CLEMSON – Former Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd was selected No. 33 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft Friday night.
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (Minnesota Vikings) and safety T.J. Green (Indianapolis Colts) were also taken in the second round, giving the Tigers four products in the top two rounds for the first time in the common NFL draft era.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Dodd said on a conference call with Titans reporters. “(Nashville is) just right up the road from my house, probably only a four-hour drive. I can see all my family come up and watch me play and I can definitely see myself putting in work.”
Dodd was one of 25 draft prospects attending the festivities in Chicago on Thursday night, but he flew home to upstate South Carolina upon not being taken in the first round.
“I definitely thought I would go higher and that’s why I was in Chicago yesterday,” Dodd said. “It didn’t happen as planned but I am still blessed to be drafted. I am definitely thankful and I appreciate every opportunity I got.”
Dodd, who decided to forego his senior year at Clemson, did not have to wait long Friday, tabbed with the second pick of the second round. Last year’s No. 33 pick, New York Giants safety Landon Collins, signed a four-year deal worth $6.12 million, including a $2.71 million signing bonus.
Dodd’s 23.5 tackles for a loss ranked second in college football in 2015 (behind teammate Shaq Lawson,) helping Clemson top the nation in that category as a team for a third consecutive season. Dodd’s marquee moment came in the College Football Playoff national championship game, sacking Alabama quarterback Jake Coker three times.
Dodd follows an unlikely path to the NFL, having never played football until he was a student at Riverside High School in Greer. Clemson was his only Division I offer, and after a year in prep school Dodd logged four years with the Tigers – though he did not start until his junior year in 2015 and was not a regular player until then.
Tennessee runs a 3-4 defense, and plans to utilize Dodd as an outside linebacker.
“I feel like I can do anything that they ask me to do,” Dodd said. “I’m sure there are some things I can clean up, but I’m just ready to work.”
Dodd becomes Clemson’s tenth defensive end selected in the past 11 NFL Drafts. His 2015 bookend, Lawson, was taken 19th overall by the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.
This is the highest Clemson pick in Tennessee Titans franchise history. Tennessee was 3-13 in 2015, tied with the Cleveland Browns for the NFL’s worst record.
A little later Friday night, Alexander was selected No. 54 overall by the Vikings.
Alexander’s stock was a common debate considering his zero interceptions in college, though Alexander was often avoided by opposing quarterbacks. Alexander also does not have a long list of elite receivers he faced in college, though Notre Dame’s Will Fuller and Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepherd were among the top 40 picks in this draft – and Alexander generally thrived during those individual matchups.
Alexander represents Clemson’s sixth cornerback selected in the past seven NFL Drafts.
Then three picks later, the Colts took Green, with just two years of college experience playing defense making his decision to forego his senior year a mild surprise.
But Green’s stock soared in recent weeks, taking 21 pre-draft visits and offering a blend of speed (his 40-yard-dash time was the fastest recorded at the NFL Combine in the electronic timing era) and versatility as a safety, cornerback or nickel corner.
Green represents Clemson’s second safety selected in the NFL Draft since 2009, following 2013 sixth-rounder Jonathan Meeks.
Based on their draft slots, Alexander and Green can expect to sign four-year deals worth around $1 million per year, and receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.7 to $1.8 million guaranteed on their first contracts.
Lawson, Dodd, Alexander and Green all were eligible to suit up for Clemson’s defense in 2016, but decided to declare early. Safety Jayron Kearse is the last of Clemson’s early entrants still waiting for a new NFL home.
Once Kearse is selected, he’ll be the sixth starter from Clemson’s 2014 defense, which led the nation in total yards allowed that year, to be drafted. (Lawson, Dodd and Green were backups that year.) 2015 first-round defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Stephone Anthony, fifth-round nose guard Grady Jarrett and sixth-round linebacker Tony Steward just completed their rookie seasons with the Falcons, Saints, Falcons and Bills, respectively.
With four former Clemson defenders being taken in the first two rounds this week, this is just the second draft containing three such Tigers, following 2011. However, none from that trio of Jarvis Jenkins, Marcus Gilchrist and Da’Quan Bowers have made a Pro Bowl or is still with the team that originally drafted them.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, a South Carolina State product, was taken No. 89 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hargrave was a two-time MEAC Player of the Year. The Salisbury, N.C. native becomes S.C. State’s first draftee in the top three rounds in 21 years.