Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant surprised many when they announced they would return to Clemson for next season instead of entering the 2018 NFL draft.
There was speculation leading up to their decisions that at least Ferrell and Wilkins, if not all three, had a chance to be first-round picks.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said during a news conference Wednesday that the perception that was out there did not match reality.
“The bottom line is they didn’t get the grade they wanted. That’s one of the problems we have out there is there’s a lot of rhetoric that gets created in that process,” Swinney said, referring to draft experts who predict players to go at a certain point in the draft. “Well, guess what, that person doesn’t own a team. He don’t get a pick, and he has no influence, either. But, yet, that gets put out there, and it’s a machine. If you’re not really educated in the process, you can make some bad decisions on bad information.”
Swinney said he talked with all of his draft-eligible players about the draft grade they received and also got further input from others in the NFL.
“We just want to give our guys good information. Whatever they decide to do, that’s what they’ve got to decide to do. But make a decision based on reality. And it’s coming from the people who run the league, people who this is their business,” Swinney said. “The bottom line is they didn’t get the grade they wanted. Cle and Christian both got second-round grades. I think they had a real decision to make.”
Swinney added that being a second-round pick never has been the goal for Wilkins or Ferrell.
“Their goal is to be a no-doubt first-rounder. They made the decision to come back. That’s their reason. It’s as simple as that,” Swinney said. “I think both of those guys are highly motivated to come back and have great years.”
In addition to Ferrell and Wilkins, Swinney said offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt and Bryant received third-round grades before opting to return for their senior seasons.
“Mitch kind of thought about it for about 30 seconds and said, ‘Well, I’m coming back.’ Austin, I think, had a little bit deeper decision on it. It is what it is,” Swinney said. “I know this, I was saving scholarships for them. That’s for sure. I was going to make sure they had an opportunity to stay here if they wanted to.”
Two skill position players leaving
A pair of offensive playmakers are transferring from Clemson.
Running back C.J. Fuller and tight end Shadell Bell are planning to leave the program, Swinney announced Wednesday.
Fuller entered the 2017 season as Clemson’s starting running back before being passed by Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne on the depth chart early in the year. He rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns this past season while playing in all 14 games with three starts.
Bell, a redshirt sophomore, played in nine games in 2017 and had one catch for eight yards in 54 snaps.