It's NFL Draft Day, one of my favorite days of the year, and of course, as has become common, there's a slew of LSU players slotted to be taken over the next few days, starting with tonight. Billy has done an excellent job covering these prospects in his NFL Draft Profiles, that I recommend you check out. To cap it off, I wanted to get an outsider's perspective on some LSU players, and Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade) from First Round Grade Scouting particularly caught my eye due to his affinity for Barkevious Mingo. Fortunately for you all, Mr. Perez was gracious enough to answer a few draft question for me on the many LSU prospects that will embark on their NFL futures after this weekend.
1) You've been a big fan of Barkevious Mingo throughout the whole process. Obviously, production wise, Mingo doesn't have numbers that pop, but there's always a danger in judging a player by the numbers in college. You have Mingo as your no. 1 player on the board for this class. What is it that stands out about him to you? Do you think he can add the weight to play with his hand in the dirt, or is he more a 3-4 outside guy exclusively?
One of the biggest mistakes a scout can make when evaluating talent for the NFL draft is to rely too much on statistics. While production is a part of every evaluation, it should be kept in its proper place. Mingo is the perfect example of that principle. I'm not concerned about his sack total in 2012, as his lack of production was more a result of how he was used than it was about his overall talent level. I see Mingo as a scheme-diverse player who will be able to play with his hand in the dirt, even though he's undersized. His speed is the great neutralizer, and there won't be many offensive tackles in the NFL who can get off the snap quick enough to match Mingo's first step to the corner. Yes, he'll have to add some weight, and sure, there's always the chance that he'll have to convert to OLB. But for my money, Mingo is a rare, rare speed rusher that is going to give quarterbacks nightmares for a long time.
2) Mingo is often paired with Sam Montgomery in discussions, due to their close friendship and playing the same position. Montgomery isn't as gifted athletically, but he's still likely a top 64 pick. Do you think him admitting to lack of effort hurt his stock? What are your impressions of him overall?
It wouldn't surprise me to see Montgomery still on the board on Day 3, as FRG Scouting has a 4th-round grade on him. Montgomery's film shows a player who is a solid, capable defensive end that lacks top-tier athletic ability to be a passs rushing threat in the NFL. He's a stiff player who is going to experience a bit of a learning curve on the next level. Obviously, one thing any future employer does NOT want to hear is that the player doesn't hustle or give 100% on every down. Comments like that certainly don't help your stock.
3) A guy that really surprised me this season was Kevin Minter. His level of play really jumped from previous seasons. Not only was he more productive in 2012, he looked more athletic, nimble and aggressive. I'm biased, but Minter is my top ILB this class (depending on where you project Ogletree). He's also your top guy there. Is there a shot he sneaks into the 1st?
I don't think Minter will hear his name called on Thursday night, but I agree that he is the most reliable inside linebacker in this year's draft. In fact, I'd take Minter 10 out of 10 times over Ogletree. I think that Minter is a safe bet to hear his name called somewhere later in round two, and would be a great pick for the Chicago Bears at #50 overall.
4) There's no lack of coverage on Tyrann Mathieu thus far. His story is well known. We know he's on the short side and probably projects more as a slot guy than a guy that can play outside (at least full-time). But he's also a dynamic playmaker (both on defense and in the return game) and a good tackler. NFL offenses are implementing more and more spread option principles, and Mathieu seems like the type of guy you can leave on the field and not be a liability. Will that help his draft status? Or will the character issues be too much for him to sneak into the 2nd round, maybe even 3rd, round?
Mathieu has a lot working against his draft stock, ranging from his physical limitations (height, overall size) to his year away from the game and the obvious character concerns. It's true that he is a defensive playmaker and an exciting option in the return game, but I don't think his on-field skill set is talented enough to override his off-field concerns. His recent admission as to the number of failed drug tests would scare me away as a decision maker, and I'd imagine I'm not alone in that regard. As a Day 3 selection (and a late-Day 3 selection at that), he'd present as a player with nothing but upside. If his name is called any sooner than that, it will come with a lot of risk.
5) It's a shame he suffered a leg injury, because after his sophomore year, I thought Chris Faulk really looked like a 1st round talent. Maybe not a LT talent, but definitely a guy that could play RT at worst, if not slide inside. I'm surprised he jumped to the draft, because a year of being on the field would likely have helped him. Do you think he can play LT in the NFL?
Chris Faulk is one of my favorite sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft. In fact, before the season started, I had Faulk tiered as a 1st-round tackle. I would have liked another season of film to analyze whether Faulk's development would suggest he can play on the blindside. His 2011 film suggests that he had the requisite athletic ability to do so, but I was concerned with his overall weight and the risk that he could eat himself out of left tackle consideration. Add in the knee injury, and it's likely that Faulk will start off as a right tackle in the pros. He's going to be a great Day 3 bargain that will pay huge dividends in 2014. I see Faulk as an eventual starter in the NFL.
6) One guy I'm curious about on the next level is Lavar Edwards. Edwards is a better athlete than most recognize, and despite being a rotational back-up his entire career, had some good production. At 6'4", 277, he's got the size to be a versatile type of guy that could fit in a 3-4 as a 5-tech (if he bulks up some) or a 4-3 end. Do you have any thoughts on him?
FRG Scouting has a 5th-round grade on Edwards, which is surprising considering he wasn't a starter who saw signficant snaps during his collegiate career. While he was a productive player when given the opportunity, he is a work in progress that will require some extra attention from an NFL defensive line coach in an attempt to expand his pass rushing arsenal and overall technique. I really like his motor and high energy style of play, which is something that can't be coached or taught. He'll continue to develop as a pro and I wouldn't be surprised if three years from now he is considered one of the bargains from this draft class.
7) Let's talk about the running backs. LSU rolled a committee approach the last several years, and each back took turns showing out. Spencer Ware looked, at times, like a better version of Stevan Ridley, but then would disappear. Michael Ford showed promising burst and speed outside, but never really matured as a guy who could press the hole and run inside. I think both have NFL talent (at least as role players), but I could see both going undrafted too. Any feelings on these guys?
Of the guys you mentioned, I'm the highest on Spencer Ware. I like his powerful, no-nonsense style and I think it will translate better to the NFL game than it has during his time at LSU. FRG Scouting has Ware graded as a 5th-round player, but yes, there's always the chance that guys like him can slip through the cracks and be signed as a priority free agent. Regardless of how his opportunity comes about, I project Ware as a guy that will make a team and provide nice depth.
8) One early entry that surprised me was Bennie Logan. You've got a 3rd round grade on him. Bennie isn't a great athlete, but he had a pretty good career after being a late take to the 2009 Recruiting class. He's got solid size, and he's really a one-gap defender in my mind. I thought he could use one more year of refining. What do you like about Logan?
Bennie Logan is a thick, strong player who plays quicker than most would suggest. I like his potential to be an explosive, disruptive force in the middle of a defense, and while he does need some fine tuning, I have very little doubt that his name will be called on Day 2 of the draft. Yes, had he returned for another season, he might have elevated himself into 1st round consideration. But he's still a nice prospect that will compete from day 1 on the NFL level.