2020 NFL Draft: Four players who could be in the next wave of first-round picks from Clemson
Let's examine the 2020 iteration of prospects from Clemson's burgeoning program
The reigning champion Clemson Tigers have had eight first-round selections in the last five years, and Dabo Swinney has gotten on Nick Saban's level on the recruiting front, a feat previously thought to be impossible.
Trevor Lawrence will be the headliner of the 2021 Draft, but Clemson has a handful of marquee 2020 draft prospects ready for huge seasons as the team defends its second title in three years.
Let's take a look at all the potential first-round selections from Swinney's club next year.
(Players ranked in order of likelihood of being a first-round pick in 2020)
Tee Higgins, WR
After averaging 20.3 yards per snag on 17 receptions as a true freshman in 2017, Higgins, in a much more prominent role as a sophomore, averaged 15.9 yards per catch with 12 touchdowns on 59 grabs in 2018.
A 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, Higgins tracks the football like a power forward near the rim, showing natural hands-catching ability. After the catch, he's a long-striding speedster. Also, very importantly for a decently lanky downfield burner, Higgins can get off the line against press coverage with plus agility and physicality with his hands.
Justyn Ross is the household name in Clemson's receiver group after his dazzling freshman season and ridiculous national title game performance, but Higgins is an outstanding -- and 2020 eligible -- draft prospect too because of his imposing size, leaping ability, ball skills, and sheer athleticism. Another double digit touchdown season is likely for the 20-year-old true junior. He'll get first-receiver-off-the-board consideration all draft season.
Isaiah Simmons, LB/S
As a safety with linebacker skills, we saw Derwin James turn in an amazing rookie season in 2018 and emerge as the prototype for the positionless future of the NFL.
Simmons has similar characteristics to James as a hybrid second-level defender. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Simmons is a towering presence, and his game exudes fierce athleticism. In 2018, as a 20-year-old redshirt sophomore, he registered 88 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and two sacks.
He was everywhere for the Tigers. Simmons landed at No. 4 on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list, which pinpoints the top 50 most freakish athletes in college football. His game is predicated on speed, smooth movements, and a gigantic tackling radius. He's super-comfortable in coverage too. With more aggressiveness taking on blocks, Simmons can be a 100-tackle linebacker, and don't be surprised if he gets his hands on plenty of footballs as a cover man.
Simmons was born to play in the modern NFL, and he'll likely hear his name early in the 2020 Draft.
Travis Etienne, RB
All Etienne did as a true sophomore was amass nearly 1,700 yards on 204 carries and score 24 touchdowns on the ground. At 5-10 and 215 pounds, Etienne generates plenty of power to bounce off defenders at the line and second level, jagged cutting skills to explode through nice lanes, and serious long speed to hit home runs.
Per Pro Football Focus, Etienne had 44 runs of 10-plus yards in 2018, the most among all ACC running backs.
At times, Etienne runs a bit high, which hurts his jump-cutting ability, but many NFL coaches will love his north-south running style and immense acceleration through the hole. With another 1,500-plus yard season for the Tigers -- and a big combine -- Etienne will be on the first-round radar in 2020.
A.J. Terrell, CB
Terrell is a 6-2, 190-pound savvy cornerback with fluid hips, great ankle flexibility, keen awareness, and impressive speed. He had 53 tackles, three interceptions, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles in 2018.
None of his plays were bigger than his interception of Tua Tagovailoa early in the national championship game that went to the house for six.
Terrell's lightning quick feet allow him to thrive as a zone cornerback and also help him to stay with receivers down the field in man coverage. And his size makes him an ideal candidate to play on the outside immediately in the NFL. He'll probably need more ball production to garner first-round hype, yet Terrell's natural coverage skills will be enticing to defensive coordinators across the league.
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Tua Tagovailoa has gotten most of the preseason hype, but teammate Jerry Jeudy could be the...
Let's take a look at the best prospects in the 2020 Draft from the Group of 5 conferences
And don't sleep on TCU's Jalen Reagor and Baylor's Denzel Mims
The 2020 wide receiver class is absolutely loaded with youthful and dynamic talents
Pac-12 teams have an assortment of legit 2020 NFL Draft prospects, so let's take a look
After Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, who are the other possible first-round passers?