As Clemson has become a college football powerhouse over the past decade, we were bound to see Tigers start to make more of an impact in the NFL. And as fun as it is to cheer for our current team on Saturdays, it is always important to support our Tiger alums on Sundays too. So here is a cheat-sheet to give you some context and information about Clemson’s best pro football players, including some predictions of how they will perform in 2021.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
I can not put into words the excitement that is coming from just about every football fan regarding Trevor Lawrence’s first year as an NFL quarterback. Throughout the preseason, the Jacksonville coaching staff has had nothing but good things to say about Lawrence; they only needed to see two preseason games before naming him their starter. The Jaguars have built an incredible supporting cast of skill position players around Lawrence; he has a big, contested-catch extraordinaire in Marvin Jones Jr., a lightning-quick deep threat in DJ Chark and a dependable running back in James Robinson. It is safe to say that we will be hearing a lot about “Touchdown Jesus” from the fans in Jacksonville this year.
2021 Projection: 4,200 Passing Yards - 30 Total Touchdowns - Offensive Rookie of the Year
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
An unlikely hero in both college and professional football, the former fifth-round pick has already established himself as one of the NFL’s premier slot receivers. He is Derek Carr’s go-to guy, and it seems like Hunter Renfrow has done nothing but improve since he entered the league. "If I can beat Jalen Ramsey, then I can beat anybody in the NFL, because he is one of the best," said Renfrow to The Athletic after a joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams. I have high hopes for a Hunter Renfrow breakout season.
Projected Stats: 75 Receptions - 900 Receiving Yards - 3 Touchdowns
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Las Vegas Raiders
It is a shame that we can not be optimistic about every former Clemson star’s NFL career. Clelin Ferrell, former national championship winner and fourth overall pick has struggled during his time as a Raider. I am hoping to see him bounce back in his third career season, but it seems like the Las Vegas franchise may be looking to move on from him.
2021 Projection - 6 Starts - 4.0 Sacks - 8 Tackles for Loss
Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons
Grady Jarrett is one of the few players on this list when you think of coach Swinney’s earlier days at Clemson. Over the past few seasons, Jarrett has been a massive bright spot on an otherwise lackluster Atlanta defense. I am willing to bet that Jarrett will continue his two-year Pro Bowl streak this year, and I am excited to see him bury some quarterbacks this fall.
2021 Projection: 6.0 Sacks - 10 Tackles For Loss - Pro Bowl Selection
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Even though the guy throwing him the ball has caused me some extreme emotional pain in the past (Joe Burrow), it was still a pleasure to watch Tee Higgins ball out last year. He finished with over 900 receiving yards and six touchdowns, dwarfing DeAndre Hopkin’s numbers during his rookie season. However, a player’s development is not always linear. Additionally, the Bengals spent their fifth overall pick on a wideout this offseason so the target shares will be spread even thinner. I expect Higgins to play just as well this year, just with fewer opportunities.
2021 Projection: 60 Receptions - 850 Receiving Yards - 4 Touchdowns
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Isaiah Simmons had a slow start last year, as he struggled to grasp Arizona’s NFL-style defense while going through training camp on Zoom. By the end of the year, he grew into his starting role, showing off his versatility by rushing the quarterback, stuffing the run, and wreaking havoc in Arizona’s secondary. I can not contain how excited I am to watch Isaiah Simmons comfortably patrol an NFL defense this year.
2021 Projection: 5.0 Sacks - 75 Tackles - 3 Interceptions - Pro Bowl
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
After being named to his third career All-Pro team in 2020, DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins just needs one more to match Brian Dawkins’ Clemson record of four career All-Pro selections. There is no doubt that Nuk will eclipse his production from last season, as his quarterback Kyler Murray continues his early career development. Hopkins still has the stickiest hands in football, and he plays in a division with just one true shut-down cornerback. There is not a more exciting wide receiver to watch, so I will be tuning into plenty of Cardinals’ games this year.
2021 Projection: 121 Receptions - 1420 Receiving Yards - 7 Touchdowns - All-Pro Selection
Trayvon Mullen Jr., CB, Las Vegas Raiders
You have probably noticed that Trayvon Mullen Jr. is the third Las Vegas Raider on this list. It is true; Clemson has become somewhat of a feeder organization for Jon Gruden’s Raiders. According to the team website, Mullen will be their No. 1 cornerback this year, an opportunity that Mullen has not had as an NFL player. It has been incredible watching Mullen Jr. grow into the leadership role that he now plays on defense, and I am so excited to watch it materialize on the field this year.
2021 Projection: 3 Interceptions - 65 Tackles - 5 Tackles For Loss
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Although he has not become an elite receiver in the NFL, Mike Williams still plays an extremely important role in the Los Angeles Chargers offense. Williams is yet to play an entire NFL season, but when he is on the field his combination of size, speed and hands make it hard for any defensive back to keep up.
2021 Projection: 55 Receptions - 900 Yards - 7 Touchdowns
Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Sadly, we won’t be able to watch Travis Etienne this season. He was placed on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ injured reserve after their second preseason game due to a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. On the brighter side of things, there was a ton of buzz around Etienne during the Jaguars’ training camp. We may not see him play this year, but we will see plenty of Travis Etienne in the future. So personally, while I watch Touchdown Jesus break every rookie passing record this year, I will just watch old Clemson highlights and pretend that Etienne is out there with him.
2021 Projection: N/A