Nick Saban picks up off-the-field win in Baton Rouge over IRS: report

Alabama head coach Nick Saban greets LSU head coach Ed Orgeron before the Alabama vs. LSU SEC football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

When potential recruits are escorted through the halls of the newly-renovated LSU Football Operations Center, there’s no doubt it’s an eye-opening experience.

To be sure, it’s not just the state-of-the-art locker room’s plush surroundings and comfy-looking sleeping pods that catch the attention of possible signees.

Right there, in almost every nook and cranny of the facility, are reminders of where they could wind up in a few years if they use their talent in the right way and put in the required work on and off the field.

From dozens of brightly-colored photos of former LSU stars earning a living in the pros to walls recognizing first-round draft picks and Super Bowl/Pro Bowl participants, to a rotating display of uniforms of current NFL players, it’s easy to take it all in.

“No question,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said this week. “When we recruit, we talk about the NFL a lot. We talk about how many players we have in the NFL, how many first round draft choices we have, and also about the success our players have in the NFL.

“They don’t go to the NFL and just bomb out,” he said. “They have a lot of success, they’re MVPs and they play for years to come.”

It’s a valuable recruiting tool that not every school can boast.

But for LSU, which is No. 2 in the CFP rankings going into Saturday’s showdown with third-ranked Alabama, it’s a big part of the pitch to come here.

“That is one of the things they use as a recruiting tool: LSU puts a lot of players in the league,” said LSU safety JaCoby Stevens, who was the nation’s top-ranked safety in the 2017 recruiting class. “As a high school kid, you like to hear that; they’re going to prepare guys to get to the NFL and win championships along the way.”

Stevens’ big moment, he said, came during his official visit in 2016.

The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native was watching LSU in the traditional pregame Tiger Walk when he saw former defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

“That was just amazing to see Tyrann and Pat Pete,” a wide-eyed Stevens said. “To see pros like that come back, it definitely factored into my decision to come here. As a high school kid, that’s a big recruiting tool.”

Linebacker Patrick Queen, who signed with LSU in 2017, agreed seeing former players in the NFL displayed prominently is something recruits can aspire to be.

“It’s always going to be a pitch because that’s in everybody’s dreams — to make it to the NFL,” Queen said. “Like Devin (White), when you go in that meeting room and see him and some other guys on the wall, it’s like, ‘Why not be like them?’ So, it’s a big pitch.”

It's just part of a pitch that includes an opportunity to get an education and good coaching.

A survey of drafts over the past 10 years shows LSU and Alabama, which for years have been near or at the top of the league for having former players on opening-day NFL rosters, are doing it better than most.

In the 2010-19 drafts, Alabama had a nation’s-best 83 players chosen while LSU was third with 62. Ohio State was just ahead of LSU with 63 draft picks in the 10-year span.

More telling is the fact both schools have had more than half of those picks go in the top three rounds of the draft.

All told, 50 of Alabama’s 83 picks (60.2%) and 37 of LSU’s 62 selections (59.7%) went in the first three rounds.

Those numbers likely won’t change much with the 2020 draft that will be held in late April, NFL draft analyst Ric Serritella said Wednesday.

Serritella, the owner and publisher of the NFL Draft Bible, estimates as many as 20 players in Saturday’s showdown will be chosen in the 2020 draft.

Even though it’s hard to tell at this stage which juniors or redshirt sophomores may declare for the draft early, he said it’s pretty easy to tell why it’s going to be another bumper crop for those two rivals.

Serritella already has high-round grades on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris, tackle Alex Leatherwood, and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs, as well as defensive end Raekwon Davis, linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, and defensive backs Trevon Diggs, Xavier McKinney and Shyheim Carter.

Of that group, only Davis and Jennings are seniors.

For LSU, quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, cornerback Kristian Fulton, safety Grant Delpit and linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson will be hot commodities if Jefferson, Delpit and Chaisson declare as underclassmen.

