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LSU and The NFL Draft: The Studs

A look at the Tigers expected to be picked at the top of this year’s NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State Spring Game Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft will kick off on Thursday night with the first round playing out and the next two rounds coming on Friday.

It’s not unusual to see LSU well-represented in the league’s annual selection meeting, but this year may see the Tigers push for some program records, with some ten or so players well within range of hearing their names called.

At least three of those Tigers are likely to get picked on the first night, and four are mortal locks for those top-100 picks or so. We’ll focus on that breakdown, with more to come later in the week.

Jamal Adams

Position: safety
5-11 ¾, 212 pounds
Rated as No. 1 safety by SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah. Rated No. 2 by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock

Adams seems most likely to be the first Tiger off the board, somewhere in the top 10. He should be an elite box safety in the NFL; he has all the physical tools and showed tremendous instincts both in diagnosing plays in front of him and route concepts, but also in finding angles and getting to the ball as a play unfolds. He may not be quite the ballhawk that Ohio State’s Malik Hooker is, but he has a special ability to both play in space and clean up run plays in the alley. What’s more, he has a professional mindset and work ethic, and was an emotional leader for his football team.

Probable landing spots: Adams has been linked to almost every team, but there’s almost no chance he makes it through the middle of the top 10. He could easily go as high as third to the Chicago Bears, and there’s little to no chance he gets by the New York Jets at No. 7.

Leonard Fournette

Position: running back
6-0 ⅜, 230 pounds
Rated as No. 1 running back by Kiper and McShay, Mayock and Jeremiah and No. 2 by Kadar

Simply put, Leonard Fournette is one of the most complete running backs I have ever watched live and in person, and is absolutely the textbook feature back for an NFL offense. He has the one-cut explosiveness for zone running and the power for inside gap schemes as well, and he is a true every down back — dedicated and instinctive in blitz pickup, and with soft hands to catch the ball. Like Adams, Fournette was a heartbeat player for LSU, and somebody that has lived in the spotlight since early in his high school career. He should adapt to the pro ranks very quickly.

Probable landing spots: One of the best things that could have happened for Fournette was the success of Ezekiel Elliott with the Dallas Cowboys last season. The idea of a feature running back seems to be coming back in vogue for the league, and that should lead to Fournette going off the board early, even in a special class of running backs along with Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey. The landing spot that seems to make the most sense (and makes the Saints fan in me groan) is the Carolina Panthers, who need another stud to help take some pressure off of Cam Newton. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see somebody try to trade up to snatch Fournette before the No. 8 slot. Watch for the No. 5 pick, where its been reported that the Tennessee Titans want to trade down. Should Fournette make it out of the top 10, the hometown New Orleans Saints would be very, very stupid not to take him at 11.

**Note: it is entirely possible the Saints are that stupid.**

Tre’davious White

Position: cornerback
5-11, 193 pounds
Rated as No. 2 cornerback by Kiper and McShay, No. 3 by Jeremiah and No. 4 by Kadar

White has been a constant for the Tigers for most of his four-year career in Baton Rouge. He was never a superstar corner on the level that Tiger fans have become accustomed, but he was incredibly consistent at staying with receivers down the field, disrupting the catch and limiting big plays. He’s not the most physical, press-man cornerback, but he mirrors very well off the snap and can turn his hips quickly. He can also support the run well and looked great in some limited snaps at the nickel position early in 2016 (injuries forced the Tigers to keep him outside more often). He’s an inconsistent punt returner with questionable hands, but can be very explosive when he does catch the ball. Additionally, he’s a leader in the locker room and was awarded the coveted No. 18 jersey here as a junior and senior.

Probable landing spots: White isn’t necessarily a No. 1 corner at the next level, but he should be a quality piece for a number of secondaries due to his experience at nickel and even some safety in college. He’ll probably come off the board somewhere in the second half of the first round, which should work out well since on a good team he should have some help and won’t be asked to step in and cover an opponent’s top receiver right out the chute. Watch for the Saints here, especially if they hold on to the No. 32 pick and don’t trade for New England corner Malcolm Butler.

Ethan Pocic

Position: center/guard
6-6, 317 pounds
Rated as the No. 2 center by McShay and the No. 5 interior lineman by Mayock.

Pocic was kind of a jack of all trades at LSU; he didn’t really have the feet to play tackle, but excelled as a center and a guard, and one of those two spots will be his home in the NFL. He’s a smart, aggressive player with a powerful upper body that doesn’t loose many battles once he locks on to a defender. He is taller than average for the interior, and that height could cost him in the leverage department, especially against quicker players. Still, Pocic was strong on the move on pulls and screens, and was smart enough to handle the protection calls for the Tigers as well.

Probable landing spots: Pocic won’t be chosen in the first round, and may not be selected in the second either, but I wouldn’t expect him to get out of the third (or last long if he does). He should fit both zone- and gap-heavy blocking schemes, which should open him to any team that needs interior line help.