LSU was a talented football team this year, of that there’s no doubt — one that could break the school record with as many as 10 selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, which will begin with the first round on Thursday. But what sets this class apart isn’t just a glut of front-line talent; the Tigers have that with Jamal Adams and Leonard Fournette for sure; but what sets this group apart is the number of players that could easily dot rounds four through seven. We’ll look at that group here:
Position: defensive line
6-3 ¼, 301
Rated No. 16 defensive tackle by SB Nation’s Dan Kadar, No. 21 by ESPN
Godchaux’s value is kinda all over the map, from the middle rounds to undrafted. He’s a solid athlete for his size, and comfortable in a number of schemes, but he doesn’t wow you in any one area. Nor was he extremely productive in his time at LSU. That versatility is probably his biggest plus — he’s comfortable playing two gaps or shooting one, meaning he could fit 30- or 40-front defenses.
6-0 ⅜, 230
Rated No. 12 by Kadar, No. 6 inside linebacker by ESPN’s Todd McShay
One of the best things to happen to Duke Riley was for Deion Jones to have a breakout rookie year for the Atlanta Falcons. Riley has a near-identical profile: undersized, but fast and athletic, and a player that struggled to stay on the field consistently before a breakout senior season. Riley’s best fit is also in a similar role to Jones, on the weak side in a 4-3, where he can play in space and run plays down. His speed could also really work in the middle of a Tampa-2 style of 4-3, where he could drift down the middle of the field in coverage. He excelled in a 3-4 inside role this season, but his lack of size might be a problem in the NFL.
Position: inside linebacker
6-2 ¼, 245
Rated No. 10 linebacker by Kadar, No. 6 inside linebacker by McShay
After Adams and Fournette, Kendell Beckwith could easily be the Tiger to have the greatest impact as a rookie. He was a near-lock second-rounder, possibly a first-rounder before a season-ending knee injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season for LSU. Beckwith is a classic 4-3 “mike” linebacker, that also fit in really well in Dave Aranda’s 3-4 as an inside guy. He has the size to stack-and-shed against the inside run and the speed to make tackles in the C-gap. His rehab should finish up early in training camp, and he should be good to go for the regular season. His inability to test during the draft process hurt because teams probably had a few questions about his overall athletic ability. But he should step in quickly for any team with a hole at the linebacker position (HAI NEW ORLEANS).
Position: wide receiver
6-2 ½, 192
Rated No. 22 by Kadar
A crown-jewel recruit out of high school, Dupre was one of the poster children for LSU’s struggles in the passing game in recent years. But I think that scouts will see that he bears some weight of that criticism himself when they look at the tape. Dupre is a spectacular athlete that tests well, but it didn’t always show up in his play. He struggled against physical coverage, and most disturbingly, was never great at playing the ball in the air, despite having long arms and a strong vertical leap. But with a very thin receiver crop this year, some team will almost bet on itself to get the most out of Dupre’s athletic tools.
Position: wide receiver
6-0 ¾, 199
Rated No. 20 by Kadar
Sadly, the torn hamstring he suffered as a junior robbed Dural of his best attribute — his speed. While he did work to become a much more well-rounded route-runner, and a more consistent target overall as a senior, the 4.57 he ran at the NFL Combine and LSU’s pro day was devastating to his draft chances. He doesn’t have elite size or speed, and while he’s polished, he doesn’t have the amazing production to back it up. Without that speed, he may not have a lot of appeal.
Position: linebacker/defensive end
6-4 ½, 250
Rated 22nd defensive end by ESPN
Bower closed out his senior year with a handful of strong performances, and was a surprise invite to the NFL Combine, where he put up relatively decent workout numbers. Bower struggled with injuries and consistency for much of his NFL career, but he adapted well to outside linebacker, and could maybe fit in for a 3-4 team as a strong-side outside linebacker, where he can set the edge in the running game and rush the passer. If he is drafted it’ll be in the sixth or seventh round, but don’t be surprised if Bower’s name is called this week.
Lewis Neal will be a successful professional, even if it's never on the football field. His workout numbers were surprising, but he’s kind of a man without a country in the NFL. Not really athletic enough for linebacker, but too small for the line. He’ll land a free agent deal and wind up in a training camp at a minimum.
Thomas showed a lot of playmaking ability as a sub-package corner and safety over the years, and the latter is likely his future in the sport. He lacks the raw speed for cornerback and isn’t quite as athletic as most teams will want for a safety, but he’ll definitely get some phone calls and be a difficult training camp cut for his special teams work.
If Jeter finds a team that’s looking for a pure blocking tight end, he may have a shot. Big target, with decent speed for his size, but not a particularly dynamic athlete.
Here’s the sleeper pick — conditioning/weight was an issue for Boutte at LSU, but when he was good, he could be a dominant run-blocking guard. Don’t be surprised if some NFL offensive line coach falls in love with his talent and lobbies for him to sneak into the last round of the draft.
Other players to watch as undrafted free agents: Rickey Jefferson and DeSean Smith