LSU Football: Predictions & Analysis for 2014 NFL Draft Bound Players
The LSU Tigers received round after round of bad news Monday when several underclassmen declared their intentions to go to the NFL draft.
LSU will send several highly touted prospects, including Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Ego Ferguson to the next level.
They'll join seniors Zach Mettenberger, Craig Loston and Lamin Barrow in the 2014 NFL draft class.
With prospects like Hill and Mettenberger bringing mixed projections into the draft season, we'll take an early look at where LSU's future draftees might end up.
LB Lamin Barrow
Prediction: Fourth round
Lamin Barrow donned the famed No. 18 jersey as the leader of the LSU defense and assumed that role well.
He led the Tigers with 91 tackles as a senior, including 5.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He also notched a pair of hurries, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
After a productive senior season, the 6'2", 232-pound linebacker will head to the next level with solid Day 2 draft stock.
Barrow is a versatile defender who can do a little bit of everything, though he isn't the kind of lights-out defender who will be picked on the first day of the draft.
Kirk Michelet of WAFB TV tabbed Barrow to be picked somewhere around the fifth round. That likely isn't far off, but as a second-team All-SEC defender and a Senior Bowl participant, he could end up sliding above projections.
S Craig Loston
Prediction: Third or fourth round
Craig Loston entered 2013 with very high hopes. He was rated as the No. 39 senior prospect by NFL.com's Gil Brandt, but his promising senior season was limited by injury, which could hurt his draft stock a bit.
However, despite missing three games with injury, he still finished sixth on the Tigers with 57 tackles. He also finished the season strong, notching three of his best games to close out his career.
He totaled 16 tackles in LSU's final three contests against Texas A&M, Arkansas and Iowa. He also posted two interceptions in that span, one of Johnny Manziel and the other in the Outback Bowl.
At 6'2", 209 pounds, Loston has good size and, with his athleticism, plays even bigger than his size would indicate. The second team All-SEC safety will participate in the Senior Bowl, giving him one last chance to impress scouts on the field.
He looks to be a mid-round pick, but don't be surprised if one team falls in love with him and swipes him up earlier.
QB Zach Mettenberger
Prediction: Second or third round
At 6'5", 235 pounds with outstanding arm strength, Zach Mettenberger is just the type of quarterback many teams look for in the draft.
After eclipsing 3,000 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in an excellent senior campaign, the former Georgia transfer was on his way to sneaking into the first round.
However, his career took an unfortunate turn in his final regular-season game against Arkansas when he suffered a torn ACL.
Before the injury, Mettenberger's biggest knock was on his lack of mobility—and the injury certainly won't assuage any of those concerns.
After the injury, look for him to at least fall to the second round.
RB Alfred Blue
Prediction: Seventh round
It was a bit puzzling that Alfred Blue decided to leave LSU and head to the NFL draft, considering the depth of this year's running back class.
Blue was a solid back for the Tigers but always seemed to be buried in the depth chart by backs like Jeremy Hill, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware.
However, Blue still finished his career with 1,253 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
At 6'2", 222 pounds, Blue has great size and good hands coming out of the backfield. However, as he struggled to find time in the crowded LSU backfield, he could also struggle to move his way up draft boards.
OG Trai Turner
Prediction: Fifth-sixth round
Just a redshirt sophomore, Trai Turner's decision to forgo his remaining eligibility and head to the NFL was a bit of a surprise.
However, after a second team All-SEC campaign in 2013, it's hard to argue against it. Turner has an NFL-caliber body at 6'3", 316 pounds and did make 20 starts in Baton Rouge.
Michael Detillier of WWL-870 AM radio identified Turner as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, which is an accurate projection.
Given his age and durability, he could beat such projections on draft day.
DT Ego Ferguson
Prediction: Second round
LSU will send two impressive defensive tackle prospects to the draft this year.
Anthony Johnson had the more impressive year statistically, while linemate Ego Ferguson drew double-teams from the opposition.
