NFL Draft: Tee Higgins shines and catapults his draft stock

Tee Higgins had an exceptional performance that helped lead Clemson to victory last week and has solidified his status as a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The fifth week of the college football season is in the rear-view, but it was nice to see some life out of the teams in the Atlantic Coastal Conference. While there were not many great games featuring teams in the ACC, the matchup between the Clemson Tigers and North Carolina Tar Heels delivered.

Clemson was able to squeak out a 21-20 over North Carolina. However, it was no easy task. It took a 38-yard touchdown reception from Clemson’s big-bodied receiver, Tee Higgins, to secure the victory. Despite the victory, the Clemson Tigers are no longer the number-one ranked team in the nation, as they dropped to number two after Saturday’s close call with North Carolina.

Outside of the Clemson vs. North Carolina game, several other games further cemented the notion that the ACC is a far cry from the upper-echelon conference it once was. Georgia Tech was decimated by Temple 24-2, while Pittsburgh barely beat Delaware 17-14. The 18th ranked Virginia Cavaliers were able to keep it close with Notre Dame for a bit; however, eventually, Notre Dame’s talent was just too much for Virginia to handle and the Fighting Irish secured a 35-20 victory.

Despite only having three teams ranked in the AP Top-25, the conference is flooded with legitimate NFL Draft talent. For example, Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson has been the best defensive lineman in college football through the first five weeks of the college football season. Also, Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons has been dynamic, solidifying himself as the best linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Let’s take a look at the ACC’s top performers in Week 5.

Week 5: ACC Draft Stars

Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson

The 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver class is going to be one for the ages. One player that is a big part of that group is Clemson’s 6’4″ monster Tee Higgins. Higgins was essential to Clemson’s victory over North Carolina last Saturday, hauling in 6 receptions for 129 yards and a 38-yard touchdown reception that ended up being the winning score for the Clemson Tigers.

What do NFL scouts like about Higgins? He is a big-bodied physical receiver who possesses an exceptional catch radius and excels when it comes to winning the contested catch. Also, Higgins is a calculated route-runner and is a natural pass-catcher. He isn’t going to wow anyone with a mind-blowing forty-yard dash time, as he will probably run in the 4.6-4.7 range – however, he doesn’t have to be open to make plays.

As it stands now, Higgins is a sure-fire first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. How high he goes depends on how the rest of the season pans out. Performances like we saw from him in Week 5, will only improve his draft projection.

Larrell Murchison, Defensive Tackle, North Carolina State

Without question, the best defensive player from the ACC this week was North Carolina State’s, Larrell Murchison. Despite a losing effort from the North Carolina State Wolfpack, Murchison was nearly unblockable against the Florida State Seminoles, as he tallied 6 tackles, including 3.5 sacks. His play was also key in limiting Florida State’s sensational running back Cam Akers.

Initially, I mentioned Murchison in an article I wrote before the 2019 season. Murchison can explode out of his stance, causing constant penetration. He has a strong arsenal of counters and plays with violent hands, which allow him to keep blockers away. You will never question his motor, as he gives 110% effort on every snap.

Murchison’s effort and athleticism can be seen in this interception.

As it relates to the 2020 NFL Draft, Murchison is unlikely to hear his name called until the fifth round. However, he has the tools to be a key rotational defensive lineman in the NFL. With the modern-day NFL putting an emphasis on interior pass-rush, Murchison may surprise and be an eventual starter.

Justin Strnad, Linebacker, Clemson

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons won a pivotal matchup against Boston College, which moved them into the AP Top 25. The best player on the field for Wake Forest was senior linebacker Justin Strnad, accounting for 13 tackles, including 9 solo.

Strnad is a complete linebacker – he is a smart, instinctive, physical, and can cover. He possesses sideline-to-sideline speed and utilizes his length well. Strnad, a team captain, brings intangibles, a strong work ethic, and leadership to the table as well.

He needs to add some bulk to his lean frame to play at the next level, but there is a spot on NFL rosters for a player like Justin Strnad. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has taken notice of Strnad and grades him as a middle-round prospect.

Week 6 features four head-to-head matchups between ACC teams. Which matchup will be the one to watch?

Week 6: Key NFL Draft Prospect Matchup

Reggie Floyd, Safety, Virginia Tech (6’0″, 222 pounds) vs. Brevin Jordan, Tight End, Miami (6’3″, 245 pounds)

Miami’s rising star Brevin Jordan is not draft-eligible, but he will present a tremendous challenge for one of the best safeties in the 2020 NFL Draft in this week’s matchup against Virginia Tech. Jordan is a long, athletic, and explosive player that would be a matchup nightmare against any safety or linebacker in the nation. We will be talking a lot about him heading into the 2021 draft, so let’s focus on the talented safety from Virginia Tech.

If Reggie Floyd isn’t on your radar, make sure you get him on it as soon as possible. Floyd is the total package at the safety position, as he is extremely physical, plays with a high level of football IQ, possesses tremendous range, and is an aggressive tackler that plays sideline-to-sideline. Not only does Floyd have the range to play center-field, but he also excels as a box defender.

As good as Floyd is, Jordan will present a tough challenge for him. At times, Floyd tends to get a little too aggressive, which could backfire against the explosive Jordan. One thing that helps Floyd is the fact that Miami’s quarterback, Jarren Williams, is far from a polished passer. If Floyd can hold Jordan to under 60 receiving yards and no touchdowns, it will be a win for him.

Predicted Winner: Brevin Jordan

Who has moved up, and who has moved down on our ACC Big Board? Are there any newcomers? Let’s take a gander.

ACC Big Board

Below, I have updated my “ACC-only” 2020 NFL Draft big board. A few quick hits:

-Travis Etienne loses the number one spot. After back-to-back pedestrian weeks for Etienne, it was time for him to move down. He lost a fumble last Saturday against North Carolina that almost cost Clemson the game.

-Isaiah Simmons catapults into the number one spot after another terrific week. Simmons accounted for 10 tackles and a sack and was the best defensive player on the field for a talented Clemson defense.

-Welcome to the big board, Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed. Reed has been brilliant in 2019, totaling 322 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. He has been quarterback Bryce Perkins’ go-to receiver this season.

-Take note; the ACC is loaded with top-flight safety prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft. Hamsah Nasirildeen, K’Von Wallace, Myles Dorn, and Reggie Floyd are all having terrific 2019 seasons.

 

Rank Player Position School Year
1 Isaiah Simmons LB Clemson JR
2 Tee Higgins WR Clemson JR
3 Marvin Wilson DT Florida State JR
4 Travis Etienne RB Clemson JR
5 A.J. Terrell CB Clemson JR
6 Cam Akers RB Florida State JR
7 Hamsah Nasirildeen Safety Florida State JR
8 A.J. Dillon RB Boston College SR
9 Bryce Hall CB Virginia SR
10 Sage Surratt WR Wake Forest rSO
11 K’Von Wallace Safety Clemson SR
12 Shaq Quarterman LB Miami SR
13 Myles Dorn Safety UNC SR
14 Alton Robinson Edge Syracuse SR
15 Reggie Floyd Safety Virginia Tech SR
16 Mekhi Becton OT Louisville JR
17 Essang Bassey CB Wake Forest SR
18 Larrell Murchison DT North Carolina State SR
19 Charles Snowden LB Virginia JR
20 John Simpson OL Clemson SR
21 Levonta Taylor CB Florida State SR
22 Jonathan Garvin Edge Miami JR
23 Trajan Bandy CB Miami JR
24 Joe Reed WR Virginia SR
25 Justin Strnad LB Wake Forest SR

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