2016 Was a “Quiet Year” For LSU in the NFL Draft

The 2016 NFL draft in Chicago wrapped up Saturday evening, and for the second year in a row, the LSU Tigers were pretty quiet. 

Five Tigers were drafted over the course of three days, with only one player going in the top three rounds. The other four player went in the fourth and seventh rounds respectively.

2016 marks just the fifth time that LSU has not had a player drafted in the first round, since Les Miles became head coach in 2005.

The Atlanta Falcons selected Deion Jones with the 21st pick in the second round, 52nd overall.

Oct 3, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers linebacker Deion Jones (45) against the Eastern Michigan Eagles during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Eastern Michigan 44-22. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jones was high on NFL draft boards after he ran a blazing 4.38 40 yard dash at his Pro Day in Baton Rouge, back in March. 2015 was his first year as a starter, and he took full advantage.

Jones led the Tigers with 100 tackles, in 11 starts. Look for Debo to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Kwon Alexander, and become a standout player in year one of his NFL career.

Jerald Hawkins, a three-year starter for the Tigers, was selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was a bit of a surprise considering many experts had Vadal Alexander as the top rated offensive lineman for LSU.

Viewed as extremely athletic, Hawkins made 25 starts at right tackle and 12 starts at left tackle during his tenure with the Tigers. His versatility and ability to play at both tackle positions is what made him an attractive pick for the Steelers.

Rashard Robinson was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round, 133rd overall. This might have been the biggest surprise of all, seeing as how he hasn’t played a game for the Tigers since 2014. Robinson burst on the scene in 2013, his freshman year with LSU.

Oct 25, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Cody Core (88) reaches for the end zone as he score a touchdown in front of LSU Tigers defensive back Rashard Robinson (21) in the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

In his first start, he held Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Williams to 4 catches for 51 yards. Seeing as how Williams is now a Pro Bowl player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that speaks volumes to Robinson’s ability. in 20 games for LSU, Robinson started only 8 games with 33 tackles, 1 interception and 4 pass break-ups.

He was suspended before the Alabama game in 2014, and never returned. Did the 49ers get a “diamond in the rough”? Only time will tell.

As rounds 5 and 6 went by, I started to wonder: is it possible that both Jalen Mills and Vadal Alexander both go undrafted? Both players had less than spectacular combine performances, and the pro days were not much of an improvement.

Alexander had shown up out of shape; and Collins still had some concerns over a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments he suffered last August. Even with those concerns, I did not see either player falling to the basement of the draft.

Jalen Mills was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round, 233rd overall.

Oct 18, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jalen Mills (28) breaks up a pass intended for Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver T.V. Williams (82) in the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Kentucky 41-3. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Mills was not projected to be a high pick, all though having watched his career at LSU, I thought he would have been a mid fourth rounder.

Another four-year starter, Mills stepped in for dismissed corner Tyrann Mathieu as a true freshman. His best season came his sophomore year in 2013, when he compiled 67 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions over 13 starts. That put Mills in the top 3 on the team in those categories.

A major leg injury forced Mills to miss a majority of the 2015 season. Even though he returned to play in 6 games for LSU, I am sure that did not help his draft stock.

Vadal Alexander was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the seventh round, 234th overall.

Alexander was a four-year starter that earned multiple accolades for his achievements on the Tigers offensive line, including second team All-American and first team all SEC honors his senior season.

He anchored an offensive line that helped pave the way for an offense that led the SEC in rushing with 256.8 yards per game and 36 rushing TDs.

Dec 30, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers guard Vadal Alexander (74) takes the field prior to the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Music City Bowl at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, Alexander only allowed 2 sacks and played every snap for 10 of LSU’s 12 games. Viewed as a road grader type guard, Alexander’s game should translate well at the next level.

Even though this year’s draft was quiet and to some a disappointment, the LSU Football program is loaded with talent for the upcoming season.

Players like Leonard Fournette, Jamal AdamsTre’Davious White and Ethan Pocic are all projected to be taken in the first round of the 2017 draft.

This upcoming 2016 season will be exciting — and it is just right around the corner…..