Since we do watch more than JUST LSU, I have a few opinions on the other teams in this conference, and their players. FUN FACT: back in my earlier days, I fancied myself something of a draftnick, before college surged past the NFL in terms of my interests. Honestly I kind of detest the league, but the Saints are still a part of it. Besides, it can be fun to try and project some of these guys forward.
You know, for the one or two predictions I'll be right on...
Players That I like
Some of these guys will be high picks, some of them won't be. But probably should.
During 2014, I compared Cooper's season to Josh Reed's 2001, because it was just different, even by great wide receiver standards. He wasn't just Alabama's best player, he was their most important by a significant margin.
With great receivers, a lot of the time their impact on the game is tied to hypotheticals and ideas. The threat they present. When Julio Jones was at Alabama, just being on the field was enough to affect a defense, and if he didn't really catch many passes it didn't matter. With Cooper it wasn't just about being there and drawing the safety bracket, he had to stay involved, to the point that even an eight- or nine-catch day wasn't enough if he wasn't making big plays. If he wasn't having a 150-yard, multi-touchdown day, Alabama was struggling, despite all that other talent. And here's the thing -- he usually answered the bell, going over 130 yards seven times last year, and over 200 three times.
Cooper's going to get picked high and probably wind up on a team with a bad-to-mediocre quarterback, which is a shame. If he could wind up on a team with a good passer, he'd be an immediate rookie-of-the-year contender. He combines speed, with just enough size, speed and polish.
I feel the same way about Kevin White as well.
Dante Fowler Jr.
I don't know if Fowler will meet the hype, but I think he has a really high floor as a player. Unless he gets hurt, he should be a good, strong, solid 4-3 defensive end. He never really jumped off the page as a freak athlete to my eyes, but what I loved about Fowler is that he was always playing his heart out, even as things spiraled down the drain under Muschamp. If he doesn't become a dynamic, 12-15 sack guy, I think he can at least be a good, consistent 8-10 sack guy that will have a job so long as his body gives out.
If you've watched Arkansas in the last two years, I don't know how you couldn't have been impressed with Flowers, who never let some really rough losses get to him and was a consistent force against both the run and the pass from the defensive end spot, sometimes with very little help.
He's not the biggest, or the fastest, or the strongest, and he's probably not going to be a high draft pick. But he's a tough, hustle player that could be a lot of fun to watch. You know, in other games, not when he was giving LSU's tackles hell.
Eulls is even less of a name than Flowers, but he's always impressed me. Just a big, country strong defensive lineman. Not sure if he's a tackle or maybe a 3-4 end, but Eulls reminds me a little of former Cowboy and Giant Chris Canty. Could be a tremendous two-gap player for the right team.
It always felt like Alabama, certainly its fans, couldn't wait to replace Yeldon, especially with Derrick Henry. Thing is -- they never could. Yeldon did it all well, run inside and out, catch extremely well and block. When the Tide needed tough yardage the last two seasons, they didn't turn to the 240-pound Henry, they gave it to Yeldon. And yeah, he's had a high number of fumbles, but in an NFL committee where he's going to be far less likely to average 20-plus touches a game, that rate should drop a little. If he's healthy, he'll be a successful NFL back.
Jones never really met the hype as the replacement to Mike Gillislie at Florida, largely because he couldn't stay healthy. And yeah, that doesn't bode well for an NFL future, but if he can maybe get away from whatever rain cloud was following Will Muschamp around, I think his skill set translates well to the next level. Jones is a powerful, well-built, and muscled-up back that runs hard and catches the ball really well -- Florida never really took as much advantage of that as they could have. I could see him being a very nice sub-package back for a team.
Players That I Don't Like
Again, some of these guys will be high picks, and others won't, maybe for the reasons I outlined.
Collins has always been something of a media darling, probably somewhat based on the notoriety that came from his infamous commitment ceremony. And he's definitely a tremendous athlete -- he's always tested off the charts. But if you're ranking Alabama safeties in the last few years, I don't see how anybody could put him above guys like Mark Barron or Rashad Johnson, neither of whom has distinguished themselves in the pros. Barron was drafted by Tampa Bay specifically with the idea that they played in a division that, at the time, featured both Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzales. He couldn't help much with either, and he was unceremoniously traded to St. Louis where he's still not really helping much in pass defense. By comparison, Collins mostly acted like a fifth linebacker at Alabama, and was a very good run support player, who has good hands if there's a ball up for grabs, but has been consistently exploited by any decent passing team that has been able to isolate him on a wide receiver.
My feelings on Dupree are very similar to what they were on Barkevious Mingo a few years ago. It's not that he's not going to be a good football player; it's that he's going to be drafted really high and expected to come in and have an immediate impact, despite the fact that he's a very raw prospect that doesn't totally know what he's doing as a pass-rusher yet. Dupree is a raw, former high school tight end/wide receiver that has all of the athletic potential in the world to become a stud NFL pass-rusher, and even drop into coverage as an outside linebacker. But it's going to take some time and some work, maybe even a year or two. That's not the kind of impact you want out of a top-15 pick. Frankly, I hope the Saints keep that in mind.
I've never really gotten the hype with this guy. The Aggie OL just gave up a three-year high in sacks, despite running an offense that rarely asks the QB to keep the ball very long, and struggled mightily to run the football. In general, it just wasn't a line that pushed people around, and that's not something you could say for the units Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews helmed up. The best pass rushers on A&M's schedule gave Ogbuehi fits.
It's not hard to make a case against this guy, just lay things out. Green-Beckham was one of the most-heralded wide receiver recruits in recent memory. He did little as a freshman and battled discipline issues, then broke through with a nice sophomore season before getting kicked off the team for a very ugly incident in which he was violent with both his girlfriend and another woman. He spent the last year out of football. So you have a raw prospect that only ran about three routes in game action, and with a documented issue with violence off the field. I have no idea why anybody would want to take this guy in the first two rounds.