Clemson vs. Alabama Round 4 did not disappoint. At this point, it feels like the Rocky movie series where it’s the same premise, but different characters. But no matter what year or what movie it is, we still watch — though some better than others. For this game, it was an ending that few could’ve said was predictable.
I haven’t seen Alabama dominated like that in a long time, maybe ever. The way Clemson came out hot and kept the ball rolling throughout the entire game was truly special. Tigers’ defensive coordinator Brent Venables put together a defensive masterpiece against Tua Tagovailoa and the Tide offense, and on the other side, what Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been able to do with quarterback Trevor Lawrence was been nothing short of spectacular.
In a game that I called “the annual Junior NFL Pro Bowl,” these were my Top 10 scouting takeaways from the 2019 National Championship Game.
1. Tank For Trevor
Before the National Championship Game kicked off, Bleacher Report put out a quote from an anonymous NFL scout who was asked if Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence was “the best draft prospect ever.” His response:
“I don’t think that’s hyperbole at all… He makes throws now that guys in our league can’t make.”
Y’all know me. You know that I hate all these crazy comps; when one-year 19-year-olds get compared to Hall of Famers. But I don’t think I can dispute what that scout said. Now, I’m not ready to say Lawrence is the best draft prospect ever, but the scout wasn’t wrong when he said Lawrence is doing things right now that some NFL guys can’t do.
If Lawrence were draft eligible in 2019, he would go No. 1 overall — no debate. The ransom the Cardinals could hold that No. 1 pick for would be astronomical. But the truth is that Lawrence won’t even be eligible for the draft for another two years.
We might see some franchises do some crazy things to prepare for that 2021 draft. Will there be any teams that trade some 2019 assets for 2021 asset? Maybe not first round picks, not this year. But subtle, “hey, I’ll give you a second round pick this year for a second and a third in 2021.” Then maybe next year you start trading back and acquiring a few more 2021 picks, perhaps loading up to make sure you have the ransom to pay for Lawrence, if you need him.
It seems like crazy talk, but no player has ever been in the situation Lawrence is in. He’s special.
2. Don’t Pay Wideouts
Speaking of future assets, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me to sign any kind of mid-level or even “good” free agent wide receiver in the next few years after watching the type of wide receivers I know are coming through the league over the next three years.
Think about it. In the 2019 class we have D.K. Metcalf, Hakeem Butler, Kelvin Harmon, N’Keal Harry, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Riley Ridley. In 2020 we’ll have Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Collin Johnson, Tee Higgins, Laviska Shenault and CeeDee Lamb. In 2021 it will be Justyn Ross, Ja’Marr Chase, Donovan Peoples-Jones and plenty of others who still have two years to make their name.
Sign a mid-level wide receiver for double or even the same of what you might pay one of these guys on a rookie deal? Nah. I’ll put my trust in the young receivers set to come through.
3. Alvin Kamara :: Travis Etienne
As we love to do in the internet scouting circle, we watched the game last night and people were already making college comparisons to pro players. For example, when Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross made that insane one-handed catch last night, I posted the video on Twitter with the caption “Justyn Hopkis” because of how much it reminded me of something Nuk Hopkins does on what seems like a weekly basis with the Houston Texans.
Justyn Hopkins pic.twitter.com/ovQX6OwafG
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 8, 2019
I had another comparison I made that night, and that was comparing Clemson running back Travis Etienne to that of New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara came into the Combine at 5-foot-10, 214 pounds. Etienne, who is not draft eligible until 2020, is about 5-foot-10, 205 pounds. I do think Kamara is a bit strong, but I think Etienne is a bit faster. Both win in similar styles with short area explosiveness, great balance through contact and a natural feel for being a receiver as a running back. I think their skillsets line up, and I could see Etienne having the same type of success Kamara is in the NFL.
4. Raekwon Is Still Good
With all this Quinnen Williams talk in 2019, it’s almost as if the big 6-foot-7, 300-pound Raekwon Davis is just an afterthought.
