Next year's draft could be loaded with Clemson players
Clemson had five players selected in this past weekend's NFL draft. It is a testament to what Dabo Swinney and his staff have accomplished that the first thought that comes to mind is, "Is that all?"
Though the top pick in the 2022 draft will probably not come from Clemson, doubling the number of total Tigers selected would not be a shock. In reality, any Clemson player that is draft-eligible will probably be considered. Here are 15 of the top candidates (in alphabetical order).
Matt Bockhorst, G (Sr., 6-4, 315)
Bockhorst may not be the most athletic lineman, but he is a grinder. His strength, effort and intensity was the reason he earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2020 and could be why he gets drafted next year.
Andrew Booth Jr., CB (Jr., 6-0, 195)
Part of the rotation at corner last year, he will be asked to step up even further to provide consistency at the position now that Derion Kendrick's Clemson career over. An amazing athlete, Booth was also on the All-ACC second team.
Tyler Davis, DT (Jr., 6-2, 300)
Davis only played in seven games last year and was limited to just 17 tackles and two sacks. But when he is right, he is really right. A Davis at full-go will be an early-round selection in either 2022 or 2023.
Braden Galloway, TE (Sr., 6-4, 240)
In a lot of ways, despite catching 27 passes for 369 yards in 2020, we are still waiting for Galloway to reach his full potential. An athletic tight end with good size is something NFL teams are currently craving and that is Galloway. Davis Allen is another tight end that could work his way onto a professional roster.
K.J. Henry, DE (Jr., 6-4, 255)
Henry has been a rotational player during his career at Clemson, but with the amount of talent along the defensive line, that doesn't mean the NFL is not an option. Henry has displayed a burst and will continue to be a key asset on the edge.
Sheridan Jones, CB (Jr., 6-0, 185)
He only has 28 tackles, one interception, and four pass breakups in his career. But NFL scouts are aware of his abilities and a solid junior season could force Jones to make a draft decision after this season.
Frank Ladson, WR (Jr., 6-3, 205)
Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers are gone and someone has to catch passes from D.J. Uiagalelei. Ladson is one of the prime candidates. Two things held Ladson back in 2020: injuries and drops. If both of those issues get corrected, he will explode in 2021.
Jordan McFadden, OL (Jr., 6-2, 300)
There are many successful NFL guards that played tackle in college. This could very well be the case for McFadden, who at 6-foot-2 does not have prototypical NFL tackle height.
Joseph Ngata, WR (Jr., 6-3, 220)
Ngata and Frank Ladson have had similar careers so far at Clemson. Both came in as highly touted recruits, both showed promise as freshmen, and both were saddled with injuries as juniors. And like Ladson, a healthy Ngata could become an important player for the Tigers in 2021.
Justyn Ross, WR (Jr., 6-4, 205)
Despite the neck injury which kept him out all of 2020, the Clemson player with the highest draft ceiling is Ross. A 1,000-yard receiver as a true freshman, Ross has the size and speed to be a top NFL target.
James Skalski, LB (Sr., 6-0, 240)
Skalski has 210 tackles in his distinguished Clemson career and was a second-team All-ACC pick despite missing time with a sports hernia injury. The unquestioned leader of the Tiger defense, Skalski could be a mid- to late-round selection next year.
Baylon Spector, LB (Sr., 6-2, 230)
If you wagered before the 2020 season that Spector would lead the Tigers in tackles, your return would have been plentiful. So be careful of betting against his NFL chances.
Xavier Thomas, DE (Sr., 6-2, 270)
Perhaps this will be the year. The five-star prospect had an impressive freshman year, struggled a bit as a sophomore, and saw COVID-19 complications hinder his junior season in a major way. Thomas at 100 percent will provide an extra measure of explosiveness to Brent Venables' defense.
Nolan Turner, S (Sr., 6-1, 205)
Turner will be entering his sixth year at Clemson and he has had an impressive career to this point. He made the key interception against Ohio State that clinched a spot in the 2019 national championship game and also earned second-team All-American honors from USA Today and the AFCA in 2020.
Lannden Zanders, S (Jr., 6-1, 200)
Undoubtedly, some improvement has to be made. But Zanders has all the physical tools needed to play at the next level. It's about putting it all together.
— 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.