It's reached the point, maybe a while ago, where the surest path to the NFL playing defensive back goes through Baton Rouge. I don't need to list all the names again. The moniker DBU didn't come by accident. Safeties, corners, nickels, starters, backups, role players... they almost all seem to find their way into the NFL. It's a remarkable, unbelievable run that can't be rivaled by many in college football history... at any position. Year after year after year LSU lands high profile defensive after high profile defensive back. Year after year after year those players turn out on the field.
Perhaps even more remarkably, LSU isn't simply plucking every 5 star DB in the nation (ahem Bama) and just playing the odds here. They've had tremendous evaluation scooping up players like Tre White, before he blossomed into a 5 star recruit. Tyrann Mathieu, before he blossomed into a 4-star. Guys like Tharold Simon and Mo Claiborne weren't the most heavily recruited players. It's a sign of terrific evaluation and development. Xavier Lewis falls directly in that line.
Xavier Lewis was hardly a unheralded recruit. He ranked in the top 200 of all prospect. He got an invite to The Opening. He was widely regarded one of the best players not just in Louisiana, but the entire nation. Lewis prepped just up the road at East St. John in Reserve, La. You may remember this as the alma mater of one Ryan Perrilloux. It's a school LSU typically recruits exceptionally well, when they produce top flight prospects, which is about once every three or four years, at best.
Still, Lewis is a name that's been on the lips of recruitniks for a while now. Yet, he's a name that's faded into the background behind the Kevin Tollivers, Donte Jacksons and even Iman Marshalls of the world, while LSU fans dreamed that dream. Yet, Lewis remained a staff priority. He initially committed in August of 2013, along with Nick Brossette. By February of 2014, he backed out of his commitment to reconsider his options. There wasn't much room for concern, as most expected Lewis would pledge back to LSU in due time. Just days after his decommitment, he took in LSU junior day, for instance.
After taking some time to deliberate, Lewis decided he would make his final decision at The Opening. To the surprise of no one, he pledged to LSU again and more or less ended his recruiting process. I say more or less only because he did opt to take an official visit to Texas at the end of January, but nothing came of the visit, obviously. He signed with LSU days later.
Lewis ranks as a composite 4-star with a .9217 rating. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American game.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of The Tape
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.37
Vertical Jump: 31.6
Power Ball: 34.5
LSU's listed height is probably a half inch to an inch taller than he actually is. He was listed at 183 in HS, so 193 isn't terribly surprising with an offseason of weight lifting. Now, for the testing numbers. The 40 is obviously remarkably poor for a DB. That's probably an average time for a linebacker. Lewis isn't going to grow into playing linebacker either. The short shuttle number isn't good for a DB either. His vertical is also on the low end for a DB. And the power ball isn't great either. What this all tells us is that Lewis simply isn't a great athlete. He's not going to be a guy that one day blows up the NFL combine. That's simply not his strength.
Strengths: Instincts, Physicality,
Weaknesses: Athleticism, Size,
Instincts: He's a really heady player that almost always reads the play right and shows up around the football, both in the run and pass game. He played some QB in HS, so I think that helped advance his reads and understanding of what he's seeing.
Physicality: He likes to jam. That's really his game. Check him at :36, where he absolutely blows up the WR at the line and refuses to get blocked. Then at :40, watch him tackle. The technique isn't pretty, but he comes with a thud. He likes to knock helmets around. Then at :51, again blows up the blocker, gets by him and makes the tackle. He takes off a dude's helmet with a violent hit at 5:51.
Athleticism: Noted above, but his lack of athletic tools will likely limit his ceiling or potential role. I don't see him as a guy that can play on the outside both because he doesn't have the athletic tools and lacks great size.
Size: He's not tiny, but he's not big enough to overcome his lack of high end athletic tools.
Xavier Lewis is commonly the type of player I don't love. As you've all come to expect, I'm a big fan of the top tier athletes... guys like Beckham and Peterson. Especially at defensive back, where athletic tools are really essential to a player's success. It's rare you find a guy that can't really run that can play the position at the high level. Xavier Lewis can't really run. I will give him the benefit of saying he looks faster and quicker on tape than he tests.
Yet, there's something intangible I love about his game. The kid competes. Check him out at The Opening, against all those dudes that are bigger and faster than him. You don't think he had a point to prove? This guy just loves to ball. I hate saying, "he's a football player" but there's something very natural about the way he plays the game. It just comes to him. He finds the football and when he does, he finds it with purpose.
I do think his physical tools will limit him. Unless he majorly improves in that area, or the testing times don't accurately represent his athleticism, I think he's destined to wind up as a safety. But I think that's a spot he can thrive in. I like the idea of him putting the parts in motion, reading the field and making plays. That's a role he will absolutely excel in.
High End: Starter at Safety. Solid gel guy and defensive leader, a la Brandon Taylor with less athletic ability.
Low End: Role player and part-time contributor. Or transfer out due to depth.
Realistic: I think there's a real spot for him in our defense. He's not going to be the best player on the field. He won't be a top draft pick. But he'll be a guy that makes plays and keeps the unit together. There's a ton to like about Xavier Lewis. Don't be surprised if he takes the field in 2015 and only builds from there.