Well, he shouldn’t be.
Davis is still a damn good interior defensive tackle. He’s so good in run support, and he can anchor on double teams extremely well. Is he the pass rusher Quinnen Williams is? No, he’s not. But don’t let that fact allow you to make the mistake of thinking Davis isn’t a first round talent. He absolutely is.
5. Deionte Thompson Fallout
The second half of the season has not been very kind to a player who I had high hopes of becoming a Top 5 player in the 2019 NFL Draft class when it was all said and done.
After recording two interceptions in his first three games in 2018, Alabama safety Deionte Thompson has gone from quiet to down right disappointing.
In the Tide’s first playoff game against Oklahoma, Thompson had some head scratching plays and was out of position on a few of the Sooners’ big passing plays. Last night, in the national championship, he was once again a liability on two of Clemson’s big touchdowns.
I don’t want a few games to totally turn me off on Thompson, but he looked slow, not only physically but mentally. I recently had him as my No. 4 overall player on my big board. I still have to wait to get better tape, which is needed to judge safety play, but I imagine he won’t be that high for me on my next big board.
6. Draft Quinnen Williams
Though he didn’t make as much disruption as we’re used to seeing, Quinnen Williams still showed up in a big way during the National Championship Game.
Williams finished the season — his redshirt sophomore season, by the way — with 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. And that’s in his first year as a starter. Williams is such a rare combination of smooth movements at his weight with his strength. He will be the No. 1 overall player on some teams’ boards, for this upcoming draft, if he declares.
7. Draft Christian Wilkins, Too
Speaking of defensive linemen who elevated their stock this year, my, oh my, what a year Christian Wilkins has had.
There was a risk to coming back for his senior season. I don’t think he would have been drafted as high as many others did, if he would have declared last year, and going into this season, I was hesitant about how much better he could get.
I was wrong.
Wilkins came back to Clemson and had a career high in sacks, tackles for loss and won the National Championship over Alabama — three-for-three in his book. Wilkins is a player who loves football. He’s a great kid who will work hard and give his all for a team, and the all he has to give is pretty great, too. I think coming back for his senior season made him a first round player, and I wouldn’t have said that last year.
8. Clelin Owns Jonah
Ferrell on Jonah Williams pic.twitter.com/HqrMLl9jS3
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) January 8, 2019
I think Ferrell got the better of Williams last night, but that isn’t to say Williams wasn’t solid overall.
Alabama tackle Jonah Williams 73 saw that twist QUICK!! That prep is handled during the week. pic.twitter.com/O5lncPt4Ty
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 8, 2019
I thought both players played well enough to show they’re top NFL talents, but I do think Ferrell would get the win on the scorecard. Ferrell seems to be the forgotten man in an edge class that features Josh Allen, Jachai Polite, Brian Burns and of course Nick Bosa, but Ferrell is a Top 10 player.
9. Josh Jacobs Is NFL Ready
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 8, 2019
Josh Jacobs is RB1, y’all. Just accept it and move on to the rest of your rankings for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Not only is Jacobs a bulldozer of a power back, who Alabama relied on many times in wildcat formations on third-and-short, over the last few weeks he’s shown agility like in the clip above to also be a good back in space. When you combine that with his pass blocking and his pass catching, he’s the back you want the most come April.
10. The Future Of Football Is Bright
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 8, 2019
Last night was a lot of fun. Well, not as much fun if you’re an Alabama fan.
Whether it was the touchdown celebrations, the Trevor Lawrence hair flip or Ferrell and Wilkins doing their own Suge Knight “Come To Death Row (Valley)” speech at the podium, college football is in good hands.
We’re not only seeing the talent levels in college football grow to all-time highs, we’re seeing these young men express themselves more and more.
The future of college football is bright in so many ways, and though we have a whole draft season to look forward to starting now, I’m already excited for the 2019 season come August.