Welcome back for another episode of Supply Lines, this week I am looking at Clemson wide receivers and this is just about one of the most prolific supply lines that there has been in recent years for a certain position! Not only have Clemson supplied the NFL with 10 receivers in 10 years via the draft but the quality of those receivers has been very high indeed… and that’s not even counting undrafted receivers that have made it to the NFL.
To this tune the Clemson athletics website proudly boasts,
“10 former Clemson wide receivers are on NFL rosters, the most players from one position in school history in the NFL at the same time.”
What’s more, the trend doesn’t show any hints of slowing down with the likes of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross currently on the Tigers depth chart. Higgins, a Junior enters this coming college football season as one of the best receivers in the country and is draft eligible, should he choose to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Ross is a Sophomore and will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest to get drafted. Both of these guys are on course to get drafted high whenever they come out – which will prolong the Supply line even further. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that they both have Trevor Lawrence throwing them the ball.
Anyway, more of those two guys later on, right now, I want to talk about the guys who are currently plying their trade in the NFL.
So, I’m going to come right out and say it and I don’t think it’s a hot take at all. The current, best wide receiver in football right now is DeAndre Hopkins, a former Tiger.
In 6 years in the league, Hopkins has amassed, 7,437 yards and an eye-popping 47 touchdowns. Nuk has missed and grand total of one game in all that time and maybe most impressively, did not drop one, single ball in the 2018 season.
Hopkins has vice-like mits, he displays mind-bending body control and concentration on catches and is his QB throws it up as a 50/50 ball, well… it’s not a 50/50 ball. Hopkins is just too strong for almost anyone who guards him… I’d say, at worst Hopkins instantly makes it a 70/30 ball in his favour.
Yeah, he’s pretty special. He was also pretty damn good when he was representing the Tigers too. 39 games in 3 years, yielded 3,020 yards and 27 TD’s, 18 of which came in his Junior season, before he was drafted 27th overall in the 2013 draft by the Texans and was the second wide receiver taken in the first round.
Just imagine being a St. Louis Rams and having the 8th overall pick, needing a receiver and drafting Tavon Austin instead of Hopkins…
Talk about things you hate to see.
It’s almost like after Hopkins, the NFL then realised that Clemson really produces top talent at the position, because since Hopkins, Clemson has had two top 10 receivers drafted; Sammy Watkins, 4th overall in 2014 and Mike Williamsm 7th overall a couple of years ago.
Let’s talk about those two guys.
Both Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams have had their ups and downs in the NFL. Watkins has looked excellent at times but injuries have taken their toll, both on his body and also on his reputation in the minds of fans – despite only just having turned 26 years old this summer, not many see him as a premier wide receiver and some even see him as over the hill. Watkins has played in high powered offenses the past couple of seasons for the Rams and the Chiefs but hasn’t topped 600 yards either year, so perhaps those detractors are correct. A far cry from the guy who was drafted 4th overall and racked up just under 1,500 yards in his final year for Clemson and possessed elite, track-star speed which caused no end of problems to cornerbacks.
Mike Williams is another former Tiger who has had his injury issues and serious injuries at that. Williams suffered a vertebra fracture in his neck in college, which was then followed by a herniated disc in his back, during his rookie training camp. These injuries had a huge bearing on his rookie year and he was facing an uphill battle in year two but my, oh my… Wiliams answered those questions by looking every bit the dominant wide receiver he was when he played in South Carolina. A jump-ball, red-zone monster for the Chargers last year as he accumulated 10 receiving touchdowns and also ran one in, against Kansas City in the big victory at Arrowhead Stadium late in the season.
Whilst Williams did his damage by way of scoring TD’s last year and not so much by gobbling up yardage (664 yards last year) like he did at Clemson, where he topped 1,000 yards twice, we can kind of excuse this when there are so many mouths to feed over in L.A. I mean, not many offenses could draft a wideout 7th overall and be ok with him not being the WR1 on the roster.
Two receivers who are in different moulds who have enjoyed fantastic collegiate success before reaching the NFL and were drafted in the top 10 of their respective drafts. However, neither holds the record for career catches at Clemson… And nor does DeAndre Hopkins.
Who am I talking about?
You can stop searching the past few NFL drafts for the answer because this guy wasn’t even drafted.
The guy you’re looking for is Artavis Scott. 245 career receptions, 5 more than the aforementioned Watkins and before you look, no, Scott didn’t achieve this because he simply played for longer – both players played for three years in college.
Of course, Scott is a pure chain mover, a possession receiver with sure hands and not nearly as athletically gifted as those mentioned before him but to have that many receptions for a top class programme like Clemson is no mean feat and exactly why he has a chance to claim the Chargers WR3 job behind his friend and former college running mate, Mike Williams.
It’s not only high end draft talent that Clemson produce at the wide receiver position; the supply line ticks over with guys who can do a job, fill a role and have some success too. Aside from Scott, this would apply to Martavis Bryant, who was decent a few years back for the Steelers, until his off-field habits caught up with him. Then after that we have roster fillers such as Jordan Leggette, Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud all of whom could come good should the opportunity arise. As I’ve said all through this series, schools can’t kill it every year but this is clear evidence of a supply line.
Fast forward to present day and we have rookie, Hunter Renfrow in his first training camp for the Oakland Raiders. An undersized, 5th rounder who walked on at Clemson after only being offered scholarships to play FCS football. A few years later and Renfrow is about as sure-handed and gritty of a receiver as you can find; he’s very much in the Julian Edelman mould.
Really looking forward (as much as a Chargers fan can) to seeing what Renfrow does in the NFL. I think he could quickly become a trusty friend to Derek Carr what a shaky offense in 2019. Knowing that Carr struggles down the field, their new man (and ex-Charger) Tyrell Williams could turn into an expensive decoy and clear space for Renfrow to work in underneath.
Watch this space!
SO! The big question, one that I hinted at earlier in the piece, is, who is next off the conveyor belt?
Well, I gave you guys the answer earlier on, it’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.
Higgins is entering his first draft eligible season hoping to continue his upward trajectory and cement his place at the top table of wide receivers this coming season. Nice footwork and route running ability, married to good long speed at 6’4, 205lbs and then sprinkle in the ability to make contested catches down the field and you have something special. Trevor Lawrence or not… Watch out for the young man.
Not to be upstaged is Sophomore, Ross… When you get 1,000 yards as a freshman, you turn some heads and Justyn Ross does just that, especially when the yards come at over 20 yards a pop. Look for the second year man to reel in more than 46 catches for Clemson this year and probably go beyond the 1,000 yard mark again. If he does that, Ross will have fans coming down with Leonard Fournette syndrome*.
That said, if Ross does increase his numbers in catches and yardage, and maybe even touchdowns… Maybe I will be struck down too.
I can feel it coming on now actually and all because this is one hyper-productive supply line.
*An illness where a fan becomes so hyped up by a prospect that they make numerous social media posts chastising the NCAA/NFL for not allowing supremely talented student athletes to declare prior to completing their Junior year of college.
Thanks for reading this weeks’ edition of Supply Lines. Be sure to be back next week when we talk Ohio State edge defenders.
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