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Tracking LSU Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIApril 26, 2012

Tracking LSU Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    Post-draft update:

    If you're wondering where LSU ranks as far as overall number of draft picks, here's the article.

    Apr 28 Intro:

    LSU's Rueben Randle and Brandon Taylor went in the second and third rounds yesterday, and Tiger fans who want to know who else heads to the NFL from Death Valley can bookmark this page for that info as it happens.

    Apr 27 Intro:

    LSU had a good showing in the first round, but it was a little disappointing. The two best Tigers were selected, but Rueben Randle was conspicuously left on the table.

    Randle's biggest competitor for selection is now Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina. If Jeffery's incident is the reason that he's still on the table, then Randle has the higher pick on lock.

    Bookmark this page for updates on every Tiger that goes pro in all seven rounds of the draft.

    Original Intro:

    Les Miles is in charge of the perennially-contending LSU Tigers, and the wealth of talent that he supervises is immense.

    The reigning SEC champions started their 2011 journey to Atlanta against a highly-ranked Oregon Ducks squad, and it put many of these men in the limelight for the entire season.

    The nation's best cornerback hails from Death Valley in the form of Morris Claiborne. However high he gets drafted, he will still be a steal for the team that calls his name.

    Michael Brockers follows closely, and makes LSU look like it will produce two of the top-10 draft picks this year.

    Bookmark this page for updates on every player that enters the NFL from the Tigers' roster.

    The list of potential draftees from LSU:

    1) Morris Claiborne, CB

    2) Michael Brockers, DT

    3) Rueben Randle, WR

    4) Deangelo Peterson, TE

    5) Brandon Taylor, SS

    6) Ron Brooks, CB

    Tiger fans, it's a great year to wear the purple and gold. It stinks to watch great players leave the collegiate field, but there's something about putting players in the NFL that makes us football fans smile.

    LSU's defense was clearly bound for the NFL, and 2011 made sure that no LSU great would miss that opportunity.

Morris Claiborne, CB: Drafted by Dallas Cowboys, First Round (6th Overall)

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    The NFL  is a passing league now—and that means defenses need a cornerback who can take on the elite receivers of the game.

    Morris Claiborne leaves LSU as an accomplished cover man who is ready for the NFL as a shutdown cornerback in either a man or zone scheme. Claiborne's size, fluid hips and foot speed make him the ideal man to step in from day one and take on the NFL's best cornerbacks.

    Claiborne's aggressive style of play and exceptionally quick feet make him ready to be a starter from his first game in the NFL. He brings great ability to knock down the ball and has the hands to turn errant passes into interceptions.

    One of the few elite prospects in the 2012 draft class, Claiborne is a future All-Pro.

    Analysis: Jerry Jones isn't afraid to move up and get his guy. Claiborne will shore up this Cowboys secondary from day one, and can match up with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Hakeem Nicks in the NFC East.

Michael Brockers, DT: Drafted by St. Louis Rams, First Round (14th Overall)

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    Few defensive players in the 2012 NFL draft have as much raw athletic ability and potential as LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers. How he uses that potential, and where his ceiling is, is the question.

    Brockers played in a sophisticated LSU defense that did a great job rotating defenders based on their talents.

    As such, Brockers rarely saw the field on third down, as LSU opted for smaller, quicker pass-rushers on obvious passing downs. That doesn't mean Brockers can't rush the passer, it just means he wasn't asked to in the LSU scheme.

    What Brockers was asked to do—and one thing we love about his game—is stop the run. He was a 2-gap defender on first and second down, and his ability to hold up blockers and make big tackles in the middle make him an ideal candidate for a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

    We talk a lot about "scheme versatility," and Brockers has a ton of it. His size and athleticism make him a great fit in multiple schemes and positions.

    Analysis: After trading back into the middle of the first round, the Rams pick up a player who could have found his way in the top-10. Brockers will pair nicely on the inside, with Chris Long on the outside to give the Rams some serious talent up front.

Rueben Randle, WR: Drafted by New York Giants, Second Round (63rd Overall)

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    Rueben Randle might not be a household name in college football circles—he didn't even catch 100 balls during his career at LSU—but you can chalk that up to poor quarterback play and leaving school as a junior more than any shortcoming on Randle's part.

    Randle plays a little faster than his 4.55 40 time at the combine would suggest, as evidenced by his 17.3 yards-per-catch average in his last year at LSU. He is just scratching the surface of his physical potential at 6'3" 210 lbs, and who might have had his talent concealed by a poor passing offense.

    Randle's scouting reports reveal some doubt about whether he'll be a vertical threat at the next level, but are otherwise mostly glowing.

    Charlie Campbell, Walter Football:

    Randle is a polished wide receiver who has good, but not elite characteristics. He is a big receiver who runs good routes and has good hands. In the NFL, Randle is a possession receiver that could help move the chains... It looks like Randle would be a perfect fit in a West Coast offense that works through ball-control passing. He is a very good slant receiver and that is a staple route in the West Coast offense. He would not be good in a vertical offense that sends receivers deep consistently. Randle does not have the foot speed or quickness to get separation on go routes. Because of that, Randle projects as a second-day pick in the 2012 NFL Draft

    Doug Farrar, Yahoo! Sports

    Pros: Very physical receiver with a good release off the line. Randle high-points the ball extremely well. Tremendous after-catch receiver who seems stronger on the run than his body type would reveal. Perfectly willing to go over the middle and make the tough catch in traffic, and he's a load to take down on slants and posts. Always looking to turn upfield and make that extra gain.

