Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Draft Week - The Tigers

Here at GeauxTuscaloosa, we will do a little NFL Draft coverage, both from my perspective as a fan of LSU Football and as a fan of New Orleans Saints football.

Obviously, for LSU, the headliner is going to be Glenn Dorsey, who appears to be destined to be one of the first four players picked, and may be a target for teams trying to move up in the draft.

This is one of those years (much like last year, I suppose) where the top draft picks will be chosen more on need than on clear distinctions of talent. Last year, Jamarcus Russell was the #1 pick because the team holding the #1 wanted a quarterback and was enamored with him. This year, Dorsey could definitely be the #1 pick except that it looks like the Dolphins are looking at other positions, having flirted with OT Jake Long, QB Matt Ryan, and DE's Chris Long and Vernon Gholston in the media. Dorsey could easily be the #1 pick if the team holding the pick was looking for a DT for the 4-3 system. The Dolphins just appear to be looking elsewhere, but the Raiders and the Falcons at #4 and #3 look to be possibilities for Dorsey, and he almost certainly wouldn't fall below the Raiders at #4.

Of course, LSU will not be done once Dorsey is picked, but it does look like the initial post-season evaluations of other Tigers overestimated the value of players like Early Doucet and Ali Highsmith. January mock drafts had both of these players solidly in the first round, but they did not have great workouts and have slid down the draft board. Doucet is probably a late-second or early-third round pick as a slot receiver, and Highsmith will probably be picked somewhere in the middle rounds. Highsmith and Doucet are both gamers, and both very productive, and I think will play above their draft levels, but their workouts did not help them.

Jacob Hester may be the highest rated "fullback" in the draft, and I think he's the sort of guy who will never get a huge contract but will probably be in the NFL for a decade playing special teams, being a 3rd down back and/or blocking for someone else. I don't know what kind of draft value players like that have, but I expect him to get the call.

Chevis Jackson was a guy who a lot of people thought would be a first day pick, but a disappointing 40 time has put Chevis into the category of "zone corner", and those guys are a commodity in the NFL. Unfortunately being a "commodity" is not a particularly good thing. It means one zone corner is pretty much interchangeable with another, and few of them make a lot of money by NFL standards. He'll be drafted, probably in the middle rounds, but pure zone corners don't get drafted in the first round.

Craig Steltz is another guy who will probably hang around the league a long time, playing special teams and hopefully starting for someone at strong safety. I think he's a really safe pick in the middle rounds because, like Doucet and Hester, he's a gamer who knows how to play and knows how to produce. There's a spot for all of those guys in the NFL for a while.

Matt Flynn hopes to get drafted in the last two rounds. If he does, he will be in the NFL for a year or two while he tries to develop and improve enough to prove he can be a solid backup. I think he has the tools to do it and his workouts helped his cause. A regular feature in ESPN The Magazine follows Flynn, Andre Woodson, and JD Booty and evaluates the change in their respective draft stocks. Flynn has consistently rated as a draft-worthy quarterback, and I hope the NFL agrees. There are no guarantees though.

Other draft-eligible players are probably going to be looking for free agent contracts. Jonathan Zenon is a "speed" corner who just didn't show the speed in workouts. Given his lack of physicality as a corner, his mediocre speed probably puts him out of the draft. He will get a chance to make it as a free agent, but that's a pretty long road. Will Arnold certainly has draft-worthy talent, but his propensity for getting injured means no one will spend a draft pick on him either.

One interesting possibility is that some team will take a chance on former LSU running back Alley Broussard. Alley looked like a total stud and a sure-fire NFL prospect until his knee injury before the 2005 season. After that, he struggled with his conditioning and his confidence en route to also struggling with his production. He eventually transferred out of LSU and to a lower division, but is eligible for the NFL draft and worked out with LSU players for the scouts. He's clearly got the talent if his knee is 100%, but you wonder about his drive and his conditioning. I'm interested to see if he gets a sniff.

A former Tiger I actually really like as an NFL prospect who likely will not get drafted is OT Carnell Stewart. Yes, Stewart committed a lot of dumb penalties, and was sometimes abused in pass protection, but he was very inexperienced at the position. He was also a monster in run-blocking and very athletic for an offensive lineman. He's a guy who, I think, if he could get on a practice squad and develop for a year getting more coaching, he could turn into a real player.

Note: Several articles can be written about how LSU players have not tested as fast as expected. It appears that LSU just was not as fast of a team as a lot of people thought it was entering and playing last season. Our cornerbacks ran 4.6 40-times, and our best linebacker ran 4.8 and slower. Steltz ran solidly, but hardly spectacularly, and Doucet timed out pretty slow for a wide receiver. Though all of these guys were very good college football players, it is clear that the LSU football team just did not have the wealth of talent that people thought. We had a lot of very good, solid players, but we were not a team full of NFL first rounders like a lot of people thought. This helps explain the fact that we played a lot of zone coverage and did not blitz as much as people wanted. The coaches, shockingly, understood that we just weren't all that fast of a team, particularly on defense, and adjusted accordingly. Amazing how that happens.


Anonymous said...

fwiw, i'm a daily reader of your blog and think its value added for any tiger fan. insight wo bs, nice.

for this post i think your note is particularly accurate. coaches knew best, whoda thunk?

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute!! Saban's final LSU class is not stocked with first rounders? You mean Saban didn't leave Miles with the most talented team in America? How in the world have these players been the most productive in LSU history and even win a championship ring? Might it actually have something to do with the current coaching staff? Hmmmm...