(Editor’s Note: Throughout the spring, DallasCowboys.com will continue its NFL draft coverage by looking at various college Pro Days and workouts around the nation. Clemson hosted its annual Pro Day on Thursday, and Colin Halm, assistant sports editor for The Tiger Newspaper, was on hand for the event.)
CLEMSON, South Carolina – Clemson’s Pro Day was highlighted by Deshaun Watson and the Tigers’ offense showcasing their coordination and athleticism in various drills. The Clemson quarterback has made a name for himself as a potential top-10 pick, but it’s hard to imagine the Dallas Cowboys drafting another top-tier quarterback after Dak Prescott solidified himself as the starter last season. Even with Tony Romo likely on the move, Clemson’s most notable draft prospect doesn’t seem like a fit in Dallas.
Plenty of coaches and scouts showed up to watch the reigning national champions work out for their prospective employers. Head coaches Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and John Fox of the Chicago Bears both made appearances along with over 70 scouts from all 32 teams in hopes of finding their own Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliot.
Highly-touted receiver Mike Williams shined in his 40-yard dash and vertical jump, and lesser known players like Jay Guillermo and Jordan Leggett put on impressive displays to wow the other coaches and scouts. It was a full day of running, lifting, throwing, and drills complete with a sprinkle of intrigue.
Possible Cowboy Fits
Cordrea Tankersley (CB) — A good cover corner with an eye for the ball, Tankersley became a starter in his junior year and was the only returning member of the secondary in 2016. He recorded nine interceptions over the last two years, returning one for a touchdown. The Cowboys signed Nolan Carroll in free agency, but cornerback still looks like a need with Brandon Carr departing for Baltimore and Morris Claiborne’s future uncertain. Adding an extra corner to fill in as the nickel wouldn’t be a bad idea. Given the depth at defensive back in this draft class, it is possible that Tankersley dips into the second round and would become a steal for the Cowboys at number 60 overall.
Jadar Johnson (S) – Johnson is a good size for a safety, standing 6-0 and weighing 210 pounds. At Clemson’s Pro Day, he notched a 4.55 40-yard dash, which squarely puts him in the athletic category. What Johnson lacks is solid man-coverage skills and fluid hip motion. He is a big-time player (five interceptions last year), but he gives up big plays if his man gets the extra step on him. Johnson has all of the physical tools to make it at the next level, but he will need a year or two to learn from a veteran.
Ben Boulware (LB) – A nasty, aggressive linebacker who would fit well in a Rod Marinelli defense. Similar to Johnson, he would need a few years to learn the ins and outs of pro level ball, and learn to focus that ferocity at the opposing offense. His play recognition is great, but his greatest downfall is a lack of patience. Boulware often jumps his gaps too quickly, giving a running back a lane for an easy big gain. Overall, he is a smaller linebacker with impressive instincts, but is a little skittish in the box.
Carlos Watkins (DT) – Watkins is essentially an under-the-radar Jonathan Allen. Watkins matched Allen in sacks and only had 3.5 less tackles for loss in 2016. Allen’s stock is now dropping due to a shoulder injury rumor that is gaining traction, as he did not look like himself during the Combine. Watkins is a strong interior lineman with a similar skillset to Allen in getting after the quarterback and creating pressure. One stat that makes Watkins stand out among the rest is that he has defensed seven passes over the past two years compared to Allen’s five. Watkins, unsurprisingly, compares well to former Clemson alum Grady Jarrett. Jarrett made his mark this year in the Super Bowl, sacking Patriots’ QB Tom Brady three times. Watkins could provide the same value to an already decent Cowboys’ defensive line that is in need of pass rushers.
Artavis Scott (WR) – Realistically, the Cowboys don’t have much of a shot at drafting Mike Williams. So why not take a look at Williams’ teammate, Artavis Scott? Scott’s Combine was mediocre at best for an already lower-tier prospect, but luckily, his Pro Day showed much improvement in his general athleticism. He decreased his 40-yard dash time by over a tenth of a second, down to 4.49. Pure vertical speed is helpful to any wide receiver and adding a sub-4.50 speed to his repertoire will draw new attention to him. In the end, his workouts won’t mean as much as the game tape, but everything helps when it comes to draft stock. The Cowboys aren’t necessarily hurting for slot wide receivers, but picking up Scott in the fifth-round or later could be a long-term win in these circumstances.
Other Top Performers
The Cowboys’ offensive line is the best in the NFL, but it is never a bad idea to have depth. Center Jay Guillermo put on a full display, benching 225 pounds 33 times and wowing with his 3-cone shuttle drill. His lateral quickness will translate well at the next level. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Guillermo would be a great pick up in the later rounds for depth.
Tight end Jordan Leggett also made a nice impression with some good catches made during Deshaun Watson’s throwing drills. Leggett has always been a reliable target for Watson and should be one again at the next level. He set Clemson’s career record of touchdowns by a tight end, originally set by Dwayne Allen, a recent signee of the Patriots. A guy that is fairly adequate at doing it all, Leggett could really benefit from having Jason Witten as a veteran presence in the early stages of his development.
What People They Had To Say
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on WR Artavis Scott:
“I think Artavis is an incredibly underrated football player. He is hard to tackle; excellent with the ball in his hands. He’s dynamic and he can do a lot of things…I’ve never seen anybody catch him.”
Swinney on WR Mike Williams:
“We have the Mike Williams Rule. If there’s one man on him, he’s wide open. If there’s two, they better be real tight on him.”
Swinney on CB Cordrea Tankersley
“Everybody’s looking for a great corner…and a physical corner; one that doesn’t mind tackling…He’s got good ball skills. Sometimes these guys have good feet and technique, but they’re not finishers. He is a finisher.”