Clemson defender a top draft prospect, ESPN says, despite obstacles of 2020 season

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Xavier Thomas has had his ups and downs during his time at Clemson, but one ESPN analyst believes the defensive end could be a first-round pick next year.

ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first 2022 NFL mock draft and has Thomas going No. 32 overall in the first round to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Thomas could have opted to turn pro after this season but announced in January he would be back for another year at Clemson. He missed the first three games of the year after battling COVID-19 and strep throat over the summer.

Thomas has six tackles but had 3 ½ sacks this past season. He missed the ACC championship game and the College Football Playoff loss to Ohio State.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney did not provide a reason for his absence in those games.

Thomas, a Florence native, played his final season of high school football at IMG Academy in Florida and was a highly sought- after recruit. He was ranked as the No. 3 overall player in the country by 247Sports and No. 4 by ESPN.

Thomas has 66 tackles and nine sacks in three years at Clemson.

He will be one of several NFL prospects on Clemson’s 2022 roster. Receivers Justyn Ross (No. 12) and Frank Ladson (No. 44) are ranked in Sporting News’ Top 50 prospects for 2022. Other ones to watch are cornerbacks Andrew Booth and Sheridan Jones, receiver Joseph Ngata, tight end Braden Galloway and defensive lineman Tyler Davis.

Clemson had five players taken in this year’s draft, all on offense, including No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

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