As part of Hogs Haven’s pre-draft coverage, I am going to preview one team per week throughout the college football season, and it doesn’t get any bigger than when #2 Alabama hosts #1 ranked LSU this weekend.
LSU is primarily known for producing NFL-ready defensive backs, but since they are recruiting among the best in the nation, they always seem to have draft prospects playing at positions all over the field.
Somewhat strangely, they only had three players drafted in 2019 after averaging seven from 2013-2018.
Since 2012, only Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson have produced more than LSU’s nine first round draft picks (tied with Florida and FSU).
In preparation for this weekend’s game, I watched LSU play Texas, Florida, and Auburn.
There has been a lot of talk that by losing just 23-20 in Baton Rouge, Auburn may have provided a blueprint for how to defend the LSU offense. Playing at home, LSU was tied 10-10 at the half, and down 13-10 in Q3.
POTENTIAL FIRST ROUND PROSPECTS
#9 Joe Burrow (rSr.) QB 6-4 216.
After nine weeks of the college football season, Burrow leads the nation in completion percentage (78.8%), and ranks in the top three in all the major passing categories. Through LSU’s eight games, he has thrown for 2,805 yards, with 30 touchdowns vs just four interceptions, and is averaging 10.8 yards per attempt.
A 4-star prospect who spent three years as a backup for the Buckeyes, Burrow originally enrolled at Ohio State and many who cover the Buckeyes say that he was a strong candidate to start in 2018, but that Dwayne Haskins was just better.
After it was announced Haskins would be the starter, Burrow became a graduate transfer to LSU in May of 2018. Read more here.
In his career, he has appeared in 31 games with 21 starts, and was named a permanent team captain following the 2018 regular season.
Burrow comes from a football family. His father Jimmy Burrow was the defensive coordinator at Ohio University from 2005 until his retirement after the 2018 season, and older brothers Jamie and Dan both played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Against the Gators, Burrow completed 15 of 16 to start the game, and did not shy away from the Gators’ potential Round 1 corner, CJ Henderson who allowed 6-of-9 targets for 106 yards and two scores.
Thought of as more of a day-3 prospect by most draft analysts’, his performance this year has lead many to wonder if he has overtaken Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa as the top QB potentially available. Recently, Pro Football Focus mocked him #1 overall.
For more on Burrow’s meteoric rise, read Matt Miller’s Scouting Notebook: Joe Burrow’s Rise Has NFL Teams Excited.
I am not quite there yet. How much of his success can be attributed to Joe Brady, LSU’s co-offensive coordinator came from the Saints, and is certain to be a hot coaching commodity this off-season. While Burrow’s season has been Heisman worthy, is it really better than what Haskins did at Ohio State last season?
Burrow has very solid, but not elite tools for an NFL QB prospect. He has good size, a good but not great arm and only average athleticism. I currently view him as more of a late Rd 1 early similar to Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr.
While some are concerned that he is a one year wonder, he started to call his own audibles at the LOS in the later stages of the 2018 season, and his emergence really started the week after last season’s 29-0 loss to Alabama.
This weekend’s game will he huge for his draft stock.
#7 Grant Delpit (Jr.) Safety 6-3 203.
All-American safety, Delpit hasn’t participated in practices since injuring his ankle late in the 23-20 win in the Auburn game, but with two weeks off, he expected to play against Alabama.
Going into the Alabama game, he has appeared in 26 games with 23 starts. He was named a permanent team captain following the 2018 season and given the famous #7 jersey, previously held by other LSU greats Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
For the season, he has 43 tackles, five passes defended, one interception.
In the Auburn game, he made a great touchdown saving play, by knocking the runner out of bounds on what would have been a 70 yard touchdown run. Against Florida, he had many snaps lined up over the Gators’ top offensive weapon, TE Kyle Pitts.
Similar to Derwin James, Delpit is somewhat high cut, with a thin and narrow build. Also similar to James, he’s a high impact player no matter where he’s lined up.
