LSU’s coaching staff expects to lose at least two draft-eligible juniors to the NFL, but the possibility for others to return remains, as players continue the process of gathering information.
Safety Jamal Adams and running back Leonard Fournette are set to leave early, somewhat obvious news. They’re both projected as locks for the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. The players, though, have not announced officially and, often times, that happens after the bowl game.
Several others draft-eligible underclassmen were expected to meet with coach Ed Orgeron this week to discuss their futures, he said Saturday. Those include defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and receiver Malachi Dupre, the only two LSU juniors who are projected for selection in the draft, according to WalterFootball.com and CBSSports.com.
There are several other starters and role players who are draft-eligible not in draft projections, including receiver D.J. Chark, defensive linemen Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore, tackle K.J. Malone and redshirt sophomore Will Clapp.
Defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, a senior who missed the season with a knee injury, participated in senior day ceremonies and will not seek a redshirt. Godchaux, a three-year starter on LSU’s defensive line, could be headed out early, according to one draft analyst.
“I’ve had four agents ask me about him in the past few weeks,” Bleacher Report's Matt Miller said two weeks ago. “That’s a good sign that a kid is going to come out.”
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Orgeron was asked Saturday at his introductory news conference about re-recruiting the draft-eligible underclassmen.
“Yeah, today, right after I finish this,” he said. “I've been recruiting, I promise you that. Some are recruitable. Some are not so recruitable.”
Adams and Fournette, close friends and team leaders this past year, are in the latter – with good reason, too.
Fournette’s value has been widely documented. The former No. 1-ranked high school player in the nation is expected to get selected among the top 10 picks in the draft. Adams’ value is just as good, some analysts say, and he’s been overshadowed during his career by the star running back.
Adams is seen as a “lock” for selection in the top 15, said Miller.
“Jamal Adams is a freak,” Miller said. “Everyone talks about Leonard Fournette, and he’s a hell of a player. He’s a slam dunk. Let’s stop talking about Leonard so much because we all know he’s a great player and start talking about Jamal Adams.”
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Adams is a speedy, physical safety who arrived at LSU in 2014 as a consensus five-star product from Texas and a recruit Scout.com anointed as its top-ranked safety in the class. He developed into a starter late in his freshman season and was named a freshman All-American by at least three outlets. He landed on the coaches and AP’s second team All-SEC team last season and has developed into a potential All-American as a junior this year.
He was third on the team in tackles with 70, picked off a pass and recovered a fumble.
“I really like Jamal Adams,” said Rob Rang, draft analyst for CBSSports.com. “There are elements of his play that remind me of Tyrann Mathieu. Versatility. Can drop down and play nickel or play traditional safety. I love his range, toughness and ball skills.”
Fournette missed four games this season with a lingering left ankle injury. He still ran for 120 yards a game and scored eight touchdowns. The New Orleans native sprained his lower and upper ankle during preseason camp. He said earlier this season that he did not expect the injury to heal until after the season. His status for LSU’s bowl game remains in doubt.
The decision for several other draft-eligible underclassmen may rely on the grade given to them by the NFL Draft College Advisory Committee. The committee, made up of personnel evaluators from NFL clubs and scouting directors, evaluates a maximum of five draft-eligible underclassmen at each school.
They return three grades to players: first round, second round or remain in school. Schools are allowed to petition the committee to expand the minimum of five requests. Before the committee instituted the minimum in 2015, LSU led the way with 11 requests two years ago, ahead of the 2014 draft.
Draft grades are important to players, but they’re not the ultimate factor. For instance, Jalen Collins received a “stay in school” grade after the 2014 season. He bypassed his senior season anyway and was drafted in the second round.
Several seniors on this year’s team – center Ethan Pocic, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive back Tre’Davious White – received grades from the committee last year. They all returned to school.
According to WalterFootball.com, 11 draft-eligible underclassmen have already declared for the 2017 draft. The deadline to declare is Jan. 16. The NFL will release a full list of those who declared on Jan. 20, according to NFL.com.
As many as a dozen LSU players could be drafted in April. That would barrel through the school record of nine. Those projected to get drafted, according to WalterFootball.com’s rankings, are listed below.
RB Leonard Fournette*
1st (top 10)
S Jamal Adams*
1st (top 25)
C Ethan Pocic
DT Davon Godchaux*
CB Tre’Davious White
ILB Kendell Beckwith
WR Malachi Dupre*
WR Travin Dural
CB Dwayne Thomas
DE Lewis Neal
*junior who is draft-eligible
Others with the potential to get drafted: LB Duke Riley, OG Josh Boutte, S Rickey Jefferson, OLB/DE Tashawn Bower, DT Christian LaCouture