- 4 drafted (#103, #165, #166, #195)
- 3 signed in free agency
- 1 invited to minor league camp
I think the angst surrounding this year's draft might be a little misdirected (as angst typically is). For me personally, I think what stings the most is that basically NFL scouts, after poring over miles of videotape, are affirming the field performance of the 2008-2009 team. Its not that we were just poorly coached or had bad chemistry or whatever, we just didn't have the kind of elite talent we thought we had, or at least were led to believe we had. A couple of disclaimers to this feeling that I haven't been able to shake since the draft; first, I realize the college game and pro game in a lot of ways are quite different entities at their core, and what makes a college player special isn't going to necessarily predict success in the NFL (see Reggie Bush, or closer to home, CJ Spiller). Second, the NFL scouts get it wrong, all of the time. Draft busts are common, and to a lesser extent a lot of sleeper players emerge as success stories (case in point: Clemson's own Leroy Hill was drafted #98 in 2005 by the Seahawks and as a starting rookie was a key cog in the rebuilding of a defense that ended up reaching the Super Bowl).
Still, despite the disclaimers, its hard to look at this and not conclude that there really wasn't the level of elite talent a lot of people, myself included, were anticipating. This time last year, I would have told you I expected at least two players on the first day (Davis and Scott, maybe Jackson), and then possibly a couple more in Round 3 (two of Kelly, Clemons, Hamlin). Yeah, that's definitely a Clemson fanboy and not an analytical scout talking (and of course the injury likely affected Jackson's stock significantly), but what exactly happened between this year and last?
I think one thing that gets lost in looking back to two years ago is how well the 2007-2008 squad played together. Sure, Clemson got unexpected career years out of Merling and Harper, but it still largely felt like a team playing a little better than the sum of its parts. But somehow, over the course of an offseason, I started believing that superior individual performances from certain players from the team left us the favorites in the ACC, despite what in retrospect look like glaring flaws in team construction (depleted LB core, woefully inexperienced OL). Obviously I blame myself primarily, but there was a lot of hype out there and I wonder if the coaching staff couldn't have done more to curtail expectations (and then they might still have had a job today). Does this indicate that the coaching staff lost control of the team and media messaging during the offseason?
I don't know, but that's enough looking back for now. I can only handle the pain in small doses.