NFL draft 2021

Travis Etienne (9) breaking a tackle against Florida State in Memorial Stadium

Although Clemson is set to retain many of its starters from this past season, the Tigers will lose five offensive weapons to the NFL Draft. Clemson will lose quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, offensive tackle Jackson Carman, wide receiver Cornell Powell and wide receiver Amari Rodgers. All of these players had phenomenal careers at Clemson and hope to continue their success in the NFL. Based on their expected draft position, there are many possible fits, but there are only so many fits that will best suit the five aforementioned players. 

To start things off, we have quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in this year's NFL Draft. He is also widely considered the best quarterback draft prospect since the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck in 2012. With all of that knowledge, it is safe to assume that the Jacksonville Jaguars will draft Lawrence with the first pick. Jacksonville will be a great place for Lawrence because he will have an effective head coach in Urban Meyer, young offensive weapons and a solid offensive line led by Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder. 

 

Three players that will help Lawrence ease into the role of a starting quarterback in the NFL are running back James Robinson, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. Each player is coming off a solid season despite none of them playing all 16 games. Robinson is a hard-nosed running back who ran for 1,000 yards this past season, which means he will help take pressure off of Lawrence, since Jacksonville will likely be a quality two-dimensional offense. Chark and Shenault are very young and talented receivers who can create separation with their size and speed. Another thing to keep in mind is that Jacksonville has shown over the years that they are willing to be aggressive in free agency and the trade market to improve its team. This aggressiveness is important because it shows that the Jaguars will do whatever is necessary to keep Lawrence happy and healthy. Time will tell what the future holds for Lawrence, but it is looking very bright for the projected No. 1 overall pick as of right now. 

The next player to look at is projected top-two running back Travis Etienne. Etienne had a phenomenal Clemson football career, as he had 4,952 rushing yards, 1,155 receiving yards and 78 total touchdowns in four years, including two years where he ran for over 1,600 yards. Etienne possesses elite traits, including speed, agility, explosiveness and contact balance. All of these skills are things that a player cannot be taughtA player either has them or does not have them, and luckily for Etienne, he does. Due to this, Etienne will likely be drafted in the late first round or early second round, which means he will either go to a playoff contender or a struggling franchise, unless a trade occurs. The two teams that I believe would be a good fit based on this projection are the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The Dolphins have an extremely young and solid offensive core led by Tua TagovailoaDeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki but lack a stable running back. If the Dolphins land Etienne, they will get an agile running back who can help take the pressure off of Tagovailoa in the passing game. Added, Brian Flores has shown great success in his first two years as head coach, and he and his coaching staff will help develop Etienne into the star running back many believe he can become. 

The Steelers would be a solid spot for Etienne because they are always a competitive team with tons of motivation to succeed in what will most likely be Ben Roethlisberger's last season. The Steelers have always been known as a team that can develop running backssuch as Le'Veon Bell and James Conner. If Etienne goes to Pittsburgh, the franchise will allow him to be the best running back he can be while not being forced to be the primary part of the offense, since the Steelers have an experienced passing offense, too. 

The next player to discuss is offensive tackle Jackson Carman. When Carman came to Clemson, there was a lot of pressure on him to be a top-tier tackle because he was a five-star recruit. Although he may not have reached the peak many assumed he wouldCarman was still a big contributor to Clemson’s offense. Carman will most likely be drafted late in the third round due to his run-blocking ability, big size (6-foot-6 and 328 pounds) and agility for his large stature. Unfortunately, Carman will still be a project for whatever team gets him due to his undeveloped footwork and leverage issues against the pass rush. Based on these factors, I believe the best team fit for Carman is the Baltimore Ravens. 

In recent years, the Ravens have had solid offensive line play and will continue to have it, as Baltimore is led up front by tackle Ronnie Stanley and guard Keven Zeitler. The Ravens would be the perfect landing spot for Carman because they have star-studded linemen he can learn from while playing behind them. The Ravens will allow him to find the best position of fit on the line, and their offensive line coach, Joe D'Alessandris, is one of the best in the NFL. Due to these three factors, the Ravens will allow Carman to flourish at the next level. The perfect example of the Ravens maximizing an offensive lineman's talent in the past few years is guard Bradley Bozeman. Bozeman was a sixth-round pick in 2018 who is now an above-average starting guard in the NFL. Carman can be the next version of that and even better. 

Clemson's leading receiver this past season, Amari Rodgers, is projected to be drafted between the third and fourth rounds. Although Rodgers lacks ideal size, he has the skill set to be one of the next best slot receivers in the NFL due to his quickness, burst off the line and ability to find soft spots in the defense. The team that would be the best fit for Rodgers would be the Tennessee Titans. This offseason was very unkind to the Titans receiving corps, since it lost wide receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries as well as tight end Jonnu Smith, but Tennessee will make sure to fix its pass-catching unit in the draft. A perfect player to replace Humphries in the slot is Rodgers. Rodgers showed that he could be an extremely dependable receiver this past season for Clemson as the Tigers’ No. 1 option. Therefore, there will not be any concerns with his ability to be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiving option in the NFL. Rodgers will be a great addition to the Titans' offense, and he will quickly become one of quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite receivers from the start. 

Finally, Clemson's second-leading receiver this past season, Cornell Powell, is projected to be drafted between rounds four and seven. Powell raised his stock drastically and placed his name into draft discussions during the 2020 season after a slow start to his career. Powell showed that he has big-play ability, can win contested balls and knows when to adjust his route for the quarterback. He also showed that he could be a low-tier third receiver and a high-tier fourth receiver at the next level to start his career. The best team fit for Powell would be the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Powell was a receiver Lawrence could always count on last season, which formed a strong connection between the two. He can help ease Lawrence into his new receiving corps while getting a lot of targets. Added, head coach Urban Meyer has shown his ability to develop receivers in college, too, so he should not have an issue doing it in the NFL. Powell and the Jaguars would be a perfect match.

 The NFL Draft starts April 29 in Cleveland. Make sure to keep an eye on the previously mentioned teams as Clemson's five potential draftees hope to hear their names called in one of the most prestigious sporting events.

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