NFL Draft

NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Sugar Bowl

Running back Travis Etienne
Please note that (A) all grades are based on my estimate where the Steelers might be interested rather than my estimate of an all-teams grade, and (B) all grades are much more tentative than they will be as the process moves forward.

SUGAR BOWL, #2 Clemson vs. #3 Ohio State [Jan. 1st at 8 p.m. on ESPN]

When Clemson is on offense and Ohio State on defense:

  • # 79 T/G Jackson Carman, Clemson. (Junior). 6’5”, 345 lbs. He may just be the best Right Tackle prospect in the draft, and many pundits think his best position might actually be at Guard. Carman would be ranked even higher if he hadn’t been consistently vulnerable to elite and bendy pass rushers (Chase Young stole his breakfast in 2019). There are a lot more of those in the NFL than he’s seen in college, and draftniks worry that he may not have that extra gear to deal with them. Or that he’ll take a few years to develop the technical expertise to do so. Could easily be the sort of prospect who gets overdrafted, disappoints for 3-5 years as his technique slowly improves, and then suddenly ‘arrives’ as a star when things finally gel just in time for his second contract. ROUND 2 GRADE
  • #16 QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson. (Junior). 6’6”, 220 lbs. Just imagine if… Or better yet, don’t. It isn’t worth even that much time. GOING #1 OVERALL
  • #9 RB Travis Etienne, Clemson. (Senior). 5’10”, 210 lbs. W.E.A.P.O.N. He’s got everything you look for in a back, including the discipline to play within the system and the willingness to stick his face in the fan on blocking duty. You could nitpick by arguing that he is “only big, not huge”, and that he benefits from a great team around him. When the system is so good, how much of the startling results really come from the RB himself? Those arguments explain why Etienne deserves a late 1st grade rather than early, but they are pretty weak tea as actual complaints. The kid is electric. Deal with it. ROUND 1-2 GRADE
  • [OUT DUE TO SURGERY] WR Justyn Ross, Clemson. (Junior). 6’3”, 205 lbs. Missed 2020 because of surgery to fix a problem getting repeated stingers up his shoulder and neck, he’d been regularly projected as a Round 1-2 prospect before that. Tall, thick, strong, with tremendous hands, body control, and overall attitude as a player. Very Juju-esque if you think about it. He’s even got that sort of build up speed that won’t measure well, but makes him very hard to catch once the ball is in his hands. ROUND 2-4 GRADE
  •  NOTE: Clemson is packed with draft eligible Day 3 players that I have not yet reached in my research. Please leave comments with any notes you want to add.


  • #24 CB/S Shaun Wade, Ohio St. (RS Junior). 6’1”, 194 lbs. F.O.O.T.B.A.L.L. P.L.A.Y.E.R. No school has produced more and better DB’s than Ohio State over the past decade. Wade is the next one up. Fer cryin’ out loud, he’s a 6’1” physical specimen who spends much of his time in the slot, where quickness is supremely important and his length is almost a disadvantage. Daniel Jeremiah has compared him to Minkah Fitzpatrick, with particular focus on his ability to play all positions across the secondary. Tried to play outside corner more in 2020 and did not appear to have the “stuff” even if he has the physical profile, which has caused rumors of a potential fall toward the fringe-1st area where Pittsburgh will have its picks. ROUND 1-2 GRADE
  • #92 DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’2”, 290 lbs. Undersized for the position, Garrett makes up for that defect with very good strength and skilled hand fighting on the inside. He isn’t the super athlete you might expect of Ohio State, but he isn’t that far behind either. Mounts a good but not special interior pass rush too. So you tell me: is he versatile, or limited? ROUND 4-6 GRADE
  • NOTE: Ohio State is packed with draft eligible Day 3 players that I have not yet reached in my research. Please leave comments with any notes you want to add.


When Ohio State is on offense and Clemson on defense:

