Clemson vs Ohio State: NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) can
Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) can /

A look at some of the draft eligible prospects who are participating in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl matchup between Clemson and Ohio State on New Year’s Eve.

Ohio State Buckeyes:

Running Back/Wide Receiver #4 Curtis Samuel, Ohio State

Ohio State’s most versatile and valuable weapon, Curtis Samuel compares favorably to Percy Harvin, minus the locker room headaches and well, actual headaches. Samuel is a versatile chess piece that an NFL team can move around the formation at will. The junior has lit up the stat sheet this season, leading the Big 10 with 1,546 all purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. He may not declare, but if he does, Samuel will likely be a top 60 pick. 1-2 dominating games against premier competition could solidify himself in the round 1 conversation.

Center #65 Pat Elflein, Ohio State

Elflein is a versatile interior offensive lineman that has played both guard and center over the course of his career in Columbus. He excels as a run blocker and eagerly seeks out contact. A team captain, Elflein chose to return to Ohio State for his senior season. Elflein is a plug and play offensive lineman who could start at guard or center in the NFL.

Cornerback #2 Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

Lattimore has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his college career, but he finally emerged this season. Despite being a one year starter, Lattimore’s combination of elite size, fantastic ball skills, instincts and uber-athleticism have him in first round territory. He is often overshadowed by teamate Gareon Conley, but Lattimore could skyrocket up draft boards if he passes his biggest test of the season on New Year’s Eve.

Cornerback #8 Gareon Conley, Ohio State

After waiting his turn behind Bradley Roby and Eli Apple, Conley was thrust into the spotlight this season and he has not disapointed. Conley isn’t exceedingly physical, but he has ideal size and length to be a number one cornerback in the NFL. Conley is a great athlete, but he is far from a finished product. If he proves himself against physical wideouts Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, it will do wonders for his draft stock.

Safety #24 Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Hooker is young, but he’s a game changer in Ohio State’s electric secondary. In the event that Hooker decided to declare, he would undoubtedly be my top safety in the draft. Like other all-pro safeties, Hooker combines his plus size with a nose for the ball, fantastic instincts, physicality and range.

Other Ohio State players to watch: Quarterback #16 JT Barrett, Guard #54 Billy Price, Linebacker #5 Raekwon McMillan.

More from 12th Man Rising

Clemson Tigers:

Quarterback #4 DeShaun Watson, Clemson

By his own lofty standards, Watson has had a down year this season, but the 6’2, 210 pound Watson has shown up when its mattered most over the course of his career. The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist is an outstanding playmaker who can make plays with his arm and his legs. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but Watson is an accurate quarterback capable of making all of the throws necessary to be an NFL quarterback. The Seahawks aren’t in the market for a quarterback, but Watson could be the first quarterback off the board in April.

Running Back #7 Wayne Gallman, Clemson

Gallman doesn’t have the build of the prototypical bruising power back, but he thrives running downhill and punishing defenders. Once he hits top speed, Gallman is a handful to tackle. Gallman occasionally runs too high and he needs to become more consistent running the ball, but he definitely has a spot in an NFL backfield.

Wide Receiver #7 Mike Williams, Clemson

Williams missed all but one game of the 2015 season after a gruesome neck injury ended his season. Amidst questions about his future, Williams erased all doubt in 2016, returning to his dominating ways. The 6’4 wideout uses his large frame to outmuscle cornerbacks and win jump balls. Williams is a handful for any college cornerback to cover, simply because of his elite combination of size and speed. He has no shortage of competition, but Williams is one of the most complete wide receivers in college football. A big game against Ohio State’s star-studded secondary will cement his status as a first round prospect.

Tight End #16 Jordan Leggett, Clemson

Like Alabama’s OJ Howard, Leggett had a coming out party during last year’s College Football Playoff and considered declaring, but the 6’5 tight end decided to boost his stock with another year of college football. Leggett is primarily a pass catching tight end at this point, but he has the frame to become a serviceable blocker at the next level. With a strong performance tonight, Leggett could elevate his stock in a loaded tight end class.

Defensive Tackle #94 Carlos Watkins, Clemson

Watkins flashed behind Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd and DJ Reader last season, but the 6’3, 300 pound defensive tackle has taken the torch and ran with it. Watkins is a big, physical defensive tackle with a lighting fast get off and a nonstop motor. These traits led to Watkins recording 8.5 sacks in 2016. If he can refine his technique a bit, he can slide in at either tackle spot in the NFL.  

Cornerback #25 Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

Tankersley played in Mackenzie Alexander’s shadow last season, but Tankersley has shown that he is just as good, if not better, than his former teammate. Tankersley is a long, athletic cornerback whose mix of size, speed, ball skills, and physicality is arguably the best in this class. Look for Tankersley to come off the board relatively early in April’s NFL Draft.

Other Clemson players to watch: Wide Receiver #3 Artavis Scott, Linebacker #10 Ben Boulware, Safety #18 Jadar Johnson.