I was feeling nostalgic so I decided to make a starting 22 of former Tigers. I’m going with 11 personnel on offense (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers) and on defense it’s a 4-2-5. Instead of a Sam linebacker, I’m using a nickel and the reason will become obvious.
It’s not surprising that we see #7 and #18 three times each.
He’s the only quarterback we got on an active roster. It may look like this is an outcome of having mediocre to bad quarterbacks over the last decade but with only ~64 quarterbacks on active rosters there isn’t a lot of spots available. If you could roster even four quarterbacks, Zach Mettenberger would be on a roster for sure. I could see Joe Burrow making a roster in 2020 in the same way that Etling in 2018 did. Burrow is probably better than Danny.
The starter is Leonard Fournette because, although he hasn’t lived up to the hype, the athletic ability is still incredible. Put him in a better situation than where he is dealing with a lighter workload and, more importantly, lighter boxes and maybe we finally see the real Fournette.
Backing him up is kinda obviously Derrius Guice but because Guice has yet to play a down in the NFL, I’ll give some love to Stevan Ridley who, even at running back, is still in the league all these years later. He probably won’t hit the heights he did with New England as a young man again but he did play in 10 games this past season with Pittsburgh. Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware have also carved out nice careers in the league.
There are no LSU tight ends on any active rosters so we’ll have to go with Foster Moreau who was just drafted by Oakland. One of the most underutilized players in recent LSU history, Foster could find his way into a nice NFL career being a stout run blocker and finally having a someone throw him the football. He looked great in the Senior Bowl, operating in a pseudo NFL offense.
Colin Jeter and Brian Bridgewater (of LSU basketball fame?) have recently been at least on a practice squad in the last 2 years.
The first two are painfully obvious. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry being on the same team again brought a tremendous amount of joy to my heart when Dave Gettleman did a Gettleman and traded his star receiver to the Browns before the draft. OBJ is one of the top 5 or 10 receivers in the league, a truly remarkable catcher of the football, one of the most explosive slant runners in the league and his YAC ability is amazing as well. Landry has taken an interesting path, however. In 2017 he was the only player in NFL history to catch over 100 balls and not hit 1000 yards. With a real quarterback in 2018, his yards per catch went up 4 yards. His average depth of target went up in 2018 to 11.9 from a useless 6.4 yards in 2017.
Picking the third receiver is fun. You could go with one of the younger guys who have the chance to break out like DJ Chark or Russell Gage or one of the older vets that have stuck around for a while in the NFL like Russell Shepard or Brandon Lafell. If we were really picking a team, it would probably have to be Chark but I’m going with Shepard because looking back he was another all-timer of an underutilized player who has now played in 84 games in his pro career. A true disappointment at LSU considering his recruiting ranking, he never worked out as a quarterback but has used his athletic ability to make some money for himself. Honestly, good for him.
Not many better escorts for a RB into the end zone than Andrew Whitworth: pic.twitter.com/rTW0HIPYok— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 13, 2018
Starting from the inside out at center, the choice is between Ethan Pocic and Will Clapp. Pocic has actually played, albeit not great, for the Seahawks while Clapp has not really gotten many snaps for the Saints so far. The Saints even went out of their way to trade up and draft a center a few weeks ago so Pocic is the selection here.
We only have 1 true guard, Trai Turner, but he’s been a mainstay on the line for Carolina for a few years now. This means someone will have to play out of position. The effervescent Andrew Whitworth is a future hall of famer so he gets to stick to his true position of tackle. La’el Collins will probably play a lot of years in the NFL so it would be tough to kick him inside. That really leaves just Clapp or one of the more underrated players that have come out of LSU in Joe Barksdale. He was a legit starting tackle for a few years in San Diego. He’ll slide into guard though you could probably get away with flipping him and Collins.
It’s crazy to me that the first player on the team sheet at defensive line is Danielle Hunter. He has been a wrecking ball for Minnesota and you could not have told me that when he was coming out in 2014. He has 40 sacks already in his career including 14.5 last season. Incredible.
On the other side, I’m going to go with Arden Key for the upside over the vet Michael Brockers. Key played in every game last season and started 10 of them so the future is bright for a guy who I think will become the Key we saw in 2016 when he terrorized the SEC. I know Brockers is really good but, via recency bias, I’m going with Key. Really, the answer here is Brockers but I’m truly biased.
You could slide Brockers inside but there’s still so many other players to choose from here. Unfortunately, the magisterial Kyle Williams can’t make the team due to his post 2018 retirement. I think Davon Godchaux can be a pretty good interior player in the NFL so he’s my pick at one spot while Bennie Logan slots in next to him
There are enough good players that I don’t have to put Devin White here but if I did this exercise again next year, there’s a chance he would be a starter already. I’m going with Deion Jones as my first pick at the position. He is the prototype for the new inside linebacker. Insane athleticism, ability to cover, all that good stuff. At the other spot, you hope Duke Riley’s 2018 season was just a blip and not the beginning of a downward trend as he was benched pretty early in Atlanta’s campaign. I’m pulling for Riley (but not the Falcons). Kwon Alexadner has to be the other pick then. He just signed a big money contract with San Fran after playing his first four years in Tampa. He’s probably a little overrated but he’s pretty solid.
The fun begins here. There are some very obvious choices here. The most obvious one is at one of the cornerback spots. Patrick Peterson was one of the best LSU players of the past 100 years and is now one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. 8 straight Pro Bowls. There is some competition at the other cornerback spot with both Tre White and Donte Jackson having solid starts to their careers in Buffalo and Carolina, respectively. You can even go with Mo Claiborne, who, while not ever being worth the high draft pick he was taken with, still finds himself starting in the league all these years later. I’ll take White for now but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jackson was a really good player in the NFL for a long time.
At safety there is another obvious choice. Jamal Adams is already a superstar. He does it all. Sacks, tackles for loss, picks, pass breakups. Plays everywhere. Talks shit. Everything you want. I’m gonna take Eric Reid at the other safety spot because it will allow for some scheme flexibility as they can both play in different ways, be it in the post or in the box.
The 3rd very obvious choice is at nickel. He’s the most electrifying player I’ve ever seen wear the purple and gold. He could have been a terrible NFL player and I’d still start him on my team any day. Tyrann Mathieu is the glue that holds this whole damn thing together. Truly incredible football player.
Let me know in the comments Who the guys that I left out that you would want on your starting lineup?