A likely top 20 pick, Delpit is extremely versatile, with experience at SS, FS, over the slot, and as an overhanging OLB position.
#4 K’Lavon Chaisson (rSo.) OLB 6-4 238.
A 5-star recruit by Scout, and 4-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals, Chaisson came to Baton Rouge with a lot of fanfare, then gave LSU fans a taste of his potential in 2017, recording 27 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks as a true freshman behind current Oakland Raider Arden Key.
With LSU losing Key to the NFL, much was expected of Chaisson going into 2018, but he suffered a season ending torn left ACL in the season opening game against Miami on September 2, 2018.
With just starts going into the 2019 season, I was a big fan of Chaisson since his true freshman season, when he had to fill in for the injured/suspended/ Key, and penciled him in as a potential Rd 1 pick.
K’Lavon Chaisson is a guy with the chance to ROCKET up boards.— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) May 31, 2019
- Promising true freshman campaign.
- Expected by many within the organization to set the LSU sack record last year.
- Looks healthy after a torn knee held him to just 1 game a season ago. pic.twitter.com/S8CjDf36iq
Chaisson might have had his best game of his career in LSU’s 42-28 win over Florida, finishing with eight total tackles, including three tackles for loss with one sack. On the games final play, he made the fourth down tackle of Florida QB Trask, with the Gators on LSU’s 2-yard line.
Against Auburn, he repeatedly beat LT Prince Tega Wanogho with his first step, but often either ran too far upfield, or seemed to lack the skill to “finish”.
Both an explosive and flexible athlete, I consider him a first round talent, but he has not yet consistently played to that level during his LSU career. He may be a boom or bust type.
POSSIBLE DAY TWO (ROUNDS 2-3) PROSPECTS
#1 Kristian Fulton (Sr.) CB 6-0 192.
Fulton has experience at both the boundary and field CB positions as well as in the slot. While those in the draft community were singing the praises of Greedy Williams, LSU fans were saying Fulton was better. After starting the first ten games of 2018, he suffered a left ankle injury on November 10, 2018 that resulted in season ending surgery. Technically eligible for the 2019 draft, the injury would have limited his ability to prepare for post-season workouts.
After seeing the field sparingly as a freshman, waiting his time and learning behind veteran corners Tre’Davious White, Donte Jackson, and Kevin Toliver II, Fulton missed the 2017 season due to an NCAA suspension for attempting to cheat on a drug test (he was found to have used another persons urine sample). While a failed drug test is penalized with a one year suspension, cheating on a drug test results in a two year ban. Fulton was reinstated in August of 2018 after a successful appeal and after serving a one year ban.
Opponents completed just 41.5 percent of passes they threw at Fulton in 2018, and he graded out as the SEC’s second-best corner behind DeAndre Baker.
Kristian Fulton narrowly beat out Shyheim Carter as the highest-graded returning CB in the SEC. pic.twitter.com/6fzbICQrkh— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 8, 2019
This season, there have been some bumps in the road against Texas, Florida, and Auburn receivers, but he has mostly played like a day two prospect.
Fulton has missed a bunch of games for various reasons but I don’t think there are as many red flags as you might expect.
#90 Rashard Lawrence (Sr.) DE 6-3 317.
Lawrence came to Baton Rouge as a 5-star recruit according to 247Sports and Scout, and broke out as a sophomore in 2017.
He capped off the 2018 season with a dominating performance in LSU’s win over UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. He had five tackles, including 4.0 tackles for loss, with a pair of sacks, while earning Defensive Player of the Game honors.
After he was named a permanent team captain for the Tigers in both 2017 and 2018 seasons, Lawrence surprised some when he elected to return to LSU for his final season.
Battle-tested, during his LSU career, Lawrence has faced off against some of the nation’s top offensive tackles, including Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, as well as 2019 draft picks Jonah Williams, Greg Little, and Jawaan Taylor.
