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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
The best thing about predictions is eating that tasty, tasty crow afterwards. While I thought Clemson’s experience and strong defense would lead the way, LSU threw them aside like they’ve done to everyone else all season. While my terrible game prediction advice is one takeaway from this game, here are six other thoughts I had while watching the National Championship.
Joe Burrow is Great Even When at His Worst
If you look at his stat line (463 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and another 58 yards rushing for 1 touchdown), you would think that this was one of Joe Burrow’s best games. If you watched him on the field, you would definitely think that this was one of his best games. What would you say if I told you that this was actually one of his worst games? This was the only game this entire season where he completed less than 70 percent of his passes (63.3 percent). This was his second-worst game according to Passing Efficiency Rating. On top of that, he did not look great at the beginning of the game, when Clemson was generating consistent pressure with their creative blitzes. Luckily for LSU, Burrow came back for a 42-point onslaught, crushing Clemson's dreams. By certain metrics, it was his worst game of the season, but he was still the best quarterback in the nation. Bengals, feel free to get those custom Burrow #9 jerseys at your convenience.
A.J. Terrell is not a first rounder
The job of a scout, even the fake ones like me, is to project players to the NFL. LSU has a quarterback who will play in the NFL and multiple receivers who will play in the NFL. Given this level of talent, this is a great game to evaluate how Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell will translate to the NFL in his early career, especially after a lackluster schedule. Unfortunately for Terrell, he got worked all night. Badly. Terrell is still probably a Day 2 guy based on his potential, size, and athleticism, but this is what he will face every week next year. He will need some time to reach his ceiling and for him to be a plus player as a professional.
Isaiah Simmons was the best player on the Clemson defense
You really need to focus if you want to watch tape on Isaiah Simmons, and this game showed exactly why. Simmons literally lined up everywhere on defense: box safety, deep safety, linebacker, slot cornerback, outside cornerback, and defensive lineman. What’s crazier is that he actually excelled at every position. Simmons was the best player on Clemson’s team, and it wasn’t particularly close. Simmons will be the ultimate jack-of-all-trades in the NFL, and can be a dangerous weapon if paired with a smart defensive mind to take advantage of this versatility. At the very least, he will be the most talented linebacker the draft has seen in years.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is for real
The stat line may not seem world-breaking (16 carries for 110 yards, 5 receptions for 54 yards), but I came away very impressed. Edwards-Helaire had a very efficient day against a top defense, always giving LSU exactly what they needed when he touched the ball. In essence, this is a microcosm of what you will get from Edwards-Helaire. His stock will never be higher than it is now, because he isn't the type who will blow you away with his testing. Rather, he relies on vision, movement efficiency to gain yards and make big plays happen, and effective route running to succeed. He will likely be passed on for athletes with better numbers, but I also believe that he will be one of the best and most reliable running backs to come out of this class.
Patrick Queen is King
At the beginning of the season, when looking at the players who had a chance to replace Devin White, I said that Patrick Queen would be the guy. All he needed was the opportunity. Jacob Phillips was the guy who flashed early, but Queen showed in the National Championship why he is the guy scouts should have their eye on. On the biggest stage, Queen had the best game of his season. Queen finished with 8 total tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss, and a half of a sack. Queen was flying all over the field, showing every bit as much skill as Devin White showed routinely last season. Queen may test a bit below White, and his lack of experience may push him into Day 2. However, whoever takes him will be pleased.
The 2021 draft class will see many of these players at the top
There was a ton of talent in this game that is not even draft-eligible yet. For LSU, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (9 catches, 221 yards, 2 touchdowns) and tight end Thaddeus Moss (5 catches, 36 yards, 2 touchdowns) looked unstoppable for LSU. Moss especially looks like he could be special with some more experience, but that makes sense given his genetics. You may have heard of his father, former 49er great Randy Moss. For Clemson, Trevor Lawrence, despite his lackluster second half, looked strong when he got Clemson up early, and Justyn Ross had a very respectable 5 catches for 76 yards. These sophomores all have the chance to be at the top of their respective positions next year on draft boards, so keep an eye on them next season.
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