2024 NFL Draft: Do the Clemson Tigers have enough talent to compete in the ACC?

Sep 17, 2022; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers linebacker Barrett Carter (0) reacts during the third quarter against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2022; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers linebacker Barrett Carter (0) reacts during the third quarter against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers have been a juggernaut in the ACC and NFL Draft for the past decade. The university is on a 12-season streak of double-digit wins, including four national championship appearances, winning two of them. However, murmurs regarding the program’s downfall have ramped up after back-to-back three-loss campaigns.

Don’t Believe The Narrative; Clemson Is Still Elite

Well, I am here to tell you that their demise is greatly exaggerated. Sure, we can argue that Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence have more to do with the dynasty than Dabo Swinney does — fair enough. The Tigers have been a step below the standard they set with Watson and Lawrence behind center.

But these are two of the best college quarterbacks of all time; anyone would take a step back without them, especially when their successor underwhelms. D.J. Uiagalelei, a highly-touted prospect in his own right, never moved the needle enough for the Clemson offense.

Uiagalelei was benched for Cade Klubnik in the final two games of the 2022 season, leading the way for D.J. to find greener pastures elsewhere and Klubnik to step in as the unquestioned QB1. With Uiagalelei donning an Oregon State jersey, it is time for the offense to turn over a new page.

The Tigers Have Immense Talent Across The Roster

To help Klubnik ease into his full-time role, the offense boasts one of the best running backs in the country — Will Shipley. The former four-star recruit is a versatile weapon out of the backfield, displaying high-end pass-catching traits and underrated vision between the tackles.

Typically, Clemson has a star-studded wide receiver room, but it is a bit more under the radar in 2023. Beaux Collins is the starting Z-receiver and has the highest upside of the group; if anyone breaks out for Klubnik, it will be Collins.

The offensive line was a weakness of the roster for much of the past few seasons, but Swinney is hoping to regain their typical elite form this year. Walker Parks is one name to monitor for the 2024 NFL Draft, as the senior enters the new campaign as the starting right guard.

On the flip side of the ball, Clemson flexes one of the best defensive units in the country. Even after losing Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee to the first round, along with Trenton Simpson in Round 3, the Tigers still have an embarrassment of riches on the defense.

Barrett Carter And Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Lead The Way For 2024 NFL Draft Prospects

The two most exciting prospects are linebackers, with Barrett Carter garnering a preseason Top 10 grade on my Big Board and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. checking in inside the Top 25. Carter is built better and possesses higher-end physical traits, while Trotter Jr. showcases the intensity and instincts of his father. The duo should terrorize the ACC, and eventually, NFL offenses.

In front of the two-star linebackers are Ruke Orhorhoro and Tyler Davis. In a vacuum, these two defensive linemen are worthy of Day 1 consideration. I prefer Orhorhoro slightly due to Davis’ injury history, but if they remain healthy in 2023, neither will wait long to hear his name at the 2024 NFL Draft.

The secondary deserves its fair share of praise, too. Andrew Mukuba is one of the best defensive backs, whether scouts grade him strictly as a slot defender or if they see him more as a deep safety — he is a football player regardless. If he can become more consistent with tackling technique, Mukuba has the talent to go early in next year’s NFL Draft.

Other names bear mentioning, but I’ll wrap things up with my sleeper at cornerback — Nate Wiggins. The longer the offseason goes, the less of a sleeper Wiggins is. The Clemson junior is built like a prototypical boundary cornerback and flashes the skillset to lockdown opposing wideouts. He is still raw and learning the nuances of the game, but another year of seasoning could be enough to boost Wiggins up draft boards everywhere.

The End Of The Dynasty May Be Near, But Not Yet

All in all, the Clemson Tigers will have no shortage of representation at the 2024 NFL Draft. That amount of talent, for whatever reason, doesn’t always translate into college football success, however. Dabo Swinney has a clear path to contending in the ACC this coming season, but if the rest of the conference continues building up, the end of an era could be here before we know it.

Just not yet.