  • #75 OT Thayer Munford, Ohio St. (Senior). 6’6”, 310 lbs. An astonishing athlete with inconsistent technique. It improved in his Senior year but is still not up to the standard expected of someone who’s started so many games on such a superior team. Unlimited ceiling + backup floor = very hard to grade. This grade is high compared to many boards because the Steelers tend to believe in the power of coaching. FWIW, as an amateur scout my reaction would be this: “Everything you need to know about this kid will show up after one good workout with a professional coach. Let’s bring him in for a better look.” Alas, but you and I can’t do that, and won’t hear about the results for the teams that do. ROUND 2-3 GRADE
  • #52 OG Wyatt Davis, Ohio St. (RS Junior). 6’4”, 310 lbs. Want a recommendation? Kyle Crabbs starts his Draft Network scouting profile with these words: “This dude is a destroyer of worlds.” Daniel Jeremiah compared him to no less than David DeCastro. As for bloodlines, his grandfather is Willie Davis, a name to reckon with even among his fell members of the HOF. The bottom line is that Wyatt Davis is one of those rare Guards who deserves and will get a Round 1 grade across the league, albeit a later-1st because of some issues getting his nose out over his feet, and a general caution that comes from respect for playing next to so many other talented players who might have hidden other flaws. Dotson’s startling rookie performance means the Steelers have only a backup “need” at the position. Granted. But just imagine the impact of turning the center of the OL into a true asset would be, as well as the looming cap crunch this pick could help to alleviate. Remember that DeCastro will be a free agent in 2022. ROUND 1-2 GRADE
  • #71 C/G Josh Myers, Ohio St. (RS Junior). 6’5”, 312 lbs. He’s got everything you want, and at NFL levels. But do any of his assets rise to “special”? The anchor may already be better than Pouncey’s, but Steeler Nation tends to take inhuman mobility levels of mobility for granted. He’s mobile enough, sure, but he ain’t no Pouncey or Dawson. OTOH, he can play all three interior positions and has a very solid floor at each of them. Any player who’d provide quality depth behind DeCastro, Pouncey, and Dotson all at once should definitely be on our Day 2 radar. ROUND 2-3 GRADE
  • #1 QB Justin Fields, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’3”, 223 lbs. Don’t go dreaming about this one either. It ain’t gonna happen. TOP 5 TALENT.
  • #88 TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’5”, 253 lbs. Ohio State recruits top notch athletes and Ruckert qualifies for that label. Not a freaky athlete perhaps, at least by NFL standards, but he’s definitely well above even the NFL average. That, combined with a well rounded skill set, should make him a real target for the Steelers. Great hands, great size, very good speed, and superior blocking ability. ROUND 3-5 GRADE
  • #33 RB Master Teague, Ohio St. (RS Sophomore). 5’11”, 225 lbs. An athletic genius with legendary upside, in this case balanced by a series of nagging injuries combined with limited film because he played behind J.K. Dobbins in 2019. Great speed, size, power, explosion, and even shiftiness. But is it real or just potential? This goes to a long background piece on Teague’s history of facing and overcoming both injury and life challenges. ROUND 3-5 GRADE
  • #8 RB Trey Sermon, Ohio St. by way of Oklahoma (Senior). 6’0”, 216 lbs. A well-rounded, very aggressive football player who happens to play running back, Sermon loves to put a hurt on the defense. It might be as a blocker in pass protection, or with a ferocious stiff arm, or by simply running someone over, but this is a back who loves the hitting part of the game and has enough size and power to do it well. The physical assets like burst, cutting ability, contact balance, vision, and hands are all good to very good, with none that qualify as “special”. ROUND 3-5 GRADE
  • #2 WR Chris Olave, Ohio St. (Junior). 6’0”, 185 lbs. Shows the potential to be a route running champion, not because he’s super fast or shifty, but rather due to a knack for looking like he’s going one way when he never really is. Couple that with the hands and body control to make any catch, anywhere, and the projection is simple: this is an NFL receiver in waiting. You’d like to see a little more size and speed, but honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that as your final verdict. ROUND 2-3 GRADE.
  • NOTE: Ohio State is packed with draft eligible Day 3 players that I have not yet reached in my research. Please leave comments with any notes you want to add.


  • #3 EDGE Xavier Thomas, Clemson. (Junior). 6’2”, 265 lbs. Remember the draft profile for Bud Dupree? SPARQ score superstar with athleticism that pops even on the scale of NFL athletes, but really, really raw? That’s Thomas. He’s consistently underperformed compared to expectations in 2020, but the pure talent cannot be denied. The Steelers love that kind of upside at Edge. ROUND 2 GRADE
  • #1 CB Derion Kendrick, Clemson (Junior). 6’0”, 190 lbs. Will be 20 on draft day. Has wonderful athletic assets but still learning the position as a H.S. Quarterback who became a Clemson WR, and then moved across to defense in 2019. Consistent reports on how he’s improved from game to game makes him a bet with good odds, but he’s still more of a bet than players with more experience. ROUND 1-2 GRADE
  • NOTE: Clemson is packed with draft eligible Day 3 players that I have not yet reached in my research. Please leave comments with any notes you want to add.
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