LSU left tackle Jerald Hawkins will bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft, according to a message he posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
Hawkins, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound junior from Baldwin, is a fourth-year player who redshirted as a freshman. He had to be encouraged to return last season as a draft-eligible sophomore. LSU moved him from right tackle to left tackle for his junior year.
He is slotted as the 12th-best tackle in the 2017 NFL draft, according to CBSSports.com, but the site does not list him in the 2016 rankings.
Matt Miller, a draft analyst for Bleacher Report, said Hawkins “looks the part” and has surprised him “how good he’s been this year.” He projected that Hawkins could go as high as the late first round.
The Advocate reported several weeks ago that Hawkins is the most likely of all of the underclassmen to leave early for the draft and that several coaches on staff expected him to do so. He is one of a handful of draft-eligible LSU players mulling decisions to enter the draft — a yearly occurrence at the school. Hawkins, center Ethan Pocic, linebacker Kendell Beckwith, defensive end Lewis Neal, cornerback Tre’Davious White and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture all submitted requests for draft evaluations.
Hawkins is the first to announce his decision, and he did so in a message thanking LSU fans, coaches and teammates.
“These years at LSU have been nothing short of amazing but I feel I am ready for the next stage in my athletic career,” he wrote in the message. “This team in this school means everything to me.”
LSU’s re-recruiting process began a day after the Texas Bowl win over Texas Tech on Dec. 30, when Pocic, his parents and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes met with coach Les Miles in the team hotel in downtown Houston. Miles and his staff are attempting to convince players who didn’t receive a first-round grade to return.
White, Beckwith and junior receiver Travin Dural are the highest rated players with projections in the second to third round. Dural has recently recovered from hamstring surgery that includes a rehabilitation of five months, he said recently. LaCouture fractured his forearm during the bowl game. The NFL combine is set for Feb. 23-29, and both players could miss the event while recovering.
Underclassmen must declare by Jan. 18. The Tigers have had 23 players leave early for the draft in the last four years. That’s believed to be the most of any university.
LSU must now replace two offensive line starters. Right tackle Vadal Alexander was a senior in 2015. The Tigers signed five offensive linemen in the 2015 class.
Toby Weathersby, a highly regarded sophomore-to-be from Texas, developed into the No. 6 lineman in 2015. Chidi Okeke and George Brown, also part of that 2015 class, redshirted last season. Josh Boutte, a rising senior, began the 2015 year as a starter before a demotion, and Garrett Brumfield, a rising redshirt sophomore, could get into the mix as well.
K.J. Malone, Karl Malone’s son, also saw some playing time in a reserve role last season.