Could three players from the Palmetto State go in the first five picks on next year’s NFL draft? SI’s Chris Burke thinks so. Burke projects USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to go first, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd to go third and Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins to go fifth.
1. Oakland Raiders — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Whichever team winds up picking No. 1 overall will be faced with quite the dilemma. Does that team nab a potential franchise quarterback or Clowney, the country’s best defender and a player that may have been taken first in the 2013 draft had he been eligible? I’ll stick with Clowney here, for now, because he’s the best 2014 prospect. Also, it’s a deep QB draft, so the Raiders (hypothetically) could land Clowney early, then possibly turn around with a QB like A.J. McCarron, Braxton Miller, Derek Carr or David Fales atop Round 2.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: As a guest analyst on the NFL Network’s draft coverage, LSU head coach absolutely raved about Boyd. Miles’ Tigers fell to Boyd’s … well, Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last year, and Boyd threw for 346 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Miles said his team tried everything and just couldn’t stop the assault. Boyd has now had back-to-back sensational years, and he is the type of dual-threat QB teams are clamoring for right now.
5. New York Jets — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Jets again miss out on the top receiver, this imaginary draft matching 2013 reality. Watkins would be a terrific consolation prize. He played second fiddle to DeAndre Hopkins as a freshman and still put up 57 catches for 708 yards. Given a year to shine as the No. 1 target for Boyd, Watkins should soar.
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