LSU Football: NFL Draft Projections for Every Former Tiger
High school prospects come to elite football programs such as LSU to get to the NFL. This week, former Tigers will see if their dreams come true.
The first round of the NFL draft will begin on Thursday. When the seventh round is completed on Saturday, prospects around the country will hope their name has been called out in New York's Radio City Music Hall.
LSU annually fields elite prospects. Eleven Tigers participated in this year's NFL combine, increasing the number to 40 over four years. No school in the SEC has had more in that time period, according to LSU director of player personnel Austin Thomas.
Of those 11 players, nine are projected to be drafted, according to Bleacher Report NFL draft lead analyst Matt Miller's latest mock draft. Predicting where each player will go is a tough task, so expect results to vary.
Here is where Miller has each LSU player slated to go.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Matt Miller Draft Projection: First round, No. 18 overall to the New York Jets
Analysis: Odell Beckham Jr. is so smooth.
Beckham Jr.'s phenomenal hands, speed and overall playmaking ability has NFL teams salivating. He is also a lethal kickoff and punt returner.
NFL front offices believe this year's wide receiver class is stacked, according to Greg Bedard of MMQB.com. Beckham Jr. could drop some just because of the depth of talent available. Teams could prefer a receiver of a similar grade over him or wait until later rounds to grab a pass-catcher.
Nevertheless, expect Beckham Jr. to be the first Bayou Bengal off the board on Thursday.
QB Zach Mettenberger
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Second round, No. 33 overall to the Houston Texans
Analysis: The Houston Texans are in a precarious position with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Texans have Pro Bowl talent all over the field except at quarterback. Yet draft experts, including Miller, all are projecting Houston to pick defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to kick off the draft on Thursday.
But the Texans will eventually draft a quarterback.
Houston holds the first pick of the second round. Experienced signal-callers Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Tom Savage will probably be available. But Miller believes the Texans will choose LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
Mettenberger has an elite arm and experience in a pro-style offense that NFL general managers value. He showed off these skills impressively at LSU's pro day, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, proving to NFL talent evaluators he has recovered from ACL injury in late November.
WR Jarvis Landry
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Second round, No. 50 overall to the Miami Dolphins
Analysis: Predicting Jarvis Landry's pro future all comes down to how an NFL evaluator values a draft prospect.
On tape, Landry looks like a gritty, productive slot receiver at the next level. "Juice" has amazing hands, tough blocking ability and a high football IQ. He can also deliver a soul-crushing blow on special teams if need be.
But in workouts without pads, he is par for the course at best. He does not have blazing speed or ideal size.
Hopefully for Landry, scouts will look past how he looks in tights and draft him based on his body of work at LSU.
OG Trai Turner
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Third round, No. 81 overall to the Miami Dolphins
Analysis: Draft experts predicted that the LSU offensive lineman to come out early this offseason would be La'el Collins. Instead, it was guard Trai Turner.
Turner's 4.93-second 40-yard dash was the fastest of the offensive guards at the NFL combine, per ESPN.com. His natural explosiveness shows tremendous upside, but his tape is far from spectacular, according to Bleacher Report's Alex Dunlap.
Whichever team drafts Turner must be patient with him, as there will be a transition period for him. Nevertheless, he has the skill set to be a solid backup as a rookie and a potential starter down the road.
DT Ego Ferguson
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Third round, No. 89 overall to the San Diego Chargers
Analysis: Ego Ferguson has tremendous athleticism for his 6'3", 315-pound frame. Ferguson is not an ideal pass-rusher, yet he does a great job of holding the point of attack and shedding blocks in the run game.
Ferguson played in a 4-3 at LSU, but he also has the raw talent to play the nose tackle in a 3-4. This could make teams like the Chargers, Patriots and Steelers, which need depth on the interior of the defensive line, fascinated in his services.
RB Jeremy Hill
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Fourth round, No. 106 overall to the Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Whichever team nabs Jeremy Hill in the third or fourth round will be getting ultimate value at the running back position.
Running backs have become a dime a dozen in the NFL because of their short NFL life expectancies and the league being passing oriented. Teams love to find young running backs in late rounds that could be productive.
Hill is the best running back prospect in this draft. His versatility will be valuable at the next level, which makes him a steal in the later rounds.
SS Craig Loston
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Fourth round, No. 120 overall to the Arizona Cardinals
Analysis: Craig Loston loves to hit people hard.
Loston is a head-hunting safety that plays the game with reckless abandon. He is much better defending the run than the pass, but he has developed better ball skills as his career has come along.
Loston was a phenomenal special teamer at LSU. He not only would deliver massive hits on returners, but he was also a smart blocker on the punt team for Odell Beckham Jr.
Fourth round is a high slot for a safety who is prone to giving up the big play. But if he is lucky to be selected by Arizona, he would be joining former LSU teammates Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Kevin Minter.
LB Lamin Barrow
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Fourth round, No. 121 overall to the Green Bay Packers
Analysis: Lamin Barrow could be viewed as a safe pick.
Barrow may not make Pro Bowls, but he will, at the very least, be a productive special teams player and reliable backup that can play all linebacker positions in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
Scouts will be alarmed when seeing Barrow's senior tape compared to his stellar season the year before. It took him some time to get used to playing without Kevin Minter, who was an All-SEC selection. He did finish strong, as he finished with 11 more tackles than any other LSU defender.
Barrow is not the fastest or the strongest, but he is a solid athlete that can contribute at the next level right away.
DT Anthony Johnson
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Fourth Round, No. 125 overall to the San Diego Chargers
Analysis: Anthony Johnson did not live up to expectations last season.
Johnson was a coaches' preseason All-SEC defensive tackle, yet he did not play like one. He only raked in 32 tackles and was often washed out of plays and drawn offsides. His fellow defensive tackle Ego Ferguson finished with the better season even though Johnson got more love from The Associated Press.
But the NFL couldn't care less what a player does in college.
There is no denying Johnson's raw talent. He has amazing power and explosiveness with elite pass-rushing potential. His scheme is not ideal, though, as he is best fit to play a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense.
Johnson is worth taking a chance on in the later rounds. But NFL teams will be hesitant after watching average game film from "The Freak."
FB J.C. Copeland
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Not drafted
Analysis: J.C. Copeland is an NFL-caliber player. But unfortunately for Copeland, he is playing in the wrong era.
In a passing NFL, the traditional fullback is becoming extinct. Teams love to throw the football and run in single-back sets, thus reducing the need of a fullback.
But that doesn't mean Copeland can't play.
Copeland has tremendous lead-blocking ability and developed into a better short-yardage runner in the latter years of his career. Linebackers are petrified when he runs through the hole with or without the ball.
Copeland will be in the running for a spot on a practice squad next season.
RB Alfred Blue
Matt Miller Draft Projection: Not drafted
Analysis: Alfred Blue was an average running back at LSU.
Blue's career was plagued with injury. He never showed the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and was never a threat through the air.
If Blue is to make a roster, he will need to show his sublime abilities on special teams. He is a spectacular tackler for being an offensive player.
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