Both have a strong draft stock, but Ferguson might end up going higher than Johnson.
The Mims, Fla., native tallied 58 tackles with 3.5 for a loss and one sack and showed some impressive athleticism for his size (6'3", 309 pounds), a trait that helped him remain productive as he came up against greater attention from opposing offensive lines.
Ferguson could fit in on the inside of either a 3-4 or a 4-3, making him that much more valuable to pro franchises. Glenn Guilbeau of The Times (Shreveport) cited NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier, who called Ferguson the best player on LSU's 2013 defense:
Ferguson is a second-round pick, and I think a pretty high one. He was the best player on that Tigers’ defense in 2013. He runs the field well and has good pass rush potential and skills.
He was the one constantly being double-teamed, not Johnson. He has drawn a lot of interest from agents since the end of the season.
DT Anthony Johnson
Prediction: Second-third round
A nickname like "Freak" doesn't come about for no reason.
LSU's Anthony Johnson earned his nickname because, despite his 6'3", 294-pound frame, he is remarkably athletic.
He showed off that athleticism in tallying 35 tackes, including a team-high nine tackles for a loss and three sacks in 2013.
After three strong seasons, Johnson will be headed to the NFL as a likely early-round pick. He won't be selected in Round 1 but will be off the board in the second or third round.
CBSSports.com projects him as a second- or third-round pick and the No. 10 defensive tackle. The biggest issue blocking him from a high selection is the sheer number of highly touted players in front of him at the position.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Prediction: First-second round
There's little question that LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is a high NFL draft prospect.
An elite returner, Beckham will bring speed, versatility and a lot of value to whichever team takes him. He led the SEC and was No. 3 nationally in all-purpose yardage in 2013, averaging 178.1 yards per game.
At 6'0", 193 pounds, he has good size and will fit the mold of smaller receivers who are excelling as slot receivers and returners at the next level. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune recently quoted ESPN's Todd McShay analyzing Beckham:
He (Beckham) doesn't have elite, top end speed. They timed him in the 4.5 range. I don't know if that is legitimate or not, but he reaches top speed quickly.
He's going to have to do a better job getting off the line of scrimmage. Sometimes he gets surrounded a little bit, but he's dangerous after the catch, he's very good in the return game and he does a very nice job of separating. (He has) a lot of positive qualities. I think he can become a little bit more consistent with his ball skills, his focus. But he's been very productive and projects as a No. 3 as a slot receiver and return specialist in the NFL.
The biggest factor keeping Beckham from being a sure first-round pick is the competition.
The 2014 draft class features several receivers (e.g., Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks) who will bring similar versatility.
WR Jarvis Landry
Prediction: Second round
Some players just look like NFL receivers.
Jarvis Landry fits that mold. At 6'1", 195 pounds, Landry moves like a professional receiver, with and without the ball.
He led the Tigers with 77 receptions for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, showing off his arsenal of skills: great hands, jumping ability and polished fundamentals.
I've watched him play, been really impressed. He's not as quick as Beckham but he's a silky smooth route runner who separates well, and has some big play ability. I'm really impressed with his hands and his focus in traffic. Both of those guys are going to be Day 2 receivers if they decide to come out.
Landry is the type of player who could contribute immediately at the next level.
RB Jeremy Hill
Prediction: First-second round
Jeremy Hill is a polarizing NFL draft prospect.
Based on sheer talent, he should go in the first round. Hill has a phenomenal blend of size and speed. He can run through tacklers at the line of scrimmage, then run away from them in the secondary.
Hill finished his career at LSU with 2,156 yards and 28 touchdowns despite starting only 16 games. NFL.com's Gil Brandt responded accordingly, tabbing him as the No. 1 running back in this year's draft class.
However, because of his laundry list of off-field issues, his projections range from the first to the third round and sometimes even lower.
CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel hit the nail on the head, calling him a huge "risk/reward" pick.
There's a good chance that some team will decide the reward outweighs the risk, selecting Hill in the first or second round.