A similar player to former LSU Tiger Davon Godchaux, Lawrence looks like a likely day two prospect, with what draft analyst Fran Duffy describes as a 1-gap body with 2-gap quickness.
#3 JaCoby Stevens (Jr.) Safety 6-2 225.
A lesser version of Delpit, Stevens is a good player in his own right. 247Sports’ top safety prospect for the Class of 2017, he split time between wide receiver and safety in his first season, before settling in at safety, and starting final four games in 2018.
He had a big game against Auburn.
Somewhat of a hybrid, Stevens plays like a poor-man’s Landon Collins. With a linebacker’s build, he is very physical but can occasionally be a liability in coverage.
#2 Justin Jefferson (Jr.) WR 6-2 185.
This season, LSU has it’s best WR group since Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and with Burrow leading the offense to new heights, Jefferson’s game has taken off.
His breakout game came in LSU’s week two win over Texas.
Justin Jefferson had a special performance for LSU in a huge road win against Texas. pic.twitter.com/Mb769BRUag— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 12, 2019
He is currently tied for the Southeastern Conference lead in catches per game with South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards, averaging 6.9, and is second behind his teammate Ja’Marr Chase in yards per game.
Jefferson has experience lined up in all three WR positions. He has a tall, lean frame, with long arms and is a good athlete.
Has NFL bloodlines. His brother, Jordan was the Tigers’ starting quarterback when LSU beat Alabama in 2011 and older brother Rickey played DB from 2013-2016 and is currently on the New Orleans Saints roster.
#77 Saahdiq Charles (Jr.) LT 6-5 305.
Charles came to Baton Rouge as a 4-star recruit according to Rivals and Scout and became an immediate starter. Going into the Alabama game, he has 24 starts. As a true freshman, he started in LSU’s opener at LG, and received one start at RT, but has primarily been LSU’s LT the past three seasons. (He has missed games at various points this year due to “coach’s decisions”).
Probably LSU’s best offensive line prospect since La’el Collins, Charles has excellent size for the position including good arm length. Few teams have overhauled their offense as much as LSU over the past three seasons, and Charles has adjusted well to multiple schemes/coordinators. This may seem high for him at this point, but he could be a riser throughout the process.
LIKELY DAY THREE (ROUNDS 4-7) PROSPECTS
#5 Kary Vincent Jr. (Jr.) CB 5-10 185.
LSU’s primary nickel corner, Vincent sees a lot of snaps against passing teams.
A track star, who was the nations top-ranked 200-meter sprinter from the high school ranks in the class of 2017, Vincent runs on the LSU track team and reportedly runs a 4.38 second 40-yard dash. A contender for the 2020 NFL Combine’s fastest man.
Has football bloodlines. Father Kary Vincent Sr. was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 6th round of the 1992 NFL Draft.
#22 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Jr.) RB 5-8, 211.
While not getting the volume we have come to expect from the LSU running back position, CEH has quietly had a very good season (683 yards and eight touchdowns on 115 carries through eight games).
Leave it to Forbes to explain why Edwards-Helaire was LSU’s most valuable player in the Auburn game. Down 13-10 late in the 3rd quarter, Edwards-Helaire ran the ball on four straight plays for 45 yards and a touchdown. He ended the game with 26 carries, nearly doubling his season-high.
However, this wasn’t his first big game, as CEH rattled off 134 yards on just 13 carries against the Gators, scoring two touchdowns. He rushed for a career-best 145 yards in win over then second-ranked Georgia in 2018.
Additionally, he entered the 2019 season as Pro Football Focus’ top graded returning player on LSU’s offense. Per PFF, he forced 33 missed tackles and averaged 3.24 yards after contact per carry on 147 attempts in 2018.
Regarded as the No. 5 running back in Scout’s 2017 composite rankings, not every recruiting service was on board with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and that still appears to be the case.
In what appears to be a deep running back class, don’t sleep on Edwards-Helarie, who could be a day two pick if he continues to perform at a high level against top-competition.
