Christian Wilkins

Clemson DL Christian Wilkins Staying In School

With so many NFL draft declarations over the past few weeks, one of college football’s premier defensive lineman has gone against the grain and has decided to stay for his senior season. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has opted to try forĀ another College Football Playoff Championship, the team announced on Twitter.

Christian Wilkins (Vertical)

While the news is at least somewhat surprising considering that Wilkins was thought of by many as a sure bet to be selected in the first round, the motivation of getting beaten by Alabama has clearly fueled most of the team’s draft eligible players decisions to try and avenge that loss in 2018.

Wilkins was ranked as the number one defensive line prospect by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report before this decision became official. He also is coming off an outstanding junior season that saw the dominant defender rack up five sacks and help lead one of the defensive units in the country.

Wilkins’ decision to return to school pushes the likes of Michigan’s Maurice Hurst and Washington’s Vita Vea as the best interior defenders in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Clemson, Landry

The 2018 draft being nine months away won’t deter some NFL teams’ fanbases from advanced research. One of those franchises figures to be the Jets, who unloaded numerous veterans this offseason and are without a long-term answer at quarterback. Christian Hackenberg figures to receive a shot this season, at some point, despite Josh McCown‘s $6MM-plus-incentives agreement. But the Jets may be in a position to select a quarterback from a much-hyped contingent.

One of those prospective passers is not a lock to come out, with recent Sam Darnold rumors centering on the high-end USC prospect possibly staying in school for at least one more year. This would remind Jets fans of Peyton Manning‘s decision to do the same in 1997, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The Jets ended up trading the pick — one that became Orlando Pace — after Manning returned to Tennessee. Other passers with similar pedigrees join Darnold entering the 2017 college football season, and Cimini recently spoke to an AFC scout who views Wyoming’s Josh Allen as having better long-term potential than Darnold, who will be beginning his redshirt-sophomore season with the Trojans.

Allen joins UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the quarterbacks who right now are viewed as possible top-five picks come April. The 6-foot-5 Wyoming signal-caller will be a junior this season. Cimini also doubts Darnold would be able to pass up on a $30MM fully guaranteed contract if he’s in position to be chosen near the top of next year’s draft.

Here’s more coming out of the prospective 2018 draft pool.

  • Clemson has generated a legion of first-round talent in recent years. Vic Beasley, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Deshaun Watson are among several Tigers to go early in recent drafts. The next prodigy coming out of the South Carolina program could be defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Several scouts told DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline the interior defender is a top-three NFL prospect. The 6-foot-4 junior was a first-team All-American during the Tigers’ national championship season, and Pauline writes Clemson had him playing out of position at defensive end. After being shifted inside to tackle, Wilkins could be a top-15 pick in 2018, Pauline notes.
  • Pauline, though, views Wilkins’ line mate, edge defender Clelin Ferrell, as the better bet to be a top-10 pick. The 20-year-old defender will be a redshirt sophomore this season; he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2016. The 6-foot-5 talent’s athleticism and growth potential lead Pauline to rate him as the slightly superior Tigers draft prospect. CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin rates Wilkins as a top-eight pick but doesn’t have Ferrell going in Round 1.
  • Pauline adds many scouts’ lists of the top senior prospects in the country start with Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Landry registered a Boston College-record 16.5 sacks last season despite standing roughly 6-2. This blend of stature and production prompts Pauline to compare Landry to Dwight Freeney, who did quite well for himself coming out of Syracuse as a smaller pass rusher. Pauline, who expected Landry to declare for this past draft, writes Landry could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.