A year ago, a pro football career looked pretty bleak for Cornell Powell.
The Clemson receiver was coming off a 2019 season in which he had just 15 catches and was eight on the team in receiving yards. Two freshmen, a running back and a receiver who returned from an ACL injury were all more productive in the passing game than Powell.
Fast forward to this spring and the Greenville, N.C., native is coming off a spectacular final season with the Tigers. Powell had 882 yards and seven touchdowns in 53 receptions in 2020.
Combined with an impressive showing at the Reese's Senior Bowl, the once-forgotten option in Clemson's crowded receiver room is now a potential third-round draft pick.
"Last year of eligibility, I knew that I had to honestly just go get it," Powell said about his 2020 breakout season. "Be a difference-maker, go out there and showcase my talents, last go-round, so just going in and attacking."
There are many NFL teams who will be thrilled to bring Powell in and give him every opportunity to have a pro career. At 6-foot, 210 pounds, Powell showcased his ability to go after the ball and make difficult catches in traffic.
He also connected on deep throws with Trevor Lawrence, showing he can get past cornerbacks with his speed. While he doesn't have elite physical traits, which is why he's not a Day 1 prospect, Powell is good enough athletically and fundamentally to go as high as the fourth round.
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That skill set doesn't really mean there's one particular team that Powell fits best. There is one particular team that could fit Powell quite well: the Las Vegas Raiders.
Sure, this is an easy one because of head coach Jon Gruden's love for Clemson players. He's selected Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow and John Simpson in recent drafts.
Also, Gruden loves big pass catchers. He drafted Alabama's Henry Ruggs in the first round and South Carolina's Bryan Edwards in the third round last year. If Powell falls to the third day, he could be too intriguing for the offensive-minded Gruden to pass up.
Plus, by then, the Raiders will have addressed their more pressing needs. Powell would be a fun weapon and projects as a fourth receiver anyway, so it's not a risky pick. Gruden's affinity and trust of former Tiger players would give Powell a chance to grow and prove himself.
It just makes too much sense.
Other potential landing spots
- The Green Bay Packers are looking for upgrades at the receiver position, and since they don't like to use high-round picks on playmakers, there's a chance they'll be shopping for late-round value like they normally do. Powell would get a chance to play with reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and grow with young QB Jordan Love.
- The Baltimore Ravens are in a similar spot as the Packers and will likely use the backend of the draft to pick up a couple of potential steals. Powell's former receiving corps teammate Amari Rodgers has connections there with his dad Tee Martin working on staff, but if Rodgers is already off the board and somewhere else, maybe a Powell recommendation from Rodgers to Martin goes a long way.
- The Minnesota Vikings have to get bigger, faster and stronger at the receiver position in 2021. They'll be looking at the best value from that position in each and every round, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Rodgers getting an opportunity to catch passes from Kirk Cousins this fall.
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