Of the 13 players with ties to the LSU football program heading to the NFL Scouting Combine workouts in Indianapolis later this week, two stand out as having a lot to gain in the eyes of some talent evaluators.
That would be junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo and former Tigers cornerback/kick returner Tyrann Mathieu, who’ll go into the most important job interview of their lives with more on the line perhaps than some of their teammates.
For Mingo, who is considered to be a top-10 pick by most draft experts, making sure he stays in the upper third of the first round will be the goal, although at least one analyst thinks he’s more of a late first-round pick at this early stage of the process.
Mathieu, on the other hand, will be trying to restore his image as a ball-hawking defensive player and dangerous kick returner after he was kicked off the team before his junior season began.
LSU’s other combine invitees are defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Lavar Edwards, linebacker Kevin Minter, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, tackle Chris Faulk, center P.J. Lonergan, running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, and punter Brad Wing.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is among the majority who think Mingo’s name will be called early on in the draft, which will be held April 25-27, after a solid career with the Tigers.
“He didn’t have as good a year (in 2012) as the year before, but he’s got an awful lot of ability,” Kiper said of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Mingo. “He could be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 as well as an end in a 4-3.”
Kiper predicted that Mingo is one of a couple of players in that same category who could make a move on the draft charts and go between the fourth and seventh picks with a good combine showing — especially in the 40-yard dash. On-field workouts begin Saturday and conclude Tuesday.
NFLDraftScout.com has Mingo ranked ninth on its board and the third defensive end listed, while NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has him as the fourth outside linebacker on his pre-combine rankings.
Pending what Mingo does at the combine, Mayock wasn’t so sure Mingo fits in there just yet and has him as a late first-round selection with Montgomery, LSU’s other highly touted defensive end.
“Mingo gets a lot more of the attention, but I kind of feel like Sam Montgomery brings it every snap more than Mingo does,” Mayock said Monday on a national conference call. “Montgomery is not as quick and gifted (as Mingo), but he’s very physical and tough. Mingo’s got little bit of stiffness to him, but he obviously runs very fast. When the ball goes away from him, he’s fantastic.
“He is a run-and-chase linebacker, and I think he’s got some upside as a pass rusher. There’s nothing about the kid I don’t like; I just don’t see him as a top-10 guy today.”
Even if Mayock is correct, he knows it could all change this weekend.
Earlier Monday, Mayock said on “NFL AM” that he would focus this weekend on three pass rushers capable of moving to outside linebacker in a 3-4 front and shoot up the draft charts because of their size and speed, with Mingo being one of the three.
Mayock and Kiper agree on Mathieu, projecting him to be a third-day pick in the fourth round, possibly fifth, after not playing this past season and having only two years of college ball under his belt.
“If he had been at LSU and had a great year, he would have been in the second-round discussion,” Kiper said on a conference call last week. “The year of inactivity and the issues are well chronicled. He’s not a great cover guy, but he’s a kind of guy you find a position for to maximize his ability.
“Right now, depending on how the workouts and interviews go and how teams view him for a variety of reasons with the question marks, (he’s) in the fourth- or fifth-round area.”
Kiper said Mathieu could be worth a risk to some teams, which could depend on how he presents himself this weekend.
“Day three is when you take a chance and roll the dice on a Tyrann Mathieu,” Kiper said. “If he stays focused and gets everything together away from the field, then you’re looking at a guy that can help your football team whether it’s in the secondary or on special teams.”
“Tyrann Mathieu is really an interesting wild card this weekend,” Mayock said. “My gut tells me that he’s a better football player than he is an athlete, but he’s small, and I’m not sure he’s going to run real well.
“I think teams are looking at him as kind of a nickel back and kick returner. But I don’t think he’ll run better than a 4.5 or 4.55, If he runs better, that will help him. But most teams I talked to have him more like a fourth-rounder.”