Between baseball, spring practice and some other things going on, we just haven't had much draft coverage here to date. But with the selection meeting coming this Thursday, it's time to get up on the horse.
The fact that LSU will likely have a fairly small class of players is a factor, although that's unfair to a number of players in this class that played a lot of football here, some of which project very well at the NFL level, even if they aren't rated as first-round picks.
This will likely be the smallest draft class LSU has had since the 2010 group, which featured Brandon LaFell, Perry Riley, Trindon Holliday and Charles Scott. I remember a noticeable "the NFL knows LSU just doesn't develop players" which seems so silly in hindsight, given that some 20 players were drafted out of the program over the three successive drafts. But the sports media is nothing if not reactionary.
But none of this matters to this current group of Tigers, all of whom will be hoping to hear their names called over the coming days. Here's a breakdown of their prospects and their skills, starting with the members of the Tiger offense.
Weight: 325 pounds
Arm Length: 33.5 inches
Hand Size: 10.125 inches
40 time: 5.57 seconds
Bench press: 25 reps (of 225 pounds)
20-yard shuttle time: 4.9 seconds
3-cone drill time: 8.04 seconds
Broad jump: 95 inches
Started some 46 games in four years for LSU, earning Freshman All-America honors as a right tackle and All-SEC recognition as a guard...a vocal leader who was one of the central voices in the LSU locker room and handled himself well with media...has dropped a significant amount of weight over his career, including quite a bit in the draft process -- he is believed to be a good 10 or 15 pounds lighter than his listed weight...as a player, Alexander was a big, powerful run blocker with heavy hands...excelled at controlling defenders once he got his hands on them...but footspeed is a concern for Alexander, both in terms of making second-level and down-field blocks, and in staying with speed-rushers in pass protection...likely a guard in the NFL, although his experience at both positions has some value and could be useful in a pinch for his team...Alexander is also very professional in his approach, and should adapt well to the NFL lifestyle -- his interviews have drawn strong reviews as well in the scouting media.
Alexander could project anywhere from the late second to the fourth round, but I would expect him to hear his name called on Friday. And while he may never make the Pro Bowl, he fits the profile of a solid, long-term professional if he can stay healthy.
Weight: 305 pounds
Arm Length: 34.25 inches
Hand Size: 9.625 inches
40 time: 5.23 seconds
Bench press: 23 reps
20-yard shuttle time: 4.89 seconds
3-cone drill time: 8.19 seconds
Broad jump: 100 inches
Hawkins was a three-year starter at right and left tackle for LSU, despite arriving to the program as a raw defensive end who never played the position...decided to forego his senior season after a good, but not quite dominant junior season on the left side...Hawkins definitely looks the part of an NFL tackle, with a big, lean body and long arms...good upper body strength and punch in controlling defenders, with quick feet for pass protection and second-level movement in zone blocking...a little narrow in his base, which affects his core strength to anchor against the bull rush, and led to him wearing down at times against good defensive linemen...would need some development in the technique department, and may not be read to step in right away as a starter.
Hawkins is a little more of a project than his linemate, but likely has more upside. If he can continue to add strength and improve his technique, he could likely become a pretty good right tackle, although I would be a little reluctant to put him on a quarterback's blind side. Likely a middle-rounds pick, somewhere around the fourth or fifth round.
Big, powerful athlete who excelled as a run-blocking tight end, but may find his professional future along the offensive line. Gordon played tight end at 300 pounds or so, and rarely had much value as a pass-catcher, but more due to a lack of pure speed than anything else. Gordon always showed some ability to move well in space and big, soft hands that caught the ball well. Still, his future is probably more as a pure blocker. He won't be drafted after only recently entering the process following a denial of a hardship fifth year from the NCAA, but look for him to sign with a team and if he can recover from his injuries, make a practice squad. Where he develops from there will depend on how Gordon adapts and works toward a new position.
Ferguson was a remarkably consistent deep-snapper for all four of his seasons at LSU, but this is a position that rarely sees players drafted, and in general, has very few openings across the league -- once a team has one they like they tend to keep them around for a long time. He'll likely make an NFL camp but whether he makes a final roster will entirely depend on whether or not that team has an opening and what his competition will be in camp.
Keehn was a talented, but incredibly erratic punter at LSU or three years, and he'll likely need significant development to ever be successful at the NFL level. He's kind of an "eye of the beholder" type of prospect -- he'll need a special teams coach to really take a liking to him in a camp. He definitely won't be drafted, but should get some opportunities in tryout camps. Much like other former Tigers, Donnie Jones and Brad Wing, if he finds professional success it will come with a second team after the one that signs him. But Keehn does have the size and athletic ability to learn his trade at the NFL level, and he's an older, mature type that should adapt to the professional lifestyle well.