Time will tell if it was worth the wait – Clemson’s latest members of the NFL fraternity taking mixed emotions of excitement and motivation to their new teams as day three draft picks.
After projections as high as the second round, Hanna product Martavis Bryant watched 16 receivers’ names called over four rounds-plus, but early Saturday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers filled their need for a deep threat with the lanky speedster. As it turns out, Bryant was eyeing the black and gold all along.
“It’s a great fit,” Bryant said in a media teleconference. “It’s a city I really wanted to come to. I told my Mom the whole time I wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and I’m glad that they have faith in me and I won’t let them down.”
The Steelers had one of the better passing games in the AFC last year (12th in the league), making a late run that fell just short of the playoffs. A 2004 first round selection, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 34,105 career yards and 219 touchdowns.
Bryant more than doubled his first two season’s catch total in 2013 (42), averaging 19.7 yards per reception for 828 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I bring a big threat in the red zone,” Bryant said. “I’ll do anything they ask me to.
“I know that Big Ben knows how to get the ball down the field and they have had some great receivers over the years. He loves throwing the ball deep so I just want to come and help. Help him out and get wins.”
Bashaud Breeland was the first Tiger off the board in Satruday’s second pick (102 overall) to the Washington Redskins.
He was projected as high as a second round selection, compiling 74 tackles and a team-best 13 pass breakups and four interceptions last season – size (5-11 197) and physicality jumping off the board to NFL scouts.
“He’s a pretty good athlete,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “You think about his size and toughness and his aggressiveness was evident game after game…What I want to see is more discipline in coverage, but he came on this year and played well.”
No one’s patience – maybe even beyond Clemson – was tested more than the school’s all-time winningest quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Twelve signal-callers were selected before the Hampton, Va. product, leaving him for a team he’s become quite familiar with lately – the New York Jets (pick 213, sixth round).
Jets coach Rex Ryan has been a frequent visitor since his son, Seth, joined the team last year. Former Tigers center Dalton Freeman signed a free agent contract with New York last year. Receiver and Clemson alum Jacoby Ford recently signed as a free agent in the Big Apple.
“(Ryan) said if I ever made it down this far in the draft he would definitely select me,” Boyd told ESPN after cameras showed an emotional scene in his household. “At one point or another, I was just in the car drifting asleep and the phone rang and I saw the New York number and thought it had to be them.
“Obviously I’m excited about the opportunity to go out there and compete and I’m looking forward to it.”
Boyd joins a quarterback competition with a former foe (West Virginia product Geno Smith) and a mentor from his home region (Michael Vick).
“The opportunity to get reunited with those guys is interesting,” Boyd said. “I’m looking forward to it. At the end of the day, I’m just going to play my game. Go out there and be the quarterback I can be and just show the coaches that I was worthy of this pick.”
Five Clemson players were picked total, making it 28 selections over the last six drafts for the school. After coming in tied with UNC for the most selections in that span, Florida State jumped into the lead with seven picks in the 2014 draft.
From 2010-13, ten Tigers were selected in round four or later – all but one are still on a NFL roster (Jamie Harper, former Tennessee Titan). Two are starters in 2013 sixth-round selection Andre Ellington (Arizona Cardinals running back) and 2011 sixth-round pick Byron Maxwell (Seattle Seahawks cornerback).
In a record year for early entries (102), Clemson’s trio was lucky enough not to be among the nearly 40 percent that went undrafted (37.2).
It didn't take long for a couple Tigers to grab free agent contracts: kicker Chandler Catanzaro (Arizona), Tyler Shatley (Jacksonville) and Darius Robinson (Buffalo) with more expected.