Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NFL Draft Preview

It's NFL Draft time and once again, and LSU will be very prominent on Draft weekend. LSU has a whole lot of people that may get drafted, but I only see 3 that I would say will definitely get selected. The LSU record for most players drafted in one year is 7, which has happened 3 times since 2004. I'll go over each guy and give you a quick rundown on where I think each will be picked.

LSU has had at least one first round draft pick in each of the last 5 years. Here are LSU's 1st rounders during that span:

2004 - Michael Clayton Pick #15 Tampa Bay
2005 - Marcus Spears Pick #20 Dallas
2006 - Joseph Addai Pick #30 Indianapolis
2007 - Jamarcus Russell #1 Oakland, Laron Landry #6 Washington, Dwayne Bowe #23 Kansas City, Craig Davis #30 San Diego
2008 - Glenn Dorsey Pick #5 Kansas City

LSU has the second longest streak of consecutive #1s in college football. Miami leads the way, although it looks like their streak will come to an end this year. Will LSU's streak continue? It certainly looks that way. Does a streak like this mean a lot? Not really. But it's a valuable tidbit that the coaching staff can use on the recruiting trail. Every recruit wants to eventually play in the NFL, and something like this indicates that LSU can be a good path to the league.

DE Tyson Jackson has been a 3 year starter at LSU and has found his way onto some All-SEC teams. Outstanding against the run and at times a force rushing the passer, Jackson finds himself shooting up the draft charts. After the season, most considered Jackson to be a marginal first round prospect, but now most most drafts have him going anywhere from #3 to #12 overall. At this point, I'd be downright shocked if Jackson didn't go in the first round. Jackson has found himself a hot prospect because he's a bit of a niche player for the NFL. With great size at 6'5" 290 pounds, he's got the prototypical, and very rare, size as a defensive end to play in a 3-4 defense. For teams that run a 3-4, a guy like Jackson is very valuable and hard to pass up. Not many guys exist with his skillset. Do I see Jackson as a Mario Williams or Julius Peppers sack machine in the NFL? No. Not at all. But I think he can be a multi-year starter in the right system, and he should make himself a lot of money.
Prediction: First half of 1st round

LB Darry Beckwith had a very solid showing at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, and at LSU's Pro Day. He has helped himself after a sub-par senior season at LSU. To Beckwith's credit, he has battled injuries his last two seasons in college, and he seems to be healthy right now. To me, he always looked more effective as an outside linebacker, but he was switched to middle linebacker after his sophomore season. To my surprise, the NFL wants him to play in the middle. Beckwith has been projected anywhere from the 2nd round to the 5th round. Odds are, he'll fall somewhere in between there. It's also interesting to note that LSU has only had 1 LB selected in the draft since 1990, and that was Bradie James in 2003. Beckwith looks like he'll change that this year. I think Beckwith is certainly a guy that can make an NFL roster and have a solid career.
Prediction: 3rd round

OL Herman Johnson was thought to be one of the top offensive linemen in this entire draft after the season. However, Johnson had a poor showing at the Senior Bowl where he showed up overweight. The coaches there also had Johnson playing right tackle, when his most effective position is at offensive guard. His stock dropped dramatically after that. For LSU's Pro Day, he shed the extra pounds and had a very nice performance. His projection has held pretty steady as a 3rd or 4th rounder recently. Like Jackson and Beckwith, Johnson was a 3-year starter for LSU.
Prediction: 4th round

FB Quinn Johnson spent the season demolishing linebackers while clearing the way for a sensation season for Charles Scott. He is the prototypical NFL fullback, and he has held steady as the #1 fullback in the draft. Fullbacks generally don't get drafted high. But the first NFL team that decides they're ready to address their need at fullback will take Johnson, and he'll probably play in the NFL a very long time. I don't think Johnson will get picked high, but I do think he'll get picked somewhere.
Prediction: 6th round

DT Ricky Jean-Francois is as talented as anyone LSU has in the draft. But a very disappointing 2008 season and ho-hum workouts for the NFL scouts has dropped his stock quite a bit. He's now considered a late round pick at best. Jean-Francois suffered, as did all of LSU's defensive linemen, from substandard coaching last year. He probably would have benefited a LOT by coming back to school for his senior year and made himself a lot of money. However, Ricky and schoolwork apparently didn't get along too well, and I'm not sure he even had a choice. NFL Scouts do recognize his talent, and he'll likely get selected somewhere in this draft. But I don't think it will be as high as he had hoped.
Prediction: 6th round

S Curtis Taylor is yet another defensive player who had a good 2007 season but struggled mightily in 2008. Taylor's reputation was that of a big, hard-hitting safety who had some deficiencies in coverage. At LSU Pro Day, Taylor run a sub 4.5 in the 40 and erased some of the concerns about his speed. Taylor is a late round pick at best, but he has a chance to have his name called too.
Prediction: 7th Round

WR Demetrius Byrd was likely going to get selected in the mid to late rounds of the NFL draft. Byrd has elite speed, and some NFL team will take a chance on him because of that. Unfortunately, Byrd was involved in a serious car accident on Sunday and he's in pretty serious condition. His status has been pretty tight lipped, but some reports have leaked out that he's not doing that good. Obviously, those who represent Byrd don't want word to leak out that he may be injured as they head to draft weekend. Regardless, the uncertainty around his situation probably means that Byrd won't get drafted. I'll admit that I was pretty ticked off at Byrd for most of his senior season. I thought he gave a pretty half-assed effort once the season turned south. I didn't think he hustled, and he dropped way too many balls. But Byrd had SO many big catches in 2007 for LSU that it's hard not to root for the guy to be successful. I hate that this happened to him right before the draft, and I hope that he is OK and can have a successful career.
Prediction: Undrafted

DE Kirston Pittman was another defensive lineman that struggled for LSU in 2008 after a very good 2007 season. I was very surprised when Kirston Pittman did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine. Therefore, Pittman knew he had to really impress at LSU's Pro Day. He did just that. He was LSU's most impressive player that day, and he made himself known. After that, he has a chance to get drafted now. I don't think it's likely, but Pittman may get his name called in the 6th or 7th round.
Prediction: Undrafted

C Bret Helms was a 3-year starter for LSU and maybe the most valuable guy on the offensive line. Helms is very light for an offensive lineman, especially one trying to play in the NFL. He hovered around 280 pounds his whole career. Helms proved his worth with outstanding technique and a fiery attitude. He was also very adept at making all the calls at the line and pointing out the defensive alignment. I can see Helms as being a backup interior offensive lineman in the NFL, but I'm not sure an NFL team is going to take a chance on him because of his lack of size.
Prediction: Undrafted.

DT Marlon Favorite & K Colt David are practically locks to go undrafted, but they'll likely sign free agent deals and try to win a spot on an NFL team.


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