CLEMSON – While former Clemson defenders Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd and Mackensie Alexander have received the majority of attention this spring, some of their teammates have seen their NFL Draft stock soar at the perfect time.
In fact, some mock drafts have projected defensive back T.J. Green not only to hear his name called in the first round, but to break up the Big Three.
The 6-2, 209-pound Green started just one season at safety for the Tigers, playing well but inconsistent at times during Clemson’s 2015 run to the national championship game. A former wide receiver who flipped sides of the fields after his freshman year, Green was somewhat of a surprise early entrant to the 2016 NFL Draft, and initially was regarded as a late-round candidate.
However, a lightning-quick 40-yard-dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.34 seconds, the fastest among safeties since the Combine began using electronic timers in 1999) among other factors have helped Green become a potential millionaire on April 28, the night of the first round.
Three different NFL Network scribes have Green in the first round. Daniel Jeremiah and Chad Reuter each tab Green 29th to the Arizona Cardinals, while Lance Zierlein projects No. 31 to the Denver Broncos in drafts released within the past week.
According to one of Green’s agents, Michael Perrett of Element Sports Group (also representing Dodd), Green’s high score on the Wonderlic intelligence test at the Combine and his ability to play multiple positions have contributed to his surprise rise.
“There’s a bit of a transformation in the NFL; everybody wants versatile players, because offensive schemes have gotten so complex, teams need players who can conform to all the different nuances an offense might throw at them,” Perrett said.
Perrett said Green has taken individual visits to 21 NFL teams, some of whom now consider Green a cornerback or a hybrid defensive back similar to the Broncos’ Bradley Roby or recently retired Raiders great Charles Woodson.
“He’s relatively new to the position, and people know he has a ton of upside, too,” Perrett said. “He’s just scratching the surface on who he can be as a player. That’s what gets people really fired up.”
Jeremiah and Zierlein each have Lawson joining Green in the first round; Jeremiah has Lawson No. 30 to the Panthers and Zierlein says No. 28 to the Chiefs, along with Kevin Dodd 13th to the Dolphins (which would give Clemson three first-round picks for the first time in school history.)
Reuter has Lawson No. 12 to the Saints, but Dodd out of the first round below Green. None of those three have Alexander as a first-round selection.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper’s latest three-round mock draft does not have Green in the top 98 picks, but he is impressed by the Sylacauga, Ala. product.
“He’s getting momentum because he’s an athlete, and he has that range as a 6-3 safety,” Kiper said. “He’s going to keep improving in the NFL. That’s why he’s in that mix.”
Three other NFL Network mock drafts compiled by Charlie Casserly, Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis each project Clemson to have two first-round picks in Lawson and Dodd, who are each attending the draft in Chicago. All three of those drafts have that pair taken within one or three picks of each other, and all between the 9th and 19th selection.
WalterFootball.com mocks Lawson in the middle of the first round, Dodd and Alexander early second round, Green mid-3rd and wide receiver Charone Peake and linebacker B.J. Goodson in the fourth round.
Kiper believes Peake has third-round value. After recovering from several knee injuries, Peake was the Tigers’ second-leading receiver in 2015 with 50 catches, 716 yards and five touchdowns.
“Charone Peake had some drops, but he’s got all the talent in the world,” Kiper said. “He’s got long arms, he’s got good leaping ability, and I thought he was more consistent than people give him credit for.”