NFL Draft Prospects: Orange Bowl

In yet another great BCS Bowl, Clemson held on to beat Ohio State 40-35. There were several NFL Draft prospects playing, but Sammy Watkins stole the show.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins has been a stud since he arrived on Clemson’s campus. This season, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound wide receiver caught 85 balls for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also chipped 255 yards on kickoff returns.

What I liked:

Um, everything? Watkins can do it all: he’s fast, runs crisp routes and has good hands. He had 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He had 130 yards in the first half, and 115 of those yards came after the catch. There is no more dynamic player in the NFL Draft.

What I didn’t like:

He didn’t look like a great blocker.

Stock Report: Up

Watkins had the best game of his career at the perfect time. Clemson doesn’t beat Ohio State without Watkins.

Projected Range: Top-10

Watkins’ only short-coming is that he is only 6-foot-1 (pun alert). He is one of the best wide receiver prospects in recent memory. If you don’t believe me, just ask Matt Miller.

Whoever takes Watkins early in the first round should be getting a great weapon for years to come.

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

The light turned on for Beasley this year. He had just 20 tackles during his first two years at Clemson, but the 6-foot-2, 235 defensive end exploded for 39 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six pass break ups and 10 hurries.

What I liked:

Beasley was matched up against Jack Mewhort, an NFL Draft prospect himself. It is clear that Beasley is the superior player. Beasley had five tackles, four tackles for loss, and a sack. Beasley was more disruptive than the stat line says, as he abused Mewhort. He has a great first step and showed a nice swim move. He spent much of the time standing up, as opposed to having his hand on the ground.

What I didn’t like:

Beasley could have had another sack, but missed the elusive Braxton Miller. Beasley took a foolish penalty after his sack by making a throat-slash gesture. You just can’t do that stuff anymore. He needs work on his run support.

Stock Report: Up

Beasley looked like a monster against Mewhort. He looked like a first-round talent.

Projected Range: Late First Round

Beasley received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board and could be a high pick next year if he goes back to school. There is some concern that he could be a one-year wonder, but NFL teams need more pass rushers. If Beasley goes pro, I expect him to be a late first rounder. What hurts him is that he really only fits as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s too small to be a traditional 4-3 defensive end.

Ryan Shazier, LB, OSU

Shazier was a second-team Walter Camp All-American this year. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker was OSU’s best defensive player all season, recording 134 tackles, 94 of them solo, 22.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and four forced fumbles.

What I liked:

Shazier recorded seven tackles against the Buckeyes. He was great at shedding blockers and displayed good form.

What I didn’t like:

Shazier was quiet for much of the game. Clemson did a good job of neutralizing him and trying to stay away from him.

Stock Report: Neutral

Shazier didn’t have his best game, but the rest of his body of work is impressive. One average game won’t hurt him.

Projected Range: First Round

Shazier is a good fit in a 4-3 defense. He has a great first step, which helps him record so many tackles for loss. He could use some more size, but Shazier should be a tackling machine at the next level.

Carlos Hyde, RB, OSU

Despite only playing in 10 games, Hyde had a monster season. The 6-foot, 235-pound running back recorded 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns on 183 carries. He also caught 14 passes for 108 yards and two scores.

What I liked:

Hyde was the workhorse for Ohio State, picking up 113 yards and a score on 25 carries. He also caught two passes for 39 yards and a score. Hyde ran like he did all season. He ran north-south and was tough to bring down.

What I didn’t like:

I don’t think Hyde has the speed NFL teams want out of their running backs.

Stock Report:

Hyde looked like he has all season: A bruiser that lacks speed. He didn’t affect his stock with his performance. The biggest effect on his stock will be what he runs in forty-yard dash.

