Clemson Football 2014 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results
Clemson will once again be well-represented in the 2014 NFL draft.
From wide receiver Sammy Watkins, expected to be among the first players selected, to record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd, the Tigers should have at least five players selected in the three-day draft, which begins Thursday night and runs through Saturday at New York's Radio City Music Hall.
Here is a look at the former Tigers who expect to hear their names called in the seven-round draft with analysis, stats and projections from respected TV personalities.
QB Tajh Boyd
Sixth round, No. 213 overall to the New York Jets.
Boyd was projected as a potential first-round pick following his junior season, but he fell precipitously after uneven, turnover-laden efforts on big stages against Florida State and South Carolina in 2013. Measured at the NFL scouting combine at just under 6'1", he might be a bit small for the NFL but is a dual-threat. Accuracy could be an issue. Projects right now as a developmental quarterback, not an immediate franchise savior.
With Michael Vick and Geno Smith in New York already, Boyd will not be expected to play right away. He profiles as the Jets' No. 3 quarterback and will have time to develop behind the veteran Vick and former first-round pick in Smith.
Boyd was the most prolific passer in Clemson history, the ACC's No. 2 all-time passing yards leader and its all-time touchdown leader, as well as an excellent leader. Replacing that kind of production is near impossible, but senior Cole Stoudt will try.
The son of former NFL and USFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, Cole was installed as Clemson's starter after sophomore Chad Kelly was dismissed following spring practice. He is a steady, accurate passer who can run a little bit. He'll be backed up by true freshman DeShaun Watson, a national recruit who thrived in a spread system in high school.
Stoudt will have a tough task early on with games against Georgia and Florida State, but after serving as Boyd's backup for three seasons, he'll be motivated to produce quickly.
WR Martavis Bryant
Fourth round, 118th overall to Pittsburgh Steelers.
A very talented but inconsistent player, Bryant put it all together in 2013 for a breakout junior season. He is an excellent deep threat and blends top-line speed with height, making him a matchup nightmare for corners. He was the Tigers' No. 2 receiver behind Sammy Watkins, but he would have been a No. 1 in almost any other offense.
The Steelers are badly in need of receivers. They lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency this season, and signed Darrius Heyward-Bey (formerly of the Colts) and Lance Moore (formerly of the Saints).
Bryant likely won’t be needed to start immediately with those veterans as well as Antonio Brown, but he provides Ben Roethlisberger a major deep threat with elite speed.
Watkins was the draft’s most talented receiver, as evidenced by his No. 4 overall selection by the Buffalo Bills, but Bryant was an excellent complement at Clemson. He stretched defenses with his size and speed, and he’ll be missed.
Expect his slack to be picked up by Charone Peake. A highly touted receiver himself, Peake emerged as a starter last fall before tearing his ACL in the third week of the season, earning a redshirt season. He stands 6’2”, 205 pounds and has excellent speed. If Peake shows he is recovered from the ACL tear (and he is on track to be) he could have a breakout season similar to Bryant’s this fall.
CB Bashaud Breeland
Fourth round, No. 102 overall to Washington Redskins.
Rebounded from an injury-filled sophomore season for an impressive 2013, emerging as the Tigers' top corner with excellent cover skills. Isn't afraid to apply a big hit and has solid toughness. Should continue Clemson's strong recent legacy of sending talented defensive backs to the NFL.
Breeland dropped a bit, but could be an excellent value for the Redskins. DeAngelo Hall and second-year player David Amerson, like Breeland a former ACC player, should be the top two corners, but Hall is entering his 10th season and Washington needs depth. With a little seasoning, Breeland could become a starter sooner rather than later.
Breeland was the Tigers’ top cornerback, exuding toughness and solid coverage skills. He’ll be missed along with graduating starter Darius Robinson. Seniors Martin Jenkins and Garry Peters figure to have the first shot at replacing the duo.
Jenkins has seven career starts and one career interception and showed excellent toughness while playing through wrist and shoulder injuries in 2013.
Peters has played in 33 games with one career interception. And don’t count out talented redshirt freshman Mackensie Alexander, who should challenge for a starting spot this fall after sitting out last fall following groin surgery.
OG Brandon Thomas
Third round, 100th overall to San Francisco 49ers.
Thomas is a versatile player who shifted between guard and tackle during his college career and could play either in the NFL, but he projects first as a guard. He's also an excellent run blocker who protected Tajh Boyd's blind side capably for the last two seasons.
Thomas had rocketed up draft boards, potentially going as high as a late first to early second-round pick before tearing his ACL in an April workout with the New Orleans Saints. Some projected his stock would fall to the fourth or fifth round, but the 49ers grabbed him for a “redshirt” season, as he is unlikely to play this fall. He’ll be an excellent value, assuming he recovers from the knee injury capably.
Thomas was a rock for Clemson’s offensive line the past three seasons, working as a guard and then as a two-time All-ACC left tackle protecting Tajh Boyd’s blind side. Mercurial junior Isaiah Battle emerged as a starter in the second half of 2013, starting the season’s final four games and earning positive reviews.
Battle will shift over to the left side and replace Thomas, and the stakes will be high with a first-time starter in senior quarterback Cole Stoudt behind him. He has excellent potential and athleticism but will need to learn quickly.
WR Sammy Watkins
First round, fourth overall to Buffalo Bills (trade with Cleveland Browns)
Watkins teams with former Clemson star C.J. Spiller to give the Bills an explosive offense along with established receiver Stevie Johnson. With developing quarterback E.J. Manuel, the Bills should score points aplenty next fall. The Bills gave up three picks to move up five spots to select him, and they will count on him to contribute immediately. He has the size, speed and pedigree to do exactly that.
While senior Adam Humphries and junior Charone Peake are the most experienced returnees, sophomore Mike Williams is poised to make the biggest impact in Watkins’ stead. Williams, who stands 6’3”, 205 pounds, had 20 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns last season in an understudy role.
He drew positive comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins with his hands and leaping ability, and could be in line for a breakout year with a full-time role in 2014.