Four reputable 'mock drafts' published in the past two days have pegged Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins as a first round choice in the NFL draft this spring.
Hopkins, who declared for the draft last week against the advice of an otherwise supportive Dabo Swinney, is projected as the No. 21 pick by the Cincinnati Bengals by Albert Breer for NFL.com, while two other NFL.com analysts - Gil Brandt and Josh Norris - predict that Hopkins will be taken 25th by the Seattle Seahawks.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has Hopkins going to the New England Patriots with the No. 31 pick.
The projection of Hopkins as a first-round pick is far from unanimous, but is an indication that he should be in the mix for late first-round/early second-round selection.
Swinney expressed concerns last week that after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL's draft advisory committee, Hopkins and other skill position players might slide lower than their projections as teams concentrated on selecting defensive and offensive linemen.
Swinney typically advises junior players to return to school unless they're projected as "sure first-rounders," saying that the current salary and contract structure benefits first-round picks and veteran players who achieve "a second contract" after 3-4 years in the league.
Most of the mock drafts are heavy on linemen, and there is little agreement on the quarterback position. One of NFL.com's analysts has West Virginia's Geno Smith being selected first overall, while most peg Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel for that honor. Other mock drafts have no quarterbacks being taken until the second round.
Brandt, formerly the Dallas Cowboys' vice president for player personnel, projects Hopkins as the No. 3 receiver to be selected, behind Terrance Williams of Baylor and Keenan Allen of California.
In its analysis of Hopkins, NFL.com praises the former Clemson star as a "solid route-runner who has flexibility to avoid corners in zone and the quick feet to separate on hitches, comebacks, and other cuts" and says he "does a nice job creating separation and deceiving defensive backs with head fakes and quick moves."
NFL.com also notes that Hopkins "possesses strong hands in traffic, (and is) not afraid of contact downfield and can separate at the last second with an arm extension" and that Hopkins "does not go down without a fight, can run through arm tackle attempts from cornerbacks."
Hopkins also got high marks for his concentration, his technique in catching the ball with his hands, and his body control used to "contort his body on catches and pluck the ball out of the air, keep one foot in-bounds on the sideline."
NFL.com cited Hopkins' "average size" as a weakness for an outside receiver, and noted that he "occasionally loses track of the ball on easy catches when trying to make a move too early."