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LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (8) celebrates with LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips (6) after stopping Clemson running back Travis Etienne (9) in the second half between LSU and Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game, Monday, January 13, 2020, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Welcome Patrick Queen to the podium.

He's the reigning national championship defensive MVP, the linebacker who had to replace a legend, one of four LSU linebackers who are attending the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

And, if you ask him, everything has happened according to plan.

"We all knew that we were going to be destined for greatness and that we were going to be in this spot," Queen said of his fellow linebackers.

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Perhaps they knew.

The rest of the viewing public entered the 2019 season with plenty speculation, particularly about Queen: 

Would Michael Divinity remain at inside linebacker? Where does Queen fit? Is K'Lavon Chaisson healthy enough on the outside, or will Queen shift there? Could he beat out Jacob Phillips for the other inside linebacker spot?

You know the answers:

Phillips held his spot, Chaisson stayed (mostly) healthy and Queen was impressive enough in limited play during LSU's first three games to make former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda comfortable enough to give him the starting job and bump Divinity back outside to help with the team's pass rush.

Queen became one of LSU's top playmakers as a starter, a featured pass rusher in Aranda's blitz packages.

The junior made the game-changing interception against Alabama, the turnover that led to a touchdown and a 33-13 lead at halftime. Queen recorded a sack each in the regular-season finale against Texas A&M and the SEC championship game against Georgia. He hounded Clemson's backfield in the national title with 2½ tackles for loss and half a sack.

All of this from a player who only had 46 tackles split between his first two seasons in Baton Rouge.

"Patrick Queen wasn't even considered a guaranteed star," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "He was an all-around guy and he emerged as their most-improved defensive player. Dave Aranda has said that: He was our most improved player."

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Queen was an attacker at LSU, someone Aranda encouraged to make plays off instinct — a quality the linebacker says he'll continue in the pros.

When a reporter asked Queen how he'd tackle a guy like Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (the NFL's reigning MVP) in the open field, Queen replied: "Just run dead at him."

"It's just competitiveness coming out in me," said Queen, who recorded 85 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2019. "I don't want to have somebody turn on my tape and be like, 'Oh that's a bad play. That's a bad player. He's not great. He's not aggressive.' I want to be that guy when people turn on film and be like, 'Oh we gotta watch out for him.'"

Coincidentally, Kiper projected Queen being selected by the Ravens No. 28 overall in his most recent mock draft. Queen said he'd be "thankful" for such a selection.

He knew off memory that the franchise has never drafted an LSU player before. The Louisianans the Ravens have drafted since joining the league in 1996 were wide receiver Brandon Stokley (1999, UL), defensive back David Pittman (2006, Northwestern State), defensive back Lardarius Webb (2009, Nicholls State), running back Kenneth Dixon (2016, Louisiana Tech) and defensive end Jaylon Ferguson (2019, Louisiana Tech).

There's also a chance that Queen will not be there for Baltimore to select, Kiper said, "if he tests well" during linebacker workouts at the NFL combine on Saturday.

"If he tests just OK-to-average-to-good, there's a possibility he could," Kiper said. "If he's off the charts and has a great workout, he's gone."

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And so, Queen's draft stock depends on his performance in Indianapolis. He'll face the same kind of testing that benefited his mentor and former teammate, Devin White, a year ago. White's 4.42 40-yard dash showcased his freakish athleticism and likely boosted him to the No. 5 overall selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Queen said he must "prove that I have speed." It's one of the many questions that he wants to answer for the NFL teams he's met with so far at the combine, like the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers and Bills.

"I have speed on film, but can I run the 40?" Queen said. "I'm just looking out here to run a fast time, look fluid in my drills, flip my hips."

Queen said he's kept in touch with White, LSU's former Butkus Award winner. He's "thankful to have him in my corner" and he's asked White questions every day about what he did through the combine process.

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Queen knows there'll be doubts about his size, a 6-foot, 229-pound frame that raises questions whether he can take on heavy blocks inside and tackle powerful running backs between the tackles.

"I have the heart to be able to stop the run," he said.

He knows some teams might say he only played one real year of high-level football, something he admitted is "a tough question to answer because everybody likes experience."

"Even though I didn't start at the beginning of the year," Queen said, "my film takes care of everything they have questions for."

He believes he can counter the questions with his performance and versatility. In the final three games of the 2018 season, Queen shifted to outside linebacker and recorded two tackles for loss and a sack in the Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida. A former four-star recruit, he was an All-State running back who led Livonia High to the 3A state championship in 2015.

"He can play inside," said Ric Serritella, creator of NFL Draft Bible and analyst for NFL Draft Scout. "He can play outside. You can line him up at strong safety. I think he's kind of a defensive chess piece at the next level."

No team has yet discussed a position change, Queen said. He'll "play any position on the field, really." And he has the same preference for any team that might select him.

“I'll play anywhere," Queen said. "Like I said, this is a blessing to be in this position to be able to talk to you guys and be here at the NFL Combine. So wherever I get drafted to, I'm going to go there day one, put my head down and go to work."

New Orleans Advocate | Times-Picayune sports reporter Amie Just contributed to this report

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