Other draft-eligibles, Serritella said, are defensive end Rashard Lawrence and long snapper Blake Ferguson.

The lengthy list doesn't even count some talented sophomores and freshmen.

That includes Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and cornerback Patrick Surtain, both sophomores, LSU sophomore wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall and freshman cornerback Derek Stingley.

“We’re likely talking about close to 20 guys,” Serritella said. “That’s probably why they’re second and third in the CFP rankings.”


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LSU and Alabama in the NFL draft

Total picks, 2010-19 drafts

         ALA  LSU

2010    7      6

2011    5      6

2012    8      5

2013    9      9

2014    8      9

2015    7      4

2016    7      5

2017   10     8

2018   12     7

2019   10     3

Total  83   62

Breakdown by round

2010-19 drafts

ALABAMA (83)

Round 1 — 28

Round 2 — 16

Round 3 — 6

Round 4 — 9

Round 5 — 11

Round 6 — 4

Round 7 — 9

LSU (62)

Round 1 — 10

Round 2 — 12

Round 3 — 15

Round 4 — 7

Round 5 — 4

Round 6 — 6

Round 7 — 8

First- and second-round picks

2015-19 drafts

ALABAMA

Rd. (Pick) Player Pos. Team

2015

1 (4) Amari Cooper WR Raiders

2 (33) Landon Collins S Giants

2 (36) T.J. Yeldon RB Jaguars

2016

1 (18) Ryan Kelly C Colts

2 (41) Reggie Ragland LB Bills

2 (45) Derrick Henry RB Titans

2 (46) A'Shawn Robinson DT Lions

2 (49) Jarran Reed DT Seahawks

2 (60) Cyrus Jones CB Patriots

2017

1 (16) Marlon Humphrey CB Ravens

1 (17) Jonathan Allen DE Redskins

1 (19) O.J. Howard TE Bucs

1 (31) Reuben Foster LB 49ers

2 (34) Cam Robinson T Jaguars

2 (49) Ryan Anderson LB Redskins

2 (55) Dalvin Tomlinson DT Giants

2018

1 (11) Minkah Fitzpatrick S Dolphins

1 (13) Da'Ron Payne DT Redskins

1 (22) Rashaan Evans LB Titans

1 (26) Calvin Ridley WR Falcons

2019

1 (3) Quinnen Williams DT Jets

1 (11) Jonah Williams G Bengals

1 (24) Josh Jacobs RB Raiders

2 (50) Irv Smith TE Vikings

LSU

Rd. (Pick) Player Pos. Team

2015

2 (42) Jalen Collins CB Falcons

2016

2 (52) Deion Jones LB Falcons

2017

1 (4) Leonard Fournette RB Jaguars

1 (6) Jamal Adams S Jets

1 (27) Tre'Davious White CB Bills

2 (58) Ethan Pocic C Seahawks

2018

2 (55) Donte Jackson CB Panthers

2 (59) Derrius Guice RB Redskins

2 (61) DJ Chark WR Jaguars

2019

1 (5) Devin White LB Bucs

2 (46) Greedy Williams CB Browns

Power 5 conference picks

2010-19 drafts

1. Alabama (SEC) 83

2. Ohio State (Big Ten) 63

3. LSU (SEC) 62

4. Florida (SEC) 60

5. Oklahoma (Big 12) 55

6. Clemson (ACC) 54

7. Florida State (ACC) 53

8. Georgia (SEC) 52

Miami (ACC) 52

10. USC (Pac-12) 49

Others: Notre Dame (Ind.) 43, Stanford (Pac-12) 42, Penn State (Big Ten) 39, Iowa (Big Ten) 37, Michigan (Big Ten) 37, UCLA (Pac-12) 37, Wisconsin (Big Ten) 37, Auburn (SEC) 34, Texas A&M (Big 12/SEC) 34, North Carolina (ACC) 33, Washington (Pac-12) 33.

Compiled by Sheldon Mickles

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com