Friday was the deadline for all underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft and Clemson had a few surprises to go along with the expected departures. Below is a recap.
Travis Etienne may be the biggest surprise of the group as he turned down a first or second round opportunity to return for his senior year. Etienne will be able to graduate and get a shot at a national title. I’m still stunned he decided to come back, but it may be because he received a lower than expected draft grade from the NFL.
Isaiah Simmons told the staff he was going pro before the season started according to The Athletic’s Grace Raynor. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the redshirt junior is heading to the NFL after the year he’s had. Draft pundits are saying Simmons could be a top five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and I bet the NFL Combine will only solidify that.
AJ Terrell surprised some with his decision to turn pro. After the national title game I think a lot of fans had a bad taste in their mouth about Terrell, but he’s been solid all season long as well as last year. It seems like he could go in the second round with an impressive prep session making it understandable why he’s heading to the draft. Terrell is unlikely to improve his stock much with another year so getting started on his first NFL contract makes sense.
Junior Tee Higgins announced his decision to head to the NFL Draft almost immediately after the National Championship. This isn’t a surprise to anyone following Clemson or anyone that even pays cursory attention to college football. Tee has the measurables for the NFL and he’s got the production in college to back it up. It is early in the draft process but Higgins seems like a 1st round pick being highly ranked by most draft gurus in the media.
Nyles Pinckney’s decision to return isn’t surprising, but it is helpful. Clemson sorely missed the redshirt junior against LSU and his return allows Clemson to have 11 DTs on scholarship. Yes, the arrival of this DT class makes for more competition, but with only 7 DEs on the roster the staff may try to move people around and having that experience in the middle of the line is great.
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