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.15 seconds.
Regarded as a “value” middle-round pick entering the combine, Bryant solidified and perhaps enhanced his status with excellent numbers.
Former Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas enhanced his stock at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Thomas, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, was well-regarded entering the combine. He has excellent hands, feet and lateral movement and was projected as a second-round selection by NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock.
He started his college career at left guard before moving to left tackle for his final two seasons, showing his versatility. He could fit in either place in the NFL.
“Some teams, you're hearing you're definitely a guard, but then some other teams, they say we'll try you out at tackle; if that doesn't work, we'll move you to guard,” Thomas told The (Charleston) Post and Courier. “They kind of see me as both.”
Thomas certainly didn’t hurt himself at the combine. He hoisted an impressive 35 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press standard (sixth among offensive linemen), had a 29-inch vertical leap, a 98-inch broad jump and ran the three-cone drill in 8.13 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.83 seconds.
His arm length was measured at 34.75 inches (eighth among linemen) and his hand span was 10.5 inches (second among linemen).
Clemson has not had an offensive lineman drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 1979, but Thomas appears a solid bet to break that drought this season.
Sammy Watkins enhanced his stock at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Watkins’ decision to leave early for the NFL draft was a slam-dunk call. In three seasons, the talented, speedy wideout established himself as Clemson’s career leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
In 2013, he had his best year yet, making 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. And despite foregoing his senior season, he was still second in ACC history in career receptions and third in receiving yardage.
Entering Indianapolis, he had draft analysts’ attention. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected him No. 5 overall to the Oakland Raiders, and the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he was the top wideout in a deep, talented class.
Watkins backed up the hype before watchful eyes. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, made 16 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press, had a 34-inch vertical leap, a 126-inch broad jump, ran the three-cone drill in 6.95 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.34 seconds.
He measured in at 6’0.875” and 211 pounds, slightly different than his Clemson measurements of 6’1”, 205 pounds, but he did nothing to change the fact that he’ll be the first receiver off the board in New York and a potential top-five selection overall.