The body of work at Clemson, especially over the last two seasons, wasn’t enough to quell injury concerns for running back Andre Ellington on NFL draft day three.
One-by-one, comparable players at his position were taken, to the point where he was ESPN’s top-rated player on the board for the latter half of the day. Finally late Saturday afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals grabbed him as the 19th pick in the sixth round (No. 187 overall).
“It’s a relief,” Ellington said, describing getting the call. “I was sitting around wondering why name hasn’t been called yet, but I know the call would come from the right team and I was fortunate for it to come from the Arizona Cardinals.”
A run of 16 tailbacks were taken before the Moncks Corner, S.C. product, who was rated fourth overall by NFL.com going in, including Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor also by the Cardinals the round before.
Ellington, who left Clemson as fourth all-time in rushing yards (3,436), had workouts at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine cut short due to hamstring injuries. At his own personal Pro Day, he ran a middle-of-the-road 4.51 40-time.
Ellington said he received plenty of support over a tough couple of days.
“It was stressful,” he said. “I was just fortunate to have my family around to keep me calm. Other teammates that I played with in the past all came around to support me.
“They just kept me calm and smiling and laughing and in good spirits.”
His former offensive coordinator quickly encouraged the running back on Twitter as well Saturday:
Chad Morris Tweet
Now, the focus is on carving his niche to make an impact.
“The (Arizona) offense has playmakers all around,” Ellington said. “I feel like I’m a guy that can come in and contribute and join all these other playmakers and contribute on special teams as well.”
On the flipside, a pair of former Clemson defenders used the offseason to improve their stock.
Defensive end Malliciah Goodman was selected by the Atlanta Falcons as the 30th pick of the fourth round.
“Very relieving moment, I can finally breathe,” Goodman said. “It’s been a long process. Just going throughout the workouts and doing the visits and all the training.
“Just to see it pay off and I finally have a home is just a blessing for me.“
Goodman was the second Clemson player off the board and top-15 at his position in the first 127 picks. He went on a late-season tear to total seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2012, and says his Pro Day, where he ran a solid 4.65 40, paved the way for jumping up a round more than projected.
“Pro Day was astonishing,” he said. “I shocked a lot of scouts and moved up the radar.”
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says with measurables almost off-the-charts (36 3/8 inch wingspan; 11 inch hands) – the Florence, S.C. native can play anywhere on a pro d-line.
"He's got real long arms,” said Mayock. “You're not sure if you want to play him outside or inside. I think he's versatile. He's one of the better pass rushers.”
Goodman’s message to Falcons fans is simple – he’s a hard-worker and they will see that on Sundays in the fall.
“You’re going to get a committed, very hard-working player,” he said. “I’m a pass rusher and I get to the ball. (I’m) just being that team player that a d-line needs.”
From off the board to on an NFL team, former Clemson safety Jonathan Meeks was picked in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills.
He played a Clemson defense-high 835 snaps last season, but wasn’t listed as a projected draftee by NFL.com going in. Meeks was selected No. 143 overall by the Bills, who hosted him for a pre-draft workout after the Raycom All-Star Classic.
“I had a pretty solid week out at the all-star game and they expressed some interest in me,” Meeks said, giving some insight into Buffalo’s surprise selection. “Then I took my visit up there and it was a very good visit. I had the chances to meet the coaches and (Bills GM Buddy) Nix again and it was a very solid visit.”
He was one of two safeties taken by the Bills Saturday, who also recently put a franchise tag on All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd. Meeks knows his roster spot isn’t etched in stone yet.
“They say the draft is definitely not the end,” Meeks said, “it is the beginning and I haven’t been able to express that the chip is still on my shoulder.
“Things happen for a reason so that is just going to make me more hungry as a player and as a person as well.”
Four Tigers were drafted total, including Houston Texans first round pick DeAndre Hopkins, while tight end Brandon Ford, center Dalton Freeman, receiver Jaron Brown and safety Rashard Hall are among former Clemson standouts who will likely pursue free agent contracts.