Clemson coaches and fans already know they will never see the best senior class in our school’s history suit up again, but they are not the only players leaving us as some underclassmen will declare for the NFL draft. Some players have already declared while others could still declare until the Jan. 15 deadline. Christian Wilkins, Mitch Hyatt, Hunter Renfrow and Austin Bryant are just a few players that have no eligibility left and will enter the draft. Entering along with them will be cornerback Trayvon Mullen, linebacker Tre Lamar, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and defensive end Clelin Ferrell.
Mullen is a 6-foot-2-inch defensive back and really improved his draft stock during the National Championship against Alabama. He tallied six solo tackles, a sack and an interception in the game to earn Defensive MVP honors. These stats are in addition to his one interception, two sacks, three pass breakups, four tackles for loss and thirty-six total tackles during the regular season. Mullen is rated as a top three cornerback in the draft and a top sixty overall player. His draft projections range from top fifteen pick to an early to mid second round selection.
Lamar is a 6-foot-4-inch inside linebacker. Lamar earned second team all-ACC this season. Among Clemson’s team leaders in tackles, Lamar tallied 80 total with 5.5 for loss, while also adding three sacks and an interception. His draft projections range from late first round to early third round as he is considered a top ten inside linebacker. Lamar should be able to improve his draft stock during pre-draft workouts by proving his has more athleticism and lateral movement abilities than the scouts are saying he has.
Lawrence has also declared for the NFL draft after being suspended for the playoff semifinal and National Championship. As an all-ACC selection, Lawrence tallied 44 tackles, 7.5 for loss, three pass breakups, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. He also scored an offensive touchdown this season. He has largely been regarded as a top ten pick; some even considered him as the number one overall selection this season. At 6 feet 4 inches and 300 pounds, Lawrence will be a force inside for any NFL team. Reports lately have seen his draft stock falling out of the top fifteen for two reasons. Number one is the failed drug test, and the second reason is that the Clemson defense has played so well without him in the playoffs. “Big Dex” will be a first round pick, but how high is the only question there.
Ferrell declared for the draft with a heartfelt letter to his teammates, coaches and all Clemson fans. Ferrell was named the ACC defensive player of the year and also won the Hendricks Award, which is given to the top defensive end annually. He collected 54 tackles, 19.5 for loss and 11.5 sacks on the year. Many experts see Ferrell as a top five draft pick and he is a consensus top ten pick. Ferrell should make a huge impact in the NFL because of his elite pass rushing ability. With Ferrell leaving for the draft, that means that all four of Clemson’s starting defensive linemen will enter the draft.
There are a couple Tiger defenders still left to declare in Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Muse, who have both stated that they will discuss their draft future with family after the National Championship. Both of these players are projected third round or later draft picks, and it would most likely be beneficial for them to have another year in college. There is sure to be lots of turnover of the defensive side of the ball for Clemson, but as Dabo Swinney always says, “the best is yet to come.”