CLEMSON, S.C. — A historic draft for Clemson that started with the first No. 1 pick in program history on Thursday concluded Saturday with the fifth-round selection of Cornell Powell by the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 181 overall pick. Powell’s selection gave Clemson five total picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Powell became the latest in Clemson’s lineage of productive Tiger wideouts drafted into the NFL, becoming the 11th Clemson receiver selected in the last nine drafts. His selection coupled with the Packers’ third-round selection of Amari Rodgers gave Clemson multiple wide receivers in a single draft for the third time in the Dabo Swinney era, joining 2014 (Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant) and 2018 (Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud).
Collectively, Clemson reached at least five selections for the third straight draft, one shy of the longest streak in school history (2014-17). Clemson is one of only eight schools with at least five picks in each of the last three drafts. The five picks also pushed Swinney’s career draft pick total to 69, the second-most by any college coach since the 2009 NFL Draft.
With the vast majority of Clemson’s 2020 defense returning this season, the 2021 NFL Draft was a historical anomaly for Clemson in terms of the distribution of offensive and defensive picks. With the selections of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, offensive lineman Jackson Carman, wide receiver Amari Rodgers and Powell, the 2021 NFL Draft marked the first time Clemson’s entire draft class came from the offensive side of the ball since tight end Bennie Cunningham, running back Don Testerman, wide receiver Craig Brantley and offensive tackle Gary Alexander comprised Clemson’s 1976 NFL Draft class.
As Clemson’s current NFL Draft picks head to the professional level, Clemson’s next wave of future NFL selections will open the 2021 season with one of the most-anticipated non-conference showdowns of the season when the Tigers face Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 4 in Charlotte. Clemson will return to Death Valley for its home opener a week later when it hosts South Carolina State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Draft notes and comments from Clemson coaches from Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft are included below.
- Produced five selections, which marked the third straight draft in which at least five Clemson players have been selected, one shy of the longest streak in school history (four consecutive drafts from 2014-17).
- Stands with Alabama and Ohio State as one of the only three schools with five or more picks in at least seven of the eight most recent drafts.
- Is one of eight schools with at least five selections in each of the last three drafts, a list that also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State.
- Improved Dabo Swinney’s career draft pick total to 69 since the 2009 NFL Draft, trailing only Alabama’s Nick Saban in that span.
- Became only the 51st program ever to produce a No. 1 overall pick since inception of the draft in 1936.
- Became the seventh current ACC program to produce a No. 1 overall pick, joining Florida State, Miami (Fla.), NC State, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech. However, Clemson became the third program ever to produce a No. 1 pick while a member of the ACC, as Miami, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech’s No. 1 picks predated their tenure in the ACC.
- Has now produced a first-round pick in eight of the last nine drafts, dating to the 2013 NFL Draft. The only draft in that span in which Clemson did not have at least one first-round pick was 2018. Clemson, Alabama and Florida are the only programs to have produced a first-round pick in at least eight of the last nine drafts.
- Has now produced a Top 10 pick in three consecutive drafts for the first time in program history. Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, only Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Ohio State had produced a Top 10 selection in each of the previous two drafts.
- Has now produced multiple first-round picks in three consecutive drafts for the first time in program history. Clemson and Alabama are the only schools to produce multiple first-round picks in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 NFL Drafts.
- After producing multiple first-round picks on defense in each of the previous two drafts, Clemson produced multiple first-round picks from the offense for the third time in school history, joining the 1979 and 2017, both of which featured quarterback/receiver duos.
- Tied for the 11th-most draft picks of any school and tied for the second-most among permanent ACC members in the 2021 NFL Draft despite having draft entrants on only one side of the ball.
- With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne both being selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round, the duo became the QB/RB duo from a single school ever drafted by the same team in the first round of an NFL Draft in the Common Draft era.
- Clemson and Alabama (QB Mac Jones and RB Najee Harris) became the fifth and sixth programs since 2000 to produce a quarterback/running back duo in the first round of a single draft, joining LSU (QB Joe Burrow and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020), Georgia (QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno in 2009), USC (QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush in 2006) and Auburn (QB Jason Campbell and RBs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in 2005).
- Lawrence and Etienne became only the sixth pair of college teammates to be drafted by a single team in the first round in the Common Draft era, joining Georgia T Isaiah Wynn and RB Sony Michel (New England in 2018), Auburn CB Carlos Rogers and QB Jason Campbell (Washington in 2005), Miami DE Bill Hawkins and RB Cleveland Gary (Los Angeles Rams in 1989), Arkansas LB Billy Ray Smith and RB Gary Anderson (San Diego in 1983) and Michigan State RB Clint Jones and WR Gene Washington (Minnesota in 1967).
- Produced at least three Top 50 picks for the third consecutive draft, the longest such streak in school history. Prior to this 2019-21 stretch, Clemson’s last such draft was 1987 (ironically also a year in which a Clemson RB — Terrence Flagler — was selected at No. 25 overall).
- Produced four Top 100 picks for the third year in a row and for the fourth time in the Dabo Swinney era (2016, 2019, 2020 and 2021).
