Clemson quarterback Deshuan Watson intends to apply for early eligibility into the 2017 NFL Draft and, though he is a junior, will participate in Senior Day activities prior to Clemson's game against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Monday.
Swinney said three other key underclassmen on the Clemson offense intend to join Watson in applying for early draft eligibility: WR Mike Williams, RB Wayne Gallman and WR Artavis Scott.
"All of those guys are planning on moving on," Swinney said, according to Tigernet.com. "We definitely want to honor them while we have the opportunity. They've earned that."
Watson and Williams are considered two of the top draft prospects at their respective positions, although Watson hasn't been as consistent as he was a year ago. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein has compared Watson to Tennessee Titans QB Macus Mariota. Watson was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and has led Clemson to a 23-1 record over the last two seasons.
"I think (Watson) is as ready as any of the (early-entry quarterbacks) that have come before him," Zierlein said. "He's played against some great competition, he has a lot of skill and he'll have about two and a half years of starting experience. Now, he still has a lot of work to do. If I had to point to one area, it would be field vision. He has to learn to see the field more effectively and understand where to go with the ball. Improving that will give him the best chance for success in the NFL. ... Of the four, Mike Williams probably has the highest ceiling. He's got it all."
A New York Giants scout has said Williams is already playing on an NFL level. Swinney said all four players will graduate in December. That would make each eligible for a potential bid to the Reese's Senior Bowl.
"Deshaun's only got five (credit) hours left (to graduate). He's got less hours left than some of our fifth-year seniors," Swinney said.
Gallman has rushed for 634 yards on 120 carries this season with eight touchdowns, although he hasn't received as many carries as he did a year ago, when he posted 1,527 yards as a sophomore.
"He is going to be a great NFL player. People don't know what they're getting out of him," Swinney said of Gallman, according to The Post & Courier.
Like Gallman, Scott hasn't been quite as productive as he was a year ago. After catching 93 passes last year for 901 yards, he's caught just 38 for 329 this season, with three games left in the regular season. That's been due in part to the return of Williams at the position. Williams missed nearly all of last year with a neck injury, but has been the Tigers' leading receiver this season (52 receptions, 754 yards).