Three LSU Football Players Selected in Sports Illustrated's 2020 NFL Draft Rankings by Offensive Position
It's draft season and for a potentially record number of former LSU players, it means their lives are about to change, their dreams about to come to fruition.
On Monday, Sports Illustrated national writer Shawn Childs offered his thoughts on the draft by releasing a player rankings list by position and projecting where each will land. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and receiver Justin Jefferson all made the list. Here's what Evans thinks of each former Tiger and where they'll wind up come draft weekend.
Joe Burrow (No. 1 Quarterback)
Projection (Round 1, Pick 1 Cincinnati Bengals)
He was the story of the college football world in 2019 and is a virtual lock to be the No. 1 pick come April 23. What Burrow brings to the Bengals or any team that drafts him is not just off the charts skill, but a leader that can re-shape the entire organization.
His rags to riches story in 2019 ended with a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Last year Burrow lit the college world on fire at the quarterback position. His completion rate (76.3) was off the charts great, which led to 5,671 passing yards and an astounding 60 passing TDs and only six interceptions. Burrow chipped in 368 yards on the ground on 115 carries (3.2 yards per rush) and five more touchdowns.
Perhaps one of the greatest compliments Burrow has received throughout the entire draft process came from Childs. Compared from every quarterback from Tom Brady to Andy Dalton, Childs sees Burrow's accuracy to the tune of Peyton Manning, a guy who was known for fitting throw's in the tightest of windows.
Burrow brings to the table a deceiving arm while relying more on touch and feel over the short areas of the field. When asked to fire into tight quarters or add gas to his deep passes, his arm plays up. I get more of a Peyton Manning feel to his throws and reads while having the ability to make running plays off run/pass options.
His pre-snap reads gain an edge while showing the ability to look off the deep safety. If a play breaks down, Burrow keeps his head up with the talent to make big plays on the run. At the next level, his passing window will shorten, and his desire to float balls into a crowded area will have less chance of success.
Burrow seemed to speed up his game as the level of his competition improved. His pocket presence graded well.
Justin Jefferson (No. 5 Wide Receiver)
Projection (Round 2, Pick 3: Detroit Lions)
Jefferson as a second round pick feels like a big stretch as his combine performance should leave him firmly in the first round discussion. His comparisons vary but a recent comp to Saints receiver Michael Thomas is about as good as it gets.
If asked to play in the slot, like he did last season at LSU, Jefferson should thrive in pretty much any system. It's hard to imagine anyone manipulating the slot quite like Thomas does but the length and catch radius of Jefferson can't be denied.
The rise of Joe Burrow was a big win for Jefferson in 2019. Over his 15 games in a national championship season, he caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs, highlighted by his dominating performance in his 14th game against Oklahoma (14/227/4). The previous year he also led LSU in wide receiver production (54/875/6), but the team’s offense was mediocre at best.
At the NFL combine, Jefferson ran a 4.43 forty yard dash, but he didn’t participate in many of the other drills testing strength and quickness. His game showed a significant edge when getting a defender in trail positions, where Jefferson showed the ability to make late adjustments to secure tightly contested balls. At the goal line, he had value in 2019 on the outside on fades, plus the feel to work the middle of the deep zone on crossing patterns.
Jefferson showed growth last season after a switch to the slot. His quickness in that role can’t match some of the best WRs in the NFL, as he still needs some work on his route running ability. If asked to play outside, he’ll take a hit in value when working the deep areas of the field. Jefferson plays with vision while showcasing sneaky speed in the open field.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (No. 4 Running Back)
Projection (Round 3, Pick 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
A round three projection for Edwards-Helaire isn't out of the question but most mocks have him slated as a mid to late second round pick. It all depends on what a team is looking for in a running back as Edwards-Helaire is likely a utility player at the next level, someone who can contribute in both the run and passing attack which is an invaluable asset.
He’s an undersized back (5’7” and 205 lbs.) with NFL RB par speed (4.6 forty yard dash). Edwards-Helaire needs to get stronger, which may limit his initial value in pass protection. His running style offers patience with quickness over the short areas of the field. He’ll make quick cuts to create space while having the wiggle to make defenders miss at the second level of the defense.
It would be very intriguing to see Edwards-Helaire wind up in an offense that features Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and OJ Howard. The possibilities are scary as Brady has performed well with versatile running backs in the past.
Edwards-Helaire proved to be durable when asked to carry a heavy workload. His value in the passing game should lead to more touches in his rookie season.
The trick for an NFL team is gauging his value within their expected offense. More of a complementary player to a good offense than a running back to build a franchise around."