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NFL Draft Preview: Clemson LB James Skalski Hopes for Opportunity at Next Level

Clemson linebacker James Skalski believes he's proven he's "definitely a ballplayer," but now he'll have to wait to see if/when a pro team comes calling during this week's NFL Draft.

James Skalski could very well receive an important phone call about his future this weekend. 

The question is whether or not it comes before or after the 2022 NFL Draft. The former Clemson linebacker is hoping to continue a stellar collegiate career at the next level, but he was not invited to the February combine. 

There aren't many draft experts predicting he'll hear his name called in the seven-round draft this weekend, but Skalski is optimistic that his game, which was on display for six seasons at Clemson, will get him an opportunity. 

"I'm definitely a ballplayer," Skalski said after Clemson's Pro Day last month. "That's who I am. That's who I've been."

If he goes Thursday-Saturday without getting a phone call telling him he's been drafted, there is another option. Teams routinely keep track and talk to players that they could be interested in bringing into training camp this summer as undrafted free agents. 

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Skalski has spoken to several of the 32 NFL teams since his career ended last December. He met with the Pittsburgh Steelers before Pro Day before the organization hosted both him and former Clemson safety Nolan Turner in early April. 

"I've talked to some teams," Skalski said. "I know there's interest."

Not getting an invite to the NFL Combine gave Skalski a chip on his shoulder, but he feels like he's the kind of player who can prove doubters wrong. Skalski played with tenacity and intelligence that helped him stand out in college. 

His experience and understanding of Clemson's defense allowed him to be an extension of the coaching staff. Skalski proved to be a good run stopper and was best playing along the line of scrimmage for the Tigers, but at the next level, NFL teams expect linebackers to be able to drop into coverage. It's a very different game at the next level. 

His best chance at latching onto an NFL squad could come on special teams, an area he excelled at during his Clemson career. 

Regardless, he'll likely get a chance to prove himself after he racked up over 300 career tackles. Skalski was a two-time team captain and a first-team All-ACC selection in 2021. He also became the first player to ever win five ACC championships. 

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