NFP Prospect Focus: T.J. Clemmings

One of the more interesting offensive lineman in this year’s NFL Draft is Pitt right tackle T. J. Clemmings. Clemmings is a fifth-year senior but has played only two seasons on the offensive line. He enrolled at Pitt in 2010 and played as a reserve defensive end. In 2011, he was redshirted. In the 2012 season, he started in six of the eight games he played at defensive end and totaled 20 tackles. During postseason practice for their bowl game, Clemmings was moved to offensive tackle but did not play in the bowl game. During spring practice of 2013, Clemmings again found himself working with the offensive line and then started all 13 games at right tackle during the 2013 season. This past season, Clemmings again started all 13 games Pitt played at right tackle.

Going into the season, Clemmings was not considered a top NFL prospect. By the time the season ended, the consensus opinion was that T.J. would be a lock first round pick. He is a player that improved from week to week as he got more comfortable playing on the offensive line. Clemmings has very good offensive tackle size. At the Senior Bowl, he measured 6045 – 307 with 34 7/8 arms. He has a lean, muscular frame and will easily get to 315 once he gets involved in a NFL weight program. Being a former defensive end, Clemmings is an excellent athlete. He can run, change direction, has quick feet and natural bend. He easily has the athleticism to play left tackle, but except for a day at the Senior Bowl, he has always been on the right side.

Based on the tape I have seen, I feel that Clemmings is an outstanding run blocker. He has very good initial quickness and is very explosive on contact. He has natural snap through his hips and is consistently able to get movement with his run blocks. With his athleticism, he easily gets to the second level and can adjust on the move to hit a moving target. When he is used to pull, he has the speed to get and stay in front of backs and, again, does an excellent job breaking down in space to hit a moving target. Clemmings is a solid pass blocker. He can set quickly and has a very good punch. With his feet and recovery quickness he has very good mirror skills. He is a natural knee bender who seldom gives ground to bull rushers.

I really like that he is very aggressive and goes after people. He plays offensive tackle with a defensive mindset. Being he spent the first three years of his college career on defense, that is a good thing. Last week at the Senior Bowl, Clemmings did not play as well as expected, but that shouldn’t hurt his draft stock. There is an old saying in scouting and that is a player can improve his grade at an all-star game but can’t hurt it.

This year at the senior bowl, there was one less day of practice with everything starting on Tuesday instead on Monday. The North team coaches had Clemmings playing at left tackle during Wednesday's practice and T.J. did not look the part. Wednesday was the first time he attempted to play on the left side and he didn’t feel as comfortable there. While the draftnik community might downgrade him for that, NFL scouts won’t. When you put a player at a position he has never played, you have to expect a rough going for a few days. In this case, he had one day of practice on the left side then played part of the game at left tackle, also. While he clearly didn’t play as well on the left side as he did on the right, his overall week was good. Going forward, the senior bowl week was just a bump in the road. Coaches and scouts will throw that week out in the evaluation process, especially if T.J. comes back and has a strong Combine and Pro Day.

Clemmings will still be one of the first offensive lineman drafted. He is too talented and has great upside. While he may eventually wind up on the left side in the NFL, most clubs will start him off on the right side where he has a higher comfort level. Being that he is such a strong run blocker and can play so well in space, don’t be shocked if the team that drafts him plays him at guard as a rookie. He will start as a rookie and has a bright future in the league.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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