- Has produced four selections in the first three rounds in each of the last three drafts. Clemson has had at least three players selected through the first three rounds in five of the last six drafts.
- Has now had at least one player selected in the first round, the second round and the third round of each of the last two NFL Drafts. They represent the only two drafts in school history in which Clemson has had a player selected in each of the first three rounds.
- Had five offensive players drafted in a single draft for the first time since 1983, when six members of Clemson’s offense (RB Cliff Austin, RB Chuck McSwain, FB Jeff McCall, G Bob Mayberry, G Brian Butcher and WR Frank Magwood) were selected. Five offensive selections are a Clemson record for a seven-round draft, as Clemson’s six offensive selections in 1983 came in a 12-round format.
- Produced a draft class that featured only offensive players for the first time since the 1976 NFL Draft when all four selections Clemson came from the offense (TE Bennie Cunningham, RB Don Testerman, WR Craig Brantley and OT Gary Alexander).
- Had multiple wide receivers drafted for the third time in the Swinney era (2014 and 2018). Clemson has now produced 11 draft picks at wide receiver since the 2013 NFL Draft, the most in the country.
- Has now produced at least one receiver in eight of the last nine NFL Drafts, dating to DeAndre Hopkins’ selection in 2013.
- Had teammates selected by the same NFL team for the sixth time in the last seven drafts. The only draft since 2015 in which Clemson hasn’t had teammates selected by the same franchise was the 2018 NFL Draft.
- Produced the 19th NFL Draft to feature at least one team drafting a pair of Clemson teammates, including the 1946, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1998, 2003, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 drafts. The Jaguars became the 18th NFL franchise to select a pair of Clemson teammates in a single draft, joining the Bears (1991), Bills (1960 AFL Draft), Broncos (2003), Browns (1968), Cardinals (1991), Chiefs (1979), Cowboys (1970), Dolphins (1998), Eagles (1955 and 1959), Falcons (2015), Giants (1960, 1983 and 1984, including Supplemental Draft of USFL Players), Packers (1946), Raiders (2019 and 2020), Rams (1998), Steelers (1951 and 1972), Texans (2017) and Vikings (2016).
- Extended its streak of consecutive drafts with at least one selection to 19 since 2003, representing the second-longest streak in school history behind a 24-year streak across the 1951-74 NFL Drafts.
- Became the 69th player to have played for Head Coach Dabo Swinney to be drafted into the NFL, including the 14th fifth-round pick of Swinney’s tenure.
- Became the 12th wide receiver in Swinney’s head coaching tenure to be drafted into the NFL.
- Became the 16th Clemson wide receiver under Swinney’s guidance to be drafted including Swinney’s stint as wide receivers coach from 2003-08.
- Represented Clemson’s 11th draft pick at wide receiver since 2013, the most of any school.
- Gave Clemson multiple wide receivers in a single draft for the third time in the Swinney era, joining 2014 (Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant) and 2018 (Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud).
- Became the first No. 181 overall pick in Clemson history.
- Selected in the same round (fifth) and same division (AFC West) as former Clemson teammate Hunter Renfrow, who was a fifth-round pick of the Raiders in 2019.
- Became the sixth Clemson player drafted by the Chiefs all-time, joining RB Jay Washington (1974), QB Steve Fuller (1979), WR Stan Rome (1979), T Barry Richardson (2008) and LB Dorian O’Daniel (2018).
Head Coach Dabo Swinney on Cornell Powell:
“The Chiefs are getting a young man of commitment and perseverance, a young man that has finally put it all together and is just hungry to go continue what he finished his career with last year. There is a drive and hunger to him that I think is special. It is fun to see a guy that finally puts it all together, whether it be overcoming injuries, opportunity or the technical aspect of the game. He did that. It has been fun to watch him. He is physical. He has got a great body. He is a big, strong kid that can play multiple positions. Same thing as Amari Rodgers — he really handles himself well and really understands the nuances of playing receiver as far of the technical aspect of his stance, his starts, the releases, and break points and influence in his route running and so forth. They are getting a guy that has a confidence to go with the talent. I am excited about him because his upside is higher than the round where he was drafted. So I am excited for the Chiefs because I think he is the guy that is going to be able to help early. Same thing as Amari — he has a lot special teams’ value. He can return, he can cover kicks, he can play gunner. He is going to bring a lot to the table. And I think he has got an NFL-ready body right now. But his best football is still in front of him. The light has come on bright for him. There is a hunger, and again, there is a spirit of confidence to him that I think will separate him on this next step.”
Wide Receivers Coach Tyler Grisham on Cornell Powell:
“Cornell is a great prospect that I really think it just scratching the surface of his potential. He really came on his senior year here at Clemson and stepped up when we needed him most. The thing about Cornell is he’s a versatile player because he has good height, but his length makes him play longer and bigger than he really is, so he can go up and make the contested plays. He also can run good routes because he is a 6-foot-1 or so guy who can get in and out of his breaks really well and create separation. Because of his length, he can use his physicality and strength to create separation and to also hold up in the run game, block well and also contribute on special teams.”
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