Clemmings’ Combine performance boosting draft stock

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Clemmings’ Combine performance boosting draft stock

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

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Before the 2013 season, T.J. Clemmings had never played offensive tackle in his life.

He will likely be a top pick at the position come April 30 for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Clemmings, a redshirt senior at Pitt majoring in administration of justice, showcased his abilities at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine. Now, the buzz and analysis of where he will land is starting to pile on.

Clemmings recorded 20 tackles as a defensive tackle his sophomore year, then he switched to offensive tackle and started in each of Pitt’s 26 games since.

Mike Mayock, an analyst for, rated Clemmings as the top offensive tackle prospect in the country, and four other analysts on the site projected him as a first-round pick.

His Combine results have certainly bolstered his case, as well.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.14 seconds, his short shuttle marked the best time of all offensive tackles at 4.54 seconds, and his 9-foot-3 broad jump also topped the position.

“Clemmings will continue to learn the position and improve,” Mayock said. “He has the physical traits to become a Pro Bowl tackle if he can handle the move to that side.”

The move may come as a bit of a surprise, as recruiting website Scout rated Clemmings as the No. 6 defensive tackle prospect and the top New Jersey recruit coming out of high school in 2010. He finished his senior season this past year on Pitt’s offensive line as a second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC.

Much of where a player gets drafted comes down to pregame hype and buzz, largely coming from NFL draft analysts.

ESPN’s draft analyst Todd McShay recently said there is an outside chance Clemmings could join former Pitt teammate Aaron Donald on the St. Louis Rams. The Rams drafted Donald with the No. 13 pick last year, and they hold the No. 10 pick this year.

“The Rams at 10 is probably a little early, but they could be in the mix,” McShay said. “The Browns, Saints, Texans, Lions and Panthers also make sense in the first round.”

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Clemmings helped solidify his name as a first-round pick with his Combine results. Because offensive linemen cannot produce definitive statistics to separate themselves from other players at the position, raw size and Combine performance can impact their stock more significantly than skill positions like running back.

The strength of the running game during the season indicates a strong offensive line. Pitt’s sophomore running back James Conner finished the 2014 season with 1,765 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. While much of that came from his individual ability and the offensive line working as a whole, Clemmings still helped enable Conner to earn ACC Player of the Year honors.

Mayock gave Clemmings a grade of 6.14, which Mayock categorizes as “should become instant starter” caliber. He compared Clemmings to Houston Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown, who has played for the team since the Texans selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft. Brown has since made three Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2012.

Still, it is hard to predict where Clemmings will come off the board in this year’s draft. Analysts seem to agree that, while he has shown plenty of athleticism and upside, he still is new to the position. How NFL teams weigh those pros and cons will determine his draft stock.

McShay summed up that balance and said Clemmings is a “raw, inexperienced right tackle prospect whose game is built on power in the run game.”

While Pitt fans would love to watch Clemmings and Donald play both sides of the line of scrimmage for the Rams next season, nobody will know if that will be the case until the NFL Draft on April 30.

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