ACC Spring ’18: Clemson Tigers

Dabo Swinney has done a marvelous job of building Clemson into one of the premier programs in college football. Every position group is seemingly loaded with NFL players, and the quarterback room is no exception. Kelly Bryant had the unenviable task of following behind one of college football’s all-time greats in Deshaun Watson. Bryant was a fantastic runner but an erratic passer. Think about this, four teams made the College Football Playoffs last season – Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson. Three of those four teams return their starting QB, and there is a chance that none of the three players finish the 2018 season as their own QB1. The two contenders for Bryant’s job are Hunter Johnson and Trevor Lawrence. Both guys were highly touted recruits. I won’t get too in depth into profiling either player, but both guys have immense talent. If I had to wager, I’d say Bryant starts the season as QB1, and his level of play will ultimately determine whether or not he can hold off the two budding stars behind him. Whoever wins the job will have some nice value for CFF, and as far as Devy goes, I’ll take the TrFR Trevor Lawrence.

Whichever guy wins the QB battle will have a terrific group of pass catchers to throw to. Tee Higgins was a TrFR last season that showed flashes of his immense potential. Higgins is one of my top rated Devy WRs in the 2020 class and should be a high-value CFF target this season. Amari Rodgers, son of former UT QB and current USC OC Tee Martin, is likely to get extensive work as at Clemson’s “2” WR position. He is built like an RB, and although his numbers appear really poor in last year’s freshman campaign, it’s a small sample, and he’s got talent. Hunter Renfrow is Mr. Reliable for them and should also be a weapon from the slot. The player that has the highest ceiling of this inside WR group is TrFR Derion “DK” Kendrick. DK was a dual-threat QB in high school that could be the outlier that destroys high school SPARQ testing for good. His testing numbers would indicate he is a really poor athlete and his film would indicate he is an exceptional athlete. DK is drawing rave reviews from his offensive coordinator, “”I’ve been really impressed with DK. I really noticed that at our football camp when he came to our camp the past two years,” Scott said. “The explosiveness was apparent there, and I said then, he was probably one of the most explosive guys we’ve had come through our camp since Sammy (Watkins). Watching him out here, I’m not surprised at all. Some guys, it’s very effortless and very easy for them to run. Other guys it’s a little bit more work.”” I think if expectations are set for him to match Watkins’ numbers as a freshman, 82-1219-12, there will be disappointment. The talent on Clemson’s roster has been elevated to a whole new level, and there are simply too many other talented mouths to feed. That being said, he is a stash for me in dynasty CFF formats and a player I will be targeting in my Devy leagues. The other TrFR that hasn’t arrived yet is Justyn Ross. He is a bigger player that has a different skill set, but he should be another player to adopt similar methodologies to DK when drafting him in various leagues. A player that I know very little about that has been generating some buzz is fifth-year senior Trevion Thompson. Diondre Overton, Cornell Powell, and TJ Chase are all less sexy third-year players that will be competing for work.

I could (and will) talk about several players at RB but I really only WANT to talk about one, Travis Etienne. The true freshman was absolutely sensational in 2017. Blessed with some of the best burst and long speed of any player in football, college or NFL, he finished 2017 with 107-766-13 on the ground. He isn’t a very big back, but his contact balance is outstanding which allows him to bounce off of would-be-tacklers and run through arm tackles. His running mate, Tavien Feaster, was actually more highly regarded as a recruit but he just didn’t jump off the tape in 2017 the same way that Etienne did. Feaster also finished with 107 carries, but he only managed 669 yards and 7 TD. Feaster displayed incredible speed and burst as a freshman in 2016, but it seemed he bulked up in 2017 and it really hampered him. Reports out of camp are that he has slimmed down again from 220 and will hopefully regain the juice that he showed as a recruit and newcomer. I think using both players in a tandem makes the most sense for Clemson in 2018. Joining the mix will be incoming freshman, Lyn-J Dixon, from Butler, GA. Adam Choice is an option for another back to use in the committee. Overall, ETN is who I definitely want in Devy leagues and also for CFF but I’m unsure how much volume he will see, which will determine his ceiling. Get acquainted with him here:

The TE position hasn’t been very productive in the passing game since Jordan Leggett’s departure to the NFL. There are several talented players on the roster, and there is an opportunity to be CFF relevant. Milan Richard is being projected by several outlets to be the starter against Furman in the opener. Behind him, there are players like Garrett Williams and Cannon Smith that will factor into the conversation. A player that has a lot of intrigue is incoming freshman, Braden Galloway. Dabo Swinney had this to say about him, “(Braden is) big, athletic — he reminds you a lot of Leggett just with his physical build and his ability to run,” he said. “He’s still got a lot of maturing (to do), because the tight end position, outside of quarterback, requires the most amount of knowledge to be able to function. Those guys do so many things for us — formation adjustments, they’re the boundary receiver, they’re the two-back in the backfield, blocking. There’s a lot of stuff he’s going to need to learn to be able to function.” At this point, I won’t likely be drafting any Clemson TEs in CFF due to the amount of talent at other spots and uncertainty about who the starter will be.

Clemson had one of the nation’s most dominant defensive lines last season. Clemson will have one of the nation’s most dominant defensive lines this season. Swinney’s finest piece of recruiting may have been convincing his group of future millionaires on the DL to come back to Clemson for one last hurrah. It could be argued that their 2018 group is as good as any NFL team possesses. Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence comprised the line that ranked first nationally in sacks in 2017 and fortified one of the best defenses in the country. Add in blue-chip recruits like Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry and other young players like Xavier Kelly and Justin Foster and this group may be the best collegiate defensive line group I’ve ever seen as a fan of football. The DL class in 2019 is going to potentially be historic and these guys will be a big reason why. Clemson DC, Brent Venables, has been very hard on his defense this spring, particularly the secondary. He isn’t a sunshine and rainbows guy to begin with so in attempting to read the tea leaves, I think it’s a motivational tactic to combat any complacency from this uber-talented group. Again, hat tip to what Dabo Swinney has built at Clemson.


Senior Director of College Fantasy Football. College football, all year.

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