With three Clemson players drafted by the Raiders last week, I had some questions about them, so I went to someone who covered them throughout their college careers. I spoke with Ryan Kantor of SB Nation Clemson blog, Shakin the Southland to rapid fire some questions at him about these former Tigers.
He already answered five questions on Clelin Ferrell and now we move on to Trayvon Mullen.
1. How does Trayvon Mullen go from having no interceptions all last season to having one in the National Championship and going on to win Defensive MVP?
Alabama had the guts to attack him downfield whereas other teams focused on quick passes to negate our strength on the defensive line and tried to pick on safeties, linebackers, and our other CBs whenever possible.
2. What player comps would you give Mullen?
Clemson has started bringing in longer corners that can be left on an island while an aggressive blitz attack is employed. Cordrea Tankersley (Dolphins) played that role for Clemson’s 2016 National Championship team and Mullen was able to assume the mantle in 2018. Both are 6’1” and run sub-4.5 40s.
3. What’s Mullen’s ceiling?
It’s hard to get much from traditional stats when evaluating CBs (e.g., INTs, tackles, etc.). A look at more advanced stats shows Mullen was pretty elite in coverage as he allowed the lowest yards per snap in college football last season.
4. What’s Mullen’s floor?
As many have said about several of the Raiders draft picks, his floor seems pretty solid. There are no character issues, he’s from a winning program, and he has a great combination of speed and height. He is a good system fit in your press-heavy scheme. Whether he becomes an NFL lock down cover corner is hard to project, but it seems feasible given his tools.
5. Would staying another year have done Mullen some good? Do you think he was likely to stay prior to his National Championship game performance?
Clemson has a strong record of getting players to stay another year. Despite the high-demands and by-the-books rules, they have a lot of fun at Clemson. You saw Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant return for their senior years after strong junior seasons that likely would have seen them picked within a round of where they ended up. That said, defensive back seems to be the exception to this trend.
After the 2015 National Championship runner-up season, Safety Jayron Kearse (Vikings, 7th Round), TJ Green (Colts, 2nd Round), and Mackenzie Alexander (Vikings, 2nd Round) all left early. Safety Van Smith left early after the 2016 National Championship victory and went undrafted. I think most of the Clemson fans who comment on our blog (ShakintheSouthland.com) felt this would be Mullen’s last year if he developed into the top CB that he did.
In the National Championship game he came up with two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. One was a huge momentum-shifting sack of QB Tua Tagovailoa coming off a CB blitz. That came after several plays of Clemson getting pressure but failing to get to the QB. The other was a stellar interception in which he was in zone defense and had to use his top-end speed to close ground on the WR and beat him to a highly-lofted deep ball. His amazing performance in that game likely sealed the deal on his draft decision.
Defensive backs seem to get drafted largely based about their size and speed with less focus on collegiate production so I think leaving early makes more sense for the position. Mullen was not going to get faster or taller with another year and already showed the requisite production.
Also see: Five Clelin Ferrell questions
Spoiler: I asked him about Hunter Renfrow as well, so be on the lookout for that one
I also answered some of his questions which you can read here.