Projected Range: Day 2

As of right now, I view Hyde as a workhorse running back that lacks speed and the game-breaking ability you see out of a Jamaal Charles. However, there is a spot in the NFL for Hyde. If a team pairs him with a dynamic, shifty runner, they would make an incredible duo. (Plus, just think of the nicknames a Hyde-tandem could produce). If he runs a fast forty time, he might convince an NFL team to take him earlier than it should. I view him as an early Round 4 prospect, who will likely go at some point during Day 2.

Jack Mewhort, OT, OSU

Mewhort has started all over the offensive line for the Buckeyes, playing at left guard, right guard and left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 308-pounder was a second-team Walter Camp All-American at left tackle this year.

What I liked:

Mewhort outplayed Beasley on the first drive. Two of the sacks Mewhort gave up were not his fault, as Braxton Miller rolled right into the rush.

What I didn’t like:

As I mentioned earlier, Beasley dominated Mewhort for much of the game. Mewhort has quick feet, but they weren’t fast enough to stay up with Beasley.

Stock Report: Down

Mewhort’s struggles against Beasley will hurt his stock.

Projected Range: Late Day 2/Early Day 3

I don’t think Mewhort can be a left tackle. If he can’t stay with Beasley, how will he be able to stay with the best the NFL has to offer? However, I think Mewhort can make it as a right tackle at the next level. He’ll need some time to adjust, but he has the potential to be a serviceable starter.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

Boyd has been a starter for Clemson since his sophomore year, and was a second-team All-ACC selection this year. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound quarterback completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,473 yards, 29 touchdowns, and nine picks. He also contributed 273 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

What I liked:

Boyd offers plenty in the running game. He was the game’s leading rusher with 127 yards and a score on 20 carries. Boyd’s stat line was 31-40 for 378 yards, five touchdowns and two picks. Boyd has a good deep ball and showed he can make all the NFL throws he was asked to make.

What I didn’t like:

He wasn’t asked to make many NFL throws, as Clemson (wisely) just ran short passes designed to get the ball into Watkins’ hands. He wasn’t as impressive as his stat line indicated.

Boyd makes some awful decisions. His first interception was atrocious. He tried to get cute, flipping the ball over a defender’s head, who picked it off. He bizarrely ran out of bound at the end of the half, instead of throwing up a Hail Mary. Boyd nearly cost Clemson the game when he threw a pick late in the game after staring down his receiver and delivering a terrible throw.

Stock Report: Neutral

Don’t let Boyd’s stat line fool you: He wasn’t as good as he looked on paper. He has chance to show just how good he is at the Senior Bowl.

Projected Range: Late Day 2/Early Day 3

I like Boyd. I think he’s got potential as a starting NFL quarterback. However, he needs to improve his decision-making quickly. He could use some touching-up with his mechanics. I have doubts about his abilities if he doesn’t have a Sammy Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins doing the work for him. I view Boyd as a Round 4 or 5 prospect who will likely be drafted higher than that because quarterbacks tend to rise.

Brandon Thomas, OT, Clemson

Thomas has been a first-team All-ACC selection for the past two years. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder has played both guard and tackle, but was Clemson’s left tackle this season.

What I liked:

Thomas had a great seal on Boyd’s touchdown run. He gets a good push in the running game.

What I didn’t like:

He had a terrible cut block that resulted in a swatted pass. He is not as good in pass protection as he is in run blocking.

Stock Report: Neutral

Thomas didn’t hurt or help his stock with his performance.

Projected Range: Day 3

Thomas played left tackle for Clemson this year, but his NFL future is at guard. He has great size for the guard spot, and his skill set is better suited inside. Thomas has moments of brilliance, but needs to improve his consistency to be a starter. I don’t think Thomas will be a star, but I think he can develop into a quality starter.

NOTE: Bradley Roby, CB, OSU

Roby sat out the bowl game with an injury, but the 5-foot-11, 192-pound junior cornerback has already declared for the NFL Draft. He could have gone pro last year and could have been a first round pick. However, he struggled at times this year and I expect him to be a Day 2 pick.

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