Hey Judes: Clemson Recruiting Targets, Pro Days, NFL Draft Scouting

    This week's version of Hey Judes analyzes the highly-touted recruits being targeted by Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers and some key pro days for NFL Draft prospects.

    March 23, 2017

    This week’s version of Hey Judes analyzes the highly-touted recruits being targeted by Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers and some key pro days for NFL Draft prospects.

    We’re closing in on the end of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, and that means we’re one step closer to the NFL Draft.

    Now, at this point, the NFL Scouting Combine is basically a distant memory we can barely make out in the rearview mirror. However, the college prospects preparing for the draft are smack-dab in the middle of their pro days, and that’s something I want to harp on in this edition of Hey Judes.

    Pro days are a way for players to ease the minds of NFL executives, scouts, and coaches and to tie up any loose ends that may have been exposed during the past few months.

    The defending national champions already had their pro day, as the now former Tigers worked out on March 16. But before we dive further into the players in need of standout performances during their own pro days, let’s kick this off with more Clemson talk.

    Clemson Tigers’ Recruiting Targets

    Now that he has a national championship on his resume, nobody in his or her right mind can look at Dabo Swinney and not label him as an elite college football coach. To call him anything less than that would be asinine. That’s especially true with how he and his staff have recruited over the years, but now we may be seeing an evolution for Clemson recruiting right before our very eyes, and it’s exciting.

    We all knew the Tigers were in the top two for 5-star defensive end Xavier Thomas, but now Clemson is getting in on the action for 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons. He’s still committed to Penn State, but a recent offer from the Tigers has Parsons planning on a visit to Clemson soon, and he’s already acknowledged the Tigers will be among his final schools when he eventually either reaffirms his commitment or flips it later in the recruiting cycle.

    If Swinney’s staff can pull off a flip, it would require a standing ovation. But Thomas and Parsons aren’t the only 5-star prospects being targeted by Clemson. The Tigers are in the running for running back Zamir White, defensive end K.J. Henry and cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. They already have a commitment from Trevor Lawrence, the country’s No. 1 quarterback.

    Any combination of signatures from that group on National Signing Day will cement Clemson with a top-five recruiting class.

    Important Pro Day Performances

    When Clemson did have its pro day almost two weeks ago, Mike Williams turned in an extremely impressive performance. That was a big move by him because Western Michigan’s Corey Davis was ahead of him on many draft boards as the No. 1 wide receiver in the class. There is now more of a conversation about who the better pass catcher is because of that Clemson pro day, and we might see a back-and-forth battle between the two up until April 27.

    Another player who had an impressive pro day was Adoree’ Jackson. Up until this point, the USC cornerback was considered an early second-round pick. However, he looked solid during his workout and even made headlines by fielding a punt while holding three other footballs. Apparently, his personal record is catching a punt with four other footballs, and he wanted to try and break it until scouts told him he didn’t need to do anymore after that display. With Sidney Jones’ recovering from surgery on his Achilles, we could see Jackson sneak his way into the bottom of the first round — especially with his ability to return punts and kickoffs.

    One guy that had already made huge strides forward was Christian McCaffrey. He blew scouts and executives away at the combine, and he didn’t need to do too much at his pro day. So, he didn’t. McCaffrey has already passed Dalvin Cook’s draft stock — mostly because of concerns regarding Cook’s off-field life — but McCaffrey’s quick feet and versatility played a big role, too. The former Stanford star only did wide receiver drills during the Cardinal’s pro day, showing his ability to split out wide and provide options on offense. We’re at the point where McCaffrey could be a top-15 pick, and he might even make a run at being the first running back drafted.

    Under The Radar

    This is a feature I’ve been doing lately, and it’s probably my favorite one. Too often, we get caught up in the hype of big-name college football stars and forget about the smaller names surfacing from non-Power Five programs. I’ve had a few under-the-radar draft prospects reach out to me to help get their film out there, and I’m more than happy to help.

    The latest player to reach out to me is New Mexico cornerback Lee Crosby. Being that I covered Mountain West football this past season, I saw a lot of the Lobos’ games and felt I could accurately depict Crosby’s game. At 5-foot-11, 188 lbs he’s listed as a safety, but I feel he could make the biggest impact as a nickel corner — especially because the NFL is a sub-package league where we’re constantly seeing four or five corners used consistently throughout the game.

    Crosby reminds me a little bit of former Florida cornerback Brian Poole. Crosby was a junior college transfer, who redshirted his first year with New Mexico. And, in 25 career games, he picked off three passes, totaled 57 tackles, deflected nine passes, recovered two fumbles and forced another.

    I love the energy he brings to the field. Whenever he snaps his chinstrap on, he’s immediately amped up. He’s an asset in run support and will wrap up and roll the ball carrier to the ground. Crosby does a great job of shadowing receivers in man coverage and will undercut routes quite often. His ball skills are a plus, and I’d trust him covering just about anyone in the slot.

    If he is drafted, it will most likely be on Day 3. But I feel the Seattle Seahawks would be the perfect fit for his skill set. They’re always looking for depth in the secondary, and Seattle would utilize Crosby in a variety of ways and match him up with slot guys and some tight ends. The Carolina Panthers are another team that I feel would be a great fit, considering they need cornerbacks desperately.

    MORE: How Early Signing Period Will Change College Football Recruiting


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