There's a long way to go until LSU gets back to Death Valley, but NFL draft analysts will be salivating over the Tigers' bevy of prospects in the meantime. 

The trio of juniors Derrius Guice, Arden Key and D.J. Chark earned recognition in an NFL.com series ranking the top "players to watch" at each position, with Guice and Key earning top honors for running backs and edge rushers. 

Chark was rated the No. 6 wide receiver in the series, which still hasn't revealed selections for cornerbacks, safeties or linebackers. 

All three LSU prospects have interesting storylines ahead of them in 2017. 

For Derrius Guice, he steps into the void he partially filled last year following the departure of standout Leonard Fournette to the NFL. Guice filled in admirably for an injury-troubled Fournette as a sophomore, finishing with 1,387 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. 

The Baton Rouge native also set LSU's single-game rushing record — breaking Fournette's mark from earlier in the season — with a 285-yard effort in LSU's final regular-season game against Texas A&M. 

From the rankings: "Guice possesses a winning combination of speed, power and balance. His highlight reel is filled with runs that should have ended early but kept going due to his elite body control through contact. He powers through initial contact and makes life miserable for defenders."


Arden Key returns as the obvious star among LSU's defensive front but with questions over his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron revealed last week that Key will not be ready to start training camp July 31. Key is making strides in his recovery, but it’s a slow rehabilitation, the coach said.

“He’s starting back a little bit at a time, a little running. Little stuff,” Orgeron said.

Key, also on the Butkus Award watch list for the nation's top linebacker, broke the Tigers' single-season record for sacks in his sophomore season with 12 while playing in just 11 games. 

From the rankings: "The combination of his gangly frame with his awkward movement style has been confounding offensive tackles for two straight years now. Key's lean, thin legs foreshadow his inability to control the point of attack and anchor down against the run, but his NFL bread will ultimately be buttered by his ability to rush the passer. ... With a unique ability to accelerate instantly off of lateral direction change, Key has created a devastating inside/out pass-rush move."


D.J. Chark has the most to prove among the three, stepping into the spotlight after playing behind now-NFL receivers Travin Dural (New Orleans Saints) and Malachi Dupre (Green Bay Packers).

Chark's biggest highlight of 2016 was one that didn't count: He hauled in a dramatic, last-second touchdown pass that would've defeated Auburn in what turned out to be a do-or-die game for then-coach Les Miles. The touchdown was overturned after it was determined the ball was not snapped before time expired; Miles was fired the following day. 

Chark finished the season with 26 catches for 466 yards and three touchdowns. 

From the rankings: "One of the fastest players on the team and has the ability to yank the top off the defense with his vertical speed. ... Chark is very talented at finding and tracking the ball and then finishing difficult catches down the field."

For the full list of rankings, click here.