If Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney compared Deshaun Watson to Michael Jordan, then that must make Trevor Lawrence LeBron James.
Are you ready for some Clemson Tigers football/NBA superstar analogies?
Of course, you are. You’re reading this article, and that’s the entire point of it. If you care to remember, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney once said passing on his former starting quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2016 NFL Draft would be on par with an NBA team passing on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. Well, 11 NFL teams did pass on Dabo’s Jordan.
While teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs are happy with their first-round selections, Watson did make a handful of teams picking in front of the Houston Texans look like the Portland Trail Blazers. There was more than one Sam Bowie in this particular NFL Draft.
Though Watson has become the greatest quarterback in the 18-year history of the Texans franchise, he might only be the third-best young quarterback in his own conference behind Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and Lamar Jackson with the Baltimore Ravens.
Though he still has time to become Jordan, as Jordan didn’t win an NBA Championship until year seven out of North Carolina, we need to take a good hard luck at Clemson’s current superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence. As soon as the 2020 NCAA season ends, Lawrence will put his name into the 2021 NFL Draft and will be the top overall selection. He’s likely the next John Elway.
So for gridiron to hardwood analogies, if Watson is Jordan, does it make Lawrence LeBron James?
Like James, we’ve known about Lawrence since he was a teenage athletic prodigy. While James was running up and down the court and dunking on people in Akron, Ohio, this tall kid with long blonde hair and a powerful right arm was carving up Georgia high school defenses in his native Cartersville. He had his pick of any school, choosing the nearby emerging national power Clemson.
James went from high school straight to the pros as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. While an NFL Draft prospect must be at least three years removed from his senior year of high school, Lawrence will only spend the minimal amount of time at Clemson before turning pro. The money is too great and the opportunity is too good to pass up by playing a fourth year for free.
Though he won’t get “Chosen 1” tattooed across his back, Lawrence will be swimming in endorsements like James has. No athlete will push shampoo quite like Lawrence. Whatever Mahomes makes with Head and Shoulders, double that, hell, triple that if you’re Pantene. You only get a flowing mane like that to endorse once in a lifetime, so take advantage of the opportunity.
As with James, Lawrence will go to a moribund franchise like the Cleveland Cavaliers in the hopes of being their savior. So we’re looking at Lawrence going somewhere like the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Carolina Panthers. The Jaguars need a miracle to stay in North Florida long-term. Carolina just moved off Cam Newton. Will Lawrence be the answered prayers either team is looking for?
While Watson compares favorably to Jordan’s win-at-all-costs mantra, Lawrence compares favorably to James on raw athleticism. James built a hall of fame career on being bigger, stronger and faster than most people he plays against. Lawrence has the build of a prototypical passer, an arm only a few possess and the underrated agility that will make him a superstar. He has it all.
So when it comes draft time, will Swinney get in front of a camera and say passing on Lawrence will be like passing on James? No, because no one in their right mind was passing on James in 2003, just like nobody will pass on Lawrence in 2021.