NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins announced he is going pro Thursday, an expected move, and a smart move for Hopkins.
Hopkins is safely in the second round as the fifth-rated receiver in the 2013 draft class according to NFLDraftscout.com, and I think he has a chance to sneak into the late first round.
Former South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery went in the second round – 45th overall – last year and earned a $1.74 million signing bonus. (Bonuses are typically the only guaranteed money in the NFL.) That’s life-changing money. It makes sense for Hopkins.
Dabo Swinney tells his players they should only leave early if they are first-round locks, but to me a second-round grade is enough motivation for most juniors to depart. A second-round grade still means a seven-figure signing bonus under the NFL’s new rookie-salary-depressing-slotting system, and leaving as a junior means being a year closer to free agency.
There’s a big dropoff to the third round. Seattle QB and Tajh Boyd comparable Russell Wilson received a $619,000 signing bonus last season as a third-round pick and that’s probably the type of money Boyd would have been looking at.
So what does this mean for Clemson?
Clemson loses one of its all-time best receivers, a player who is coming off a 85-catch, 1,405-yard and 18-touchdown season. Those are all program records. It’s a big loss. But it’s also the one place Clemson could absorb a departure.
Why Clemson’s offense will be OK:
*I fully expect Sammy Watkins to have a bounce-back year in 2013. Assuming he’s healthy from the get-go, he should have a razor-sharp focus and he’ll be eligible for the NFL Draft. If he’s like the player he was in 2011, Clemson will again have a difference-maker at WR. Watkins is more explosive, faster, stronger and owns similar hands to Watkins. He could be an early first round pick in 2014 if everything fits right.
*Hopkins’ departure will give more reps to rising juniors like Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Adam Humprhies, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about freshman receiver Germone Hopper’s work this season on the practice fields. Clemson is loaded with WR talent and this gives one or more of those players a chance to step up and emerge as a big-time player.
*There was one area where Hopkins struggled: he had no interest in blocking and didn’t always give great effort when he wasn’t a primary or secondary target.
In short, with Boyd and Chad Morris back along with this stable of receivers I still expect the offense to operate at a high level in 2013.
In fact of these up in-the-air assets, I’d rank Boyd No. 1, Morris No. 2, and Hopkins No. 3 in their level of importance. Two out of three, the top two out of three, isn’t a bad offseason so far for Clemson.
The bigger question is whether the defensive improvement against LSU is for real and can be sustained. I certainly think the group has nowhere to go but up in 2013, but to be a title contender the Clemson defense will have to be more than improved, it will have to be effective.
CLEMSON AND OHIO STATE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT A 2017 DATE
There was a rumor that Clemson and Ohio State would open the 2017 season playing in Nashville. That would be pretty epic. But it’s not the case, Clemson assistant AD Kyle Young told me tonight.
Young said “he’d love” to play Ohio State but not on a neutral field. He’d have to have a home-and-home arrangement, but there have been no serious talks.
Still, this is not a complete pipedream. Young has been aggressive scheduling non-conference opponents and with the ACC reverting back to an eight-game league schedule, Clemson will again be looking for at least one attractive pre-confernece play non-conference opponent per season.
Young said if you see Urban Meyer around to let him know Clemson is interested.