Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Draft: What It Means for LSU

It was a great weekend for LSU, despite some minor disappointments along the way. LSU had one of the headliners of the draft and had a total of 7 players drafted. Yes, Ali Highsmith was passed over, and we are all disappointed about that. Also, Early Doucet was probably a little disappointed in his draft position, but he is in the league and will get a halfway decent contract, though he will have to wait until his second contract to get the big money.

While Highsmith and Doucet may be a little disappointed, Jacob Hester and Keith Zinger must be thrilled. Hester was drafted in the early parts of the 3rd round, about a round or two earlier than he likely expected to be picked. Plus, he went to San Diego, a winning franchise and a good situation for him being behind an All-Pro. He will be asked to be a backup and a situational player, along with a special teamer, a perfect role for him and one where he will likely excel. Keith Zinger was drafted in the 7th round by the Falcons, and while some say that being undrafted may be better than being one of the last picks, he has to feel good that a team really wanted him. He's primarily a blocking tight end, and while those are not sexy picks, there is always room on every NFL team for a tight end who can block well. He can catch a bit too.

As an aside, I watched the draft coverage on NFL Network, and every time a tight end was drafted, Mayock said something to the effect of, "Good receiver but will not block anyone." What is the deal with tight ends who don't block? If you don't block at all, you're not a tight end. You're a really tightly lined-up slot receiver with exceptional size and slowness. The whole purpose of the tight end position is to be both a blocking threat and a catching threat. If you can only catch, you should be a wide receiver. If you can only block, you should be an offensive lineman. I'm not saying all should do both equally, but if you can ONLY do one remotely competently, tight end is not the position for you.

Matt Flynn was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, and I honestly think that he may have been better off not getting drafted. The Packers have an heir apparent starting quarterback in Aaron Rogers, and they drafted Brian Brohm in the second round. You have to believe the Packers are going to carry a quarterback with some experience on the roster in case Rogers struggles. I can't imagine they're going to keep two rookies, so Flynn is probably battling Brohm for the 3rd quarterback spot, and he's doing it from a pretty weak position.

As a simple coincidence, it appears that many former Tigers except for Flynn and Hester are going to teams that had very disappointing seasons. Dorsey is going to KC. Chevis and Zinger are going to the Falcons. They were among the very worst teams in the league. Doucet is going to Arizona, and while they have 2 very good wide receivers, one of them may be heading out, and the team missed the playoffs last year. Steltz is going to the Bears, who also missed the playoffs last year. This suggests there may be some roster issues on those teams that those players can exploit. This could be good for them.

But the primary message for LSU is that this draft shows the Tigers to be a consistent feeder to the NFL. For the recruits, LSU is now one of those schools where if you come in and have success, the NFL will pay very close attention. Last year, we showed that we can put top-flight talent into the top round, but this year we had even more players drafted overall than in 2007 (7 vs. 5), and it was distributed around the draft.

The bad news is, of course, that it means we have a lot of raw talent and skill to replace in the starting lineup. You just don't replace a top 5 pick and hope not to miss a beat. Matt Flynn didn't just step right into Jamarcus Russell's role, and Ricky Jean-Francois probably won't be able to completely compensate for the loss of Glenn Dorsey (though I think he will do very very well). We will need, as always, younger players to step up to fill in gaps in the lineup, and we will need veterans to keep improving their games.

Overall, despite losing a lot of talent to the NFL, I think we are in good position to continue to be strong. Not many teams have the ability to replace a top 5 pick with a guy who may be a top 10 pick the following year. Not many teams have the ability to replace a guy like Doucet with a Terrance Toliver while also having a Demetrius Byrd and a Brandon Lafell continuing to develop. Not many teams can lose a Jacob Hester and still have players like Keiland Williams, Richard Murphy, and Charles Scott to pick up the load. Not many national championship teams return 4 of their 5 starting offensive linemen.

I have to stop before I become too much of a homer. It is just way too long from now until football season.


jimherehi said...

I find it strange that LSU is the National Champion and had only 1 player drafted in the first two rounds. Not that I think the ones drafted should have been drafted higher, just that it is strange that only one was drafted in the first two rounds. I guess it means that our winning the championship was a total team effort.

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