    Perhaps at his best on sideline routes -- he gets the ball quickly, turns aggressively, and starts juking for extra space right away. Also great with fade routes, where he can use the boundary to gain an advantage. Not exceedingly fast, but appears to have an extra gear to break coverage when necessary. Willing and able blocker who will sell out in run support and blitz pickup. Impressive understanding of route concepts.

    Cons: Not always a hands-catcher -- sometimes, he uses that vertical jump to catch a high throw when he could simply grab it with stronger and more consistent hands. Could take even more advantage of his physical nature with a better ability to use his hands to disengage from press coverage. Doesn't have elite speed, but his sense of the field should make up for that. Occasionally gets too acrobatic when an economy of motion would serve him well; NFL technique work should help a lot.

    Randle's development from year one to year three at LSU—despite a remedial pass offense—suggests that he'll be a fast learner. He might not start from day one, but he'll get on the field in three- and four-wide sets.

    His toughness while the ball is in the air and after the catch will gain the trust of his quarterback, and Randle should start early in his career. He isn't a big-play receiver who will catch many bombs, but Randle can produce at a Pro Bowl level and be much better than his middling collegiate numbers indicate.

    Pick Analysis

    Randle had a long wait in that green room, but it was well worth it. He's now representing the defending Super Bowl Champions, will have Eli Manning hooking him up with passes, and he'll contribute immediately. Giants fans, meet your Mario Manningham replacement.

Brandon Taylor, S: Drafted by San Diego Chargers, Third Round (73rd Overall)

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    Brandon Taylor was a presence in the LSU Tigers defensive backfield for three years. He is the type of player who is not afraid to throw around his 5'11", 209-pound frame and put it all on the line.

    What Taylor may be lacking are the coverage skills needed to succeed at the next level. With all the talent around him at LSU, he was able to play up in the box frequently and support the run.

    Rarely were his coverage skills truly put to the test, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the speed and athleticism of NFL receivers.

    Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash: 4.58 seconds. Vertical Leap: 33". Broad Jump: 118". Shuttle: 4.37 seconds. Three Cone: 7.32 seconds

    NFL.com assessed both Taylor's strengths and his weaknesses:

    Strengths:

    Taylor is a physical safety who enjoys getting in the mix to support the run. He is an effective box player who puts himself in good positions when being the eighth man. He is highly productive and effective as a tackler, and he likes to throw his body around at receivers and let his presence be known. He can be dragged by some bigger players at times, but he rarely falls of a tackle.

    Weaknesses:

    Taylor struggles when covering in man, and in three years rarely has been put in a position where he has to do so. With the type of corners and athletic linebackers LSU has trotted onto the field during his tenure, Taylor has been able to play in the box to support the run and has little work in covering receivers.

    Taylor will find his niche on an NFL roster but he is not an every-down caliber player.

    At least not yet.

    His coverage skills must be developed and refined before he gets an opportunity to start. Don't expect too much out of him in his rookie campaign, but keep an eye on Taylor as seasons progress.

Ron Brooks, CB: Drafted by Buffalo Bills, Fourth Round (124th Overall)

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    Ron Brooks might be one of the more underrated defensive backs in this draft class. One reason: He wasn't even a starter at LSU.

    It may sound damning, but there is no shame in being a reserve on such a talented team, or taking a back seat to players like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the crowded secondary.

    While some may view his inability to crack the starting lineup as a weakness, it gave him a chance to show something most draftable players don't: the ability to fit into a system, play a role and sacrifice individual success for team success.

    Still, Brooks is an elite athlete with sub-4.4 speed. Even in limited playing time, he proved to be a valuable asset for Les Miles and Co. Over his last two seasons, Brooks totaled 63 tackles (12.5 tackles for loss), 5.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, and three interceptions.

    Brooks also flashes a lot of ability with the ball in his hands, having returned all three career interceptions for a score (totaling 106 yards).

    He is also an ace on special teams, having been LSU's gunner during the last two seasons, and showed a penchant for downing punts inside the 20.

    Scouts Inc. loves Brooks' ability to contribute against the run:

    Active, tough and scrappy in this department. Although undersized, has ample experience playing near the line of scrimmage in the slot and is effective in run support. Slips blocks well and avoid traffic to find the ball carrier. Display very good body control in the open field to adjust and secure tackle.

    On the flip side, they have questions about his ability in coverage:

    Needs to take a few extra steps to gather at the top of his backpedal when breaking forward. Also has a little bit of tightness in hips when having to make sudden 180-degree turn. Can be too physical at times and will need to adjust accordingly to the NFL rules in coverage.

    Coming in around 6'0" and 180, Brooks isn't an elite "shutdown" corner, but he can go in and play in nickel and dime packages, tackle and cover secondary receivers.

    Pick Analysis

    LSU knows how to play defense, and Brooks was part of the reason for the Tigers' vaunted reputation over the last season. Ranked No. 72 on Matt Miller's Big Board, this is a solid fourth-round pick up. In a division with Tom Brady, it's always a good idea to think about upgrading the secondary.

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