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Grades for Clemson NFL players during the 2021 season

Caleb Browder, Photo Editor

Former Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) catches a pass versus LSU in the 2020 National Championship game.

For Clemson fans, there was much to be excited about in this year’s NFL season, as many former Tigers put together very strong seasons this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence: C+
It was a strange rookie season for Lawrence. He did not perform to the level many would have hoped, but he still showed flashes of his potential in the NFL and put together a quality season for a rookie.
He threw for 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was plagued with injuries to the roster, the Urban Meyer experience and a lack of talent around him.
For much of the season, Lawrence was adjusting to the NFL. Lawrence will have much to work on this off-season, including reading defenses and building chemistry with his teammates. He possesses all the traits and the “never give up” mindset to be a star in the league.
Las Vegas Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow: A 
Like many others on this list, Renfrow had his best season in 2021. He finished with 103 receptions, 1,038 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
He was also selected for the Pro Bowl and was by far the best Raiders’ receiver. His play near the goal line made him recognized as one of the top red zone targets in the NFL. 
Miami Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins: B
Wilkins is another player that put up career highs in almost every category in 2021. He started all 17 games and finished with 89 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. 
Wilkins has carved out a nice start to his career through his first three years. He was a solid defensive tackle this year, and he is a defensive lineman that can be a very impactful player in the NFL if he keeps improving year to year.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne: Incomplete
Etienne missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a foot injury that required surgery. It was a devastating blow for the Jaguars and Lawrence, as the pair had great chemistry and experience at Clemson that would have helped the team.
Etienne is believed to be ready to play again during the 2022 training camp period, based on reports and the expected healing time of his injury.
Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins: A
In only his second season, Higgins put up very impressive numbers. He caught 74 passes for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns in 14 regular season games.
He did all of that despite being the No. 2 receiving threat on offense, behind Ja’Marr Chase. Higgins was the second-highest targeted receiver on the team and played a vital role in the Bengals’ game plan this season.
He has come up big in the playoffs, and his play in the AFC Championship helped lead the Bengals to Super Bowl LVI.
Arizona Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons: A- 
Simmons’ 2021 campaign cemented him as one of the top young linebackers in the league.
He built off his impressive rookie year and significantly improved in almost every category. He had 105 total tackles, 70 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He started all 17 games and was a challenge for opposing teams. 
Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams: A+
Williams was the third Clemson receiver to reel in over 1,000 receiving yards this season. He finished with 76 receptions for 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns. His 15.1 yards per catch was also 12th in the NFL.
Like Higgins, Williams put up these numbers while not being the top option. He was the second-most targeted player on the Chargers, yet he still had the most receiving yards on the team. 
Williams did not have a big jump from the previous year that many of the players on this list had, but he still had his best overall season in the league and was the most productive Clemson receiver this season.
Atlanta Falcons CB A.J. Terrell: A+
Terrell may have had the best season out of all Clemson players in the NFL. Starting in 15 games, he tallied 81 total tackles, three interceptions and 16 pass deflections. Terrell was an All-Pro Second Team member, and he was the second-highest graded corner, perPro Football Focus.
Terrell solidified himself as one of the top corners in the league in only his second season and has time to develop even further.
Cincinnati Bengals OG Jackson Carman: C
Carman played in all 17 games in his rookie year, either on offense or special teams, starting in six of them. He also saw playing time in the playoffs, including significant action in the AFC Championship game.
Only playing in 42% of offensive snaps on the season gives Carman a rather small sample size to assess, but overall, an average season and start to his NFL career. 
Green Bay Packers WR Amari Rodgers: C-
Rodgers saw a very limited number of snaps during the 2021 season. He appeared in 16 games, mainly as a punt and kick returner. He returned 20 punts for 166 yards. As a receiver, he tallied four catches for 45 yards. Like Carman, it is difficult to assess exactly how Rodgers performed this season. He was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft, so Green Bay will most likely have bigger aspirations for Rodgers than just a return specialist.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Cornell Powell: Incomplete 
Powell did not see any NFL playing time in 2021. He spent the entire season as a member of the Chiefs’ practice squad despite much hype around the receiver prior to the season.
Ultimately, the Chiefs’ very talented wide receiver core made it difficult finding Powell a spot on the roster. The Chiefs view him as a project that needs some fine tuning prior to NFL action.
Atlanta Falcons DT Grady Jarrett: C
Jarrett put together somewhat of a disappointing 2021 season. He started all 17 games and finished with 59 total tackles, 38 solo tackles and one sack. While these numbers certainly are not terrible, Jarrett did not exactly have the same game-wrecking presence he did the last two seasons.
He was a Pro Bowl recipient in 2019 and 2020, including being second team All-Pro in 2019.
He had a combined 11.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020. He also had 20 total TFLs in those seasons.
In 2021, Jarrett only had one sack and three tackles for loss. However, his decline in those statistics can be attributed to a lack of edge rushers on the Falcons’ roster, making opposing teams able to add more protection on Jarrett.
Dallas Cowboys S Jayron Kearse: B
Kearse had a career year in his sixth season. He tallied 101 total tackles, two interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He played in 16 games, starting 15 of them. The most games he started prior to 2021 was seven. Kearse played a big role in the improved Cowboy defense in 2021 and will have an opportunity to resign with the cowboys and build upon his performance next year.

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