Pro Football Focus High On Tigers In 2020

Another NFL Draft has come and gone and for many that means it’s time for another way too early projection. Pro Football Focus (PFF) came out with some early ones this weekend regarding next years draft and some Clemson Tigers will be hoping this projection is on the money.

There are five Tigers near the top of the list at their position. They have Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne both sitting in the top spot at their position, Xavier Thomas sitting in the second spot for edge rushers, Justyn Ross sitting third overall for receivers, and Jackson Carmon sits in the fifth spot at offensive tackle.

PFF Projections QB:

  1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
  2. Justin Fields (Ohio State)
  3. Brock Purdy (Iowa State)
  4. Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
  5. Trey Lance (North Dakota State)

Interestingly, PFF does feel that Justin Fields closed the gap between he and Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence still leads the race for the number one overall pick in 2021’s Draft but they stii feel, at this point, that it’s going to take a lot to take that spot away from the Clemson quarterback. Especially if he is able to lead the Tigers back to the National Championship game. They seem to feel this way simply because there’s not much Lawrence can not do at the quarterback position. They do believe that Fields has everything to be an elite quarterback also.

PFF RB Projections:

  1. Travis Etienne (Clemson)
  2. Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State)
  3. Trey Sermon (Ohio State)
  4. Kennedy Brooks (Oklahoma)
  5. Najee Harris (Alabama)

Like everyone else, PFF was shocked that Travis Etienne decided to come return for his senior year. Especially since there was a chance of him being the first back selected in last weekend’s NFL Draft. Etienne already has rewritten many of the Clemson record books and will, most likely, leave with almost all of the records in Tigertown before the season is over. It seems that this position will be a hard one to unseat.

PFF WR Projections:

  1. Ja’Marr Chase (LSU)
  2. DeVonta Smith (Alabama)
  3. Justyn Ross (Clemson)
  4. Seth Williams (Auburn)
  5. Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Although they did not have Justyn Ross at the top of the class they, did note it’s looking like another stacked WR draft class that’s going to include last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, Ja’Marr Chase from LSU.

Clemson fans know that Ross is a player that seems to be able to make the impossible catches look routine and has already helped the Tigers win a national championship. It will be interesting to see how he does this season after the Tigers lost Tee Higgins, who was drafted by the Bengals with the 33rd overall pick in the 2nd round of last weekend’s NFL Draft. This does allow Ross to play more over on the boundary side, where he seems to be a more natural fit.

PFF Offensive Tackle Projections:

  1. Penei Sewell (Oregon)
  2. Samuel Cosmi (Texas)
  3. Walker Little (Stanford)
  4. Alex Leatherwood (Alabama)
  5. Jackson Carman (Clemson)

PFF stated in their article that “as dominant as the group of tackles in 2020 was, if Penei Sewell would have been allowed to declare, there’s a 100% chance he’d have been the first tackle selected. He’s in the “best tackle prospect since Jake Long/Joe Thomas/Orlando Pace” type of conversation. Sewell was the highest-graded tackle in the country last season as a true sophomore and has the combination of size, technique, and athleticism that comes around only once a decade.

It is easy to see that Carman has proven how valuable he can be though. Especially with his effort in the national semifinals against Ohio State where he limited the Buckeyes rusher, Chase Young’s effectiveness in the game. A performance that earned him an Associated Press All Bowl nod.

Carman, who served as a backup in 2018, ended up at the forefront last season as the Tigers starting left tackle. The third-team all ACC player was on the field for 798 of Clemson’s snaps and started all 15 games. The Tigers just sent three offensive linemen off to the NFL, two via the draft (John Simpson and Tremayne Anchrum) and one as an undrafted free agent (Sean Pollard).

PFF Edge Rusher Projections:

  1. Greg Rousseau (Miami, FL)
  2. Xavier Thomas (Clemson)
  3. Carlos Basham (Wake Forest)
  4. Quincy Roche (Miami, FL)
  5. Jamar Watson (Kentucky)

After Xavier Thomas’ freshman season, many expected him to have a breakout sophomore season. However, a switch to a three man front was not conducive to Thomas’ style of play and it showed on the field. That, along with a concussion had a huge impact.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Thomas bounces back in 2020 after a very lackluster 2019. It’s also going to be interesting to see what the Clemson defense, as a whole, will look like after the addition of Bryan Breese and a few others. Thomas had the exact same number of pressures last year (26) as he did his freshman year, even though he rushed the passer 96 more times.

As Tiger fans have seen (and the NFL for that matter). Dabo and company are churning out elite players at more than one or two positions year in and out. It appears that this will continue with next year’s draft and that puts them in really good position out on the recruiting trail.

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