Clemson’s future pros may have been spoiled in night one of the NFL draft — Sammy Watkins’ name called by pick No. 4 to the Buffalo Bills.
But Friday night’s collection of NFL selections were definitely a surprise.
The second round in New York City went by without a Clemson pick. The third round appeared to be more of the same until the San Francisco 49ers selected offensive lineman Brandon Thomas with the 100th and last pick of the third round.
A top-50 pick projection after the Senior Bowl, Thomas tore his ACL in a private workout with the New Orleans Saints last month and is expected to be ready to go by early October.
San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke called the injury "unfortunate," but it left them undeterred after seeing him workout earlier.
"He's a great young man...He was the highest player on our board when we made the pick," Baalke said, adding Thomas will "redshirt" much like they did with former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore last year.
Thomas had 98 knockdowns in 2,765 snaps over 49 games (36 starts) in his Clemson career, as a two-time All-ACC selection (media, coaches)
The rest of his Tiger teammates are looking for a lifeline today.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock labeled former Hanna receiver Martavis Bryant as a “first-round talent” as late as last week, but a record 12 receiver selections in the first two rounds came and went without his name called.
Mayock hinted to Bryant’s one and only big year of production — more than doubling his two-year catch total last season (42) with 828 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns — as a potential drawback.
“Boy is he gifted,” Mayock said. “Watching his Pro Day, it was he and (Sammy) Watkins putting on a show. Great hands, even though he had a bunch of drops at the beginning of the year. He still has great hands. He’s long. He’s fast. He jumps.”
“There’s just a historical perspective that I get nervous about taking a one-year wonder in the first or second round. The Stephen Hill to the Jets — there’s a bunch of those guys. He has some kind of immaturity off the field issues that have to be addressed as well.”
The draft will conclude with rounds four-through-seven starting at noon at Radio City Music Hall.
Former all-everything Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd’s draft stock has been a battleground for his coach of the last five years, Dabo Swinney. Boyd’s first-round projections slipped to the late rounds despite season-to-season improvements in completion percentage (68.5), yards per attempt (9.32), passer rating (168.7) and interceptions thrown (11).
Some criticisms have centered on Boyd’s big-game performances.
“Tajh Boyd is the winningest quarterback in the history of this school,” said Swinney. “He beat LSU without Sammy Watkins. He’s beaten Florida State. He’s beaten Auburn twice, one of them without Sammy Watkins. He’s beaten Georgia. Beat Virginia Tech three times — one of them in the championship game.
“Tajh Boyd is a great winner. Certainly still a developing player and there are certain parts of his game where he’s got to continue to improve and evolve. He’s a great winner.”
Just five quarterbacks were selected in the first two rounds. According to NFL.com, Boyd is the fourth-best quarterback left behind A.J. McCarron, Logan Thomas and Zach Mettenberger. CBSSports.com has had the Hampton, Va. product projected as a seventh rounder to a potential undrafted free agent for the last couple months.
Also looking to hear his name called is junior cornerback Bashaud Breeland (Allendale), who had projections as high as the second round this offseason.