#79 Lloyd Cushenberry (rJr.) Center 6-3, 312.
Just a 2-star HS recruit, Cushenberry is manning LSU’s starting center position for the second straight year, and entered the 2019 season as one of the top ranked centers in the country.
Lloyd Cushenberry excelled in pass-blocking for LSU last season. pic.twitter.com/NLB4aNAz69— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 23, 2019
Over the summer, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked Cushenberry as his third rated center prospect. Brugler explains “Cushenberry needs to tidy up his discipline, especially at the point-of-attack, and stay within himself, controlling his eagerness to make plays. However, he checks a lot of boxes for the next level with his movement skills, raw strength and pedigree. At his current trajectory, Cushenberry will soon be starting in the NFL.”
This season, Cushenberry has continued to be a bulldozer in the running game and a stonewall in pass protection.
#45 Michael Divinity Jr. (Sr.) ILB/OLB 6-2 238.
In the days leading up the the Alabama game, Michael Divinity has left the team “for personal reasons”. While he and his coaches left the door open for him to return, for now it looks as if his LSU career will come to an end.
View this post on Instagram
I am taking some time off to focus on a personal matter and just wanted to say thank you to my coaches, teammates, and the entire LSU community for your continued help and support. I am sorry I can't be on the field for you guys. My goal is to get myself back to 100% in time to graduate in December and be back on the field fighting with my brothers soon. This is an incredibly difficult time for me, and it means so much to me that so many people have reached out--knowing you all have my back will make the next short while a lot easier. Thank you all. I got this, I promise you.
Once rated by 247Sports as a 5-star prospect and the No. 18 player in the country, Divinity has 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss over his four seasons.
On the Journey to the Draft Podcast, Tony Pauline said that he views Divinity as an average size/speed athlete, and does not expect him to be drafted. Pauline also says that it was difficult to get him on the field, with LSU playing a lot of nickel and dime packages, with safeties Grant Delpit and JaCoby Stevens as outside linebackers.
I tend to disagree. Divinity has 16 career starts, and was leading the team with three sacks this season, after being their primary edge rusher in 2018 (5 sacks) after Chaisson’s season-ending injury last year.
With Chaisson’s healthy return, Divinity was moved to the inside to replace Devin White during the off-season, but still used as a pass-rusher off the edge and on stunts. Divinity has been described as one of the smarter players and most vocal leaders, but has had multiple discipline issues.
While he brings both scheme and positional versatility, Divinity is not an elite athlete, and I gave him a 4th round grade over the summer. If teams are comfortable with his character after leaving the team just day’s before LSU’s biggest game, I could still see teams drafting him around the 4th or 5th round.
#8 Patrick Queen (Jr.) LB 6-2 232 and #6 Jacob Phillips (Jr.) LB 6-4 229.
With Jacob Phillips and Queen playing well as off the ball linebackers, the loss of Divinity as a pass rusher will be felt more than losing him at ILB.
Phillips leads the team in both total tackles (64) and solo tackles (31). He has 1 sack and 1 PBU. Queen is a distant 4th on the team in tackles (36) and solor (16).
Phillips won the starting job over Queen to start the season beside Divinity, but they appear to be pretty interchangeable in LSU’s scheme. Each are juniors with another season of eligibility remaining. I think Queen is a little faster, but neither are in the Deion Jones level in terms of speed, and playmaking ability.
#73 Adrian Magee (rSr.) G/T 6-4 343.
According to Pro Football Focus, Magree has graded out as LSU’s top offensive lineman this season.
Versatile, with starting experience at RT, LT and OG, to me Magree entered 2019 with only five career starts. He doesn’t appear to me to be as good of an NFL prospect as LT Saahdiq Charles, but he too has adjusted well to LSU’s change from being one of college football’s most run-heavy offenses to being one of the nation’s top passing attacks.
A massive human being, Magee will flash good lateral agility, but may have to play inside in the pros, and perhaps in a back-up role.