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Clemson Football: 10 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for the Tigers

Clemson Football: 10 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for the Tigers

Clemson Football: 10 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for the Tigers

In last week's NFL Draft, former Clemson All-American Isaiah Simmons was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 8 overall pick and Tremayne Anchrum went No. 250 to the Los Angeles Rams. In between, five other Tigers heard their names called over the three-day period.

In what is a frightening thought for 2020 opponents, Clemson may have even more players selected – and at higher spots — in next year's draft. It begins at the skill positions, but Dabo Swinney's crew still has NFL quality athletes all over the field. Here are the 10 players (in alphabetical order) that are most likely to be chosen next April.

Jackson Carman, OT (Jr., 6-5, 345)

Carman will have another year of eligibility remaining in 2021. But after starting all 15 games last fall and earning third-team All-ACC honors, he comes into this season a well-known commodity. He will be the unquestioned leader of the Tigers' offensive line and could develop into an early-round selection.

Travis Etienne, RB (Sr., 5-10, 210)

Running backs are not as coveted as they once were by NFL teams. This past week, the only running back picked in the first round was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who Kansas City took with the last pick (No. 32 overall). But in terms of running back skill sets, Etienne has it all: strength, speed, and an ability to catch the ball. He will be one of the first backs off the board in 2021.

Justin Foster, DE (Sr., 6-2, 265)

Not flashy and not a star for the 2019 Tigers, Foster was a dependable, solid player. That will go a long way towards gaining an opportunity in the NFL. He was an honorable mention All-ACC performer with 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season.

Derion Kendrick, CB (Jr., 6-0, 190)

Kendrick came to Clemson as a wide receiver but made the switch to defense following his freshman season. In his first year at corner, he was named second-team All-ACC. Because he hasn't had a lot of reps at cornerback, he may benefit from using his final year of eligibility in 2021. But a huge junior season could open up NFL opportunities too good to pass up.

Trevor Lawrence, QB (Jr., 6-6, 220)

When Lawrence entered Clemson, the expectation was that he would play three years and then be the first pick in the 2021 draft. After two years of action, not much has changed, though Justin Fields of Ohio State is also angling to be the top overall prospect. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, No. 16 will have another big year and be a starting NFL quarterback 17 months from now.

Nyles Pinckney, DT (Sr., 6-1, 295)

Pinckney contemplated leaving after the national championship game but decided to return to Clemson for a fifth season. He’s a space-eater that will never put up huge numbers, but he could be a valuable role player for an NFL team. Fellow defensive tackle Jordan Williams will compete with Pinckney for playing time next to Tyler Davis and he too will be draft-eligible next spring.

Amari Rodgers, WR (Sr., 5-10, 210)

Rodgers definitely showed his toughness and love for the game by playing this past season after tearing his ACL last March. Perhaps he wasn't quite the same, but he has a chance to show more explosiveness this time around. The fact that he is a quality punt returner also adds to his draft resume.

Justyn Ross, WR (Jr., 6-4, 205)

Even though the numbers dipped a bit as a sophomore, Ross actually showed his ability to be a guy that can help move the chains. The explosiveness is evident, making him a complete receiver that could be the top prospect at that position.

James Skalski, LB (Sr., 6-0, 235)

Clemson has certainly had players that have created move havoc plays, but Skalski was second on the team behind Isaiah Simmons with 105 tackles in 2019. He also showed up big in the postseason, with eight tackles in the ACC Championship Game win over Virginia, nine tackles and a half-sack against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, and five tackles and a sack in the national championship game loss to LSU.

Xavier Thomas, DE (Jr., 6-2, 265)

Thomas didn't quite live up to his billing as a sophomore, but he was named third-team All-ACC. If he wants to be an early pick in the 2021 draft, he's going to have to improve on his 31-tackle, two-sack sophomore season.

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.