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Road to the Pros: LSU Tackle Saahdiq Charles' Off the Field Concerns Could Supersede On Field Talent

Charles needs to prove to teams his suspension riddled 2019 season doesn’t reflect who he is
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For LSU left tackle Saahdiq Charles, the 2019 season was a wake up call. It was before the Tigers home opener against Georgia Southern that LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced Charles would be suspended due to a "violation of team rules."

The suspension turned into a six game ordeal that left Charles in a constant will he, won't he play situation for the first half of the season. Charles would sit for the entirety of the non-conference schedule, with the exception of the Texas game, as well as the Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas games.

It was a decision that Charles called in late February, "a selfish and stupid mistake" that doesn't reflect the person that he is. 

“It was just a mistake,” Charles told Yahoo at the NFL Combine. “It’s not a part of my life anymore, whatever I went through that led to the suspensions. It was selfish and a stupid mistake, honestly. I moved forward from it.”

In the nine games he did play during the Tigers' quest for perfection in 2019, he was one of the better offensive linemen on the roster. Charles started all games at left tackle and was consistent and reliable. 

As a prospect, there's a lot to love about Charles. At 6-foot-4, 321 pounds, Charles has the bend and agility to play at the tackle position in the NFL but does need to build strength in his upper body to really have his game pop at the next level. 

His explosion through blocks and ability to play both tackle and guard at the next level makes him an intriguing option as a "swiss army knife" lineman at the next level.

Against Florida this past season, Charles put on an absolute clinic of what sound technique combined with ferocious effort look like. Just take this play into account. 

The massive hole Charles is able to open up for Clyde Edwards-Helaire is only matched by his willingness to not give up on the block. It really reminds you of this one particular scene from "The Blind Side."

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"This guy can be an absolute star at the next level, especially if he grows his base a little bit," CBS Sports' Barrett Sallee said. "In terms of getting down field as a run blocker, maybe not the best in that department. However, everything else, the natural athleticism, the hands, the speed, he's got all of that in the bag.”

The question that will linger for Charles until and even past the draft is if he can mature off the field. According to the Yahoo story on Charles at the combine, multiple teams have taken Charles completely off their draft boards because of questions about his maturity. 

"He’s a follower, not a leader,” one source told Yahoo reporter Eric Edholm. “He gravitated toward trouble when he didn’t have money, so what’s going to happen when he does have [an NFL paycheck]?

“He makes it tough to trust him. He’s not reliable. In three years, he had a major discipline issue each year.”

Charles is likely a day three draft candidate that if he can prove to be reliable off the field, can make a name for himself in the NFL on the field.

Most Intriguing Destination: Carolina Panthers

Reuniting Charles with former LSU coach and current Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady could be a dream destination. The Panthers are in need of offensive line depth after not retaining long time starter Trai Turner or starting guard Greg Van Roten.

Taking a flier on Charles and sticking him in a locker room with some veterans to latch on to like quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Russell Okung and Matt Paradis could make for a good fit for Charles.

Writer’s Note: With the NFL Draft just under six weeks from now, concerns surrounding COVID-19 will likely force the league to make some tough decisions in the coming weeks. For Charles and the other LSU draft prospects, the early rounds in Las Vegas were primed to be dominated by Tigers. Stay tuned for updates as the situation develops.