CLEMSON - After 1,789 days of dissecting this year's NFL draft class (all numbers approximate), only one more remains until the 32 teams actually start picking.
And hey, just wait: only four more days until the 2015 Jameis Winston draft debates begin! Whooooo.
(This snark isn't winning you over, is it?)
Quick, let's take this in a Clemson-ized direction. The Tigers are getting used to putting multiple players in the league each year: 23 selections in the past five drafts, including at least four each year.
Clemson is pretty much a lock to record four picks again, and while you shouldn't stake any super-cherished keepsakes on it in a bar bet, Tajh Boyd should make it five. Plus, there are other candidates to draw a pick late.
Sammy Watkins will become the school's 26th first-round selection. Three of his teammates would like to hear their names on Day 2.
But where? Where will they go? One beat writer's best stab at it in a Clemson-only mock draft, all the while remembering draft-day trades can and will render this useless:
Logical destinations: St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay
I'm not sure what to make of the Rams' situation, even though I thought I did a couple days ago. Gene Sapakoff and I exchanged e-mails in a debate, and I think our columnist won the toss-up. My point was the Rams play in the loaded NFC West, and they're not recouping that gap by drafting a right tackle (Jake Long holds down left), and they were eighth-best in allowing sacks last year anyway, and Sam Bradford hasn't had a 700-yard receiver in his career, let alone a 1000-yarder. Why not give Bradford the best skill player possible in his make-or-break year? Sapakoff's point: they can get a receiver later. Tavon Austin was a top-ten pick last year. Greg Robinson's a mauler, who was college teammates with Jeff Fisher's son. (That last one was my caveat, but still.)
So, we go to the next team in line, Jacksonville. Justin Blackmon's going to be serving you at your local Denny's by Labor Day, so that's a square peg in a square hole. What will make this interesting: the Texans go QB at 1, the Rams go OL at 2, and Jacksonville is left to decide between Watkins and Jadeveon Clowney, and you'd have to think Jax probably leans toward Clowney. But I don't think Houston passes on Clowney.
Keep your ears peeled: Jaguars, No. 3 overall . Raiders, No. 5 overall
Logical destinations: Chicago, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
Breeland quietly had a very nice year, a playmaker making big tackles and forced fumbles. He was kind of a surprise in coming out for the draft, but basically since early February, he's been assessed a second-round ceiling and rarely gets tossed in the late-round pile. He did bulk up during pre-Combine training, as evidenced at Clemson's Pro Day, and has sick ball skills to go with sturdy tackling (54 solos in 2013), which is becoming more and more of a premium at the next level. ESPN and Sports Illustrated list Breeland as the No. 8 cornerback on the board. All four teams I list above have mid-second round picks, and they badly need corners, but if they all go another direction, Breeland could fall to the third.
Keep your ears peeled: Steelers, No. 46 . Jets, No. 49 . Bears, No. 51 . 49ers, No. 56 (mid-second round)
Logical destinations: Carolina, Denver, Philadelphia, San Diego
Two things to remember about Bryant's profile as a professional prospect. On the negative side, he was a problem child at times in the program; not that it's impossible to overcome those issues, but drawing team suspensions for academics and on-field behavior don't reflect well . and there might be questions about his focus and decision-making, from people I talked to during the past couple months.
With that in mind, here were Bryant's stats from his three junior-year games when Clemson was the only show on television in college football:
- at N.C. State: 6 rec, 73 yards, 2 TD
- vs. Georgia Tech: 5 rec, 176 yards, TD
- vs. Ohio State: 3 rec, 28 yards, 2 TD both in acrobatic fashion
Think scouts paid attention?
Keep your ears peeled: Eagles, No. 86 or Chargers, No. 89 (mid-third round)
Logical destinations: Baltimore, Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas
Anyone has to feel awful for Thomas, who tore his ACL during a predraft workout with the Saints. Luckily, it happened early enough in the offseason that we're not dealing with silly debates about pushing the draft back further (that's dumb for other reasons, but not this one); besides, there's a chance Thomas can still contribute his rookie season. Obviously, his draft stock will be affected. He was about as safe a second-rounder as Clemson had this side of Watkins before the injury. Personally, I'm taking a leap of faith teams take Thomas and stash him as a Day 2 selection; if it doesn't happen, when teams get a breather Saturday morning, they'll have Thomas high in mind. He's too versatile and accomplished to let slip too far.
Keep your ears peeled: Panthers, No. 92 or Ravens, No. 99 (late third round)
Logical destinations: Carolina, Minnesota, New York Jets, Philadelphia
The most baffling of all the draft rankings and projections I've seen all spring - and that's saying something - was on NFL Draft Scout's QB rankings. Brett Smith (6-1, 205) is listed as the No. 14 prospect; Boyd (6-1, 222) is No. 16. Any team who takes an underclassman who went 5-7 at Wyoming - Wyoming! - over a fifth-year senior who went 11-2 at Clemson is overthinking it. Period. Of course, Boyd had a wonderful Pro Day (he needed it, after a dreadful Senior Bowl,) but in the long run those tend to get devalued because teams make their own assessments based on game tape and individual workouts.
The truth is, since Boyd is viewed as a project as a passer, teams will probably be content to wait on Boyd and roll the dice down the road he can develop into an asset. Carolina's been high on Boyd from the beginning, and according to WalterFootball.com, new Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves Boyd. There is the Rex Ryan-Clemson connection. The thought of Boyd going from Chad Morris to Chip Kelly is fun.
Keep your ears peeled: Panthers, No. 128 . Vikings, No. 148 . Eagles, No. 162 (late fourth to mid fifth)
Five other Tigers to keep your eye on, in alphabetical order:
-Chandler Catanzaro, K: Sixth-best kicker according to Scouts.Inc.
-Quandon Christian, LB: Tony Pauline reports Washington has interest.
-Roderick McDowell, RB: Perfect practice-squadder, could work his way onto a roster.
-Tyler Shatley, OG: They don't teach 42 bench-press reps, or his utility skills.
-Spencer Shuey, LB: An underrated college player and great team leader.