The LSU Tigers went undefeated last season with Joe Burrow at the helm. They topped it off with a win in the SEC championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs to win their first title since 2011. This comes after the Associated Press ranked them sixth in the preseason. They had a record-setting offense and defence with playmakers at every level. There were 20 players from the 2019-2020 Tigers to declare for the draft and now, after the draft and the first few days of undrafted free agency, all of them have found an NFL home.
In this piece, we will look at the 20 players coming from the state of Louisiana. Five from the first round, a further five across day two and then 10 more coming from the final day and free agency. I will give my thoughts on each player and how they might fit on their team. I will also provide analysis and a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses. Without further ado let us take a deep dive into the 2020 draftees from the LSU Tigers…
This is part one, part two will be available here on 18/05/2020!
Joe Burrow, QB, No.1, Cincinnati Bengals
The player in college: Joe Burrow came out of nowhere this season to become to the No. 1 overall pick. He started his college career at Ohio State where he redshirted in 2015. Then he spent the next two seasons being the backup behind J.T. Barrett. Realising that Dwayne Haskins was going to be named the starting QB afterwards, he transferred to the LSU Tigers. He finished the 2018 season with 2,894 yards, 16 TDs and five picks with an additional seven rushing TDs on 400 yards.
In 2019 he was dominant, perhaps the most dominant college QB the NCAA has ever seen. Last season ended with 5,6671 passing yards and 60 TDs to just six picks pairing with a further 350 rushing yards and five TDs. That is a total of 65 TDs and is an NCAA record that should stand for a while (Burrow also secured the NCAA record for passer rating in a season at 202.) While some argue that the level of talent around him at LSU made these numbers possible, others are saying that Joe Brady, their offensive coordinator, will be the next offensive genius. These were definitely factors in the insane season that Burrow produced but there is no doubting his raw talent as he displays tremendous leadership and the traits you want to see in a franchise QB.
Analysis: The only knock you can really put on Burrow in terms of his play is his arm strength. He does not have the arm of other QBs coming out of college, but his accuracy is far above that of most rookie passers. His footwork is clean and consistent, understanding where he needs to be in the pocket and escaping when needed. Burrow’s football IQ is high, coming from a pro-esque offense and he should be able to learn Taylor’s offense and operate it easily.
His future in the NFL: There were questions about whether the Burrow would even play for the Bengals, but he looks set to do that and he should send the franchise in the right direction. Cincinnati has enough talent on offense to be a formidable opponent with Green, Mixon, Boyd and Ross. If they keep building then Burrow and the Bengals could be a real problem in the years to come. I cannot see him being a bust at all.
K’Lavon Chaisson, DL, No.20, Jacksonville Jaguars
The player in college: Chaisson played just two years for the Tigers before declaring for the draft in 2020. He forgoed his further two years of eligibility after their title win. As a freshman, he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after recording 27 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss while starting just three games. In 2018, Chaisson played well in the Tigers first game of the season before tearing his ACL in the first quarter and rehabbing the rest of the year.
In the 2019 season, Chaisson came back with a vengeance and ascended to another level being named to the All-SEC first team and earning the defensive MVP title in the Peach Bowl. He led the national champs with six sacks, 13 tackles for loss, six hurries, a pair of batted passes and a forced fumble, not to mention 60 tackles overall.
Analysis: While Chaisson does not have the production of some of the top pass rushers, he has the build and mobility to grow into an elite player. The ACL tear in 2018 should now be completely rehabbed and teams should not be worried about one freak injury to an overall durable player. For a player who is 6’4 and 250 lbs, he has a bounce in every step that shows up in his first step which is lethal. Great at shooting gaps he should not be able to shoot and is explosive from a two or three-point stance. Chaisson is also no slouch in coverage and can help when needed in that area.
His future in the NFL: Going to Jacksonville at No. 20 was a little slip for Chaisson who many had going to the Cowboys or Falcons a few picks earlier. While GM Dave Caldwell has been involved in many failed first-round draft picks, Chaisson could be dominant on a defensive front that already has some talent. If the defence can come together and not hate on their coach for one season then Chaisson could become the next great EDGE rusher, replacing the disgruntled Ngakoue.
Justin Jefferson, WR, No.22, Minnesota Vikings
The player in college: Jefferson’s rise with the LSU Tigers did not start out how he had hoped as he did not catch a single pass in his first season with the team. However, in 2018, Jefferson led the team with 54 catches for 875 yards and six TDs. In 2019 there was a similar upward trend, but he was not the most productive receiver on the Tigers. His teammate Ja’Marr Chase was somehow better, he should be a top-10 pick in the 2021 draft. Jefferson still finished the year with 111 catches (1st in the country) for 1540 yards and 18 of Burrows touchdown passes. His historic 200+ yard and four TD performance in the Peach Bowl solidified his stature as one of the top options for a receiver-needy team.
Analysis: The 6’3 Jefferson is a smooth route runner who has some of the best hands in the class. For such a deep receiver class, Jefferson stands out because of his ability to work with Burrow on option routes and his exceptional body control when he had to compete for the ball. He sometimes has trouble separating on downfield routes because of his long strides and he needs to work on getting out of jams with more physical corners.
His future in the NFL: While it was a surprise that the Eagles decided to take Jalen Reagor just one spot before the Vikings took Jefferson, Philadelphia needed the speed and was willing to gamble. Jefferson should do very well in the Vikings offense with an accomplished QB in Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen on the opposite side to take eyes off the rookie receiver. While he could be a product of a system, the most productive receivers in college, generally tend to do well in the NFL.
Patrick Queen, LB, No.28, Baltimore Ravens
The player in college: Queen started his collegiate career slow, making just six tackles across 12 games as a freshman. In his second campaign, he racked up 40 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack. His performance as a junior had Queen on the Butkus Award watchlist for his 2019 campaign with the LSU Tigers. He finished the year with 69 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, 5 pass breakups, a pick and a fumble recovery, putting numbers across his stat sheet. After a standout performance in the national championship, Queen was named the defensive MVP.
Analysis: Dependable and versatile are just two words to describe Queen, he has the physicality to blow up a running back coming through a hole and has the speed to cover a tight end off the line. You can trust him to drop into a zone and run stride for stride with a running back. He loves to shoot the gap with his high motor and athleticism, and he can reach all areas of the field in a short space of time. His experience could fault him in his first season, starting just 16 games across his LSU Tiger’s career and he needs to adjust his tackling angles as he can be subject to a stiff arm or two.
His future in the NFL: Just like Chaisson, Patrick Queen slipped further than many thought he would as other, less highly ranked prospects were taken ahead of him. The Ravens are experts when it comes to drafting linebackers high and it will be no surprise when Queen is controlling the middle of their defence to great effect. Baltimore needed a dependable player at the second level after beefing up their front and Queen should slide into that starting spot immediately.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, No.32, Kansas City Chiefs
The player in college: His first year with the Tigers consisted mostly of special teams work, toting the ball just nine for 31 yards. In his second season, Helaire was a good backup rushing for 658 yards and seven TDs while adding 11 catches for almost 100 yards. He also showed his value on special teams once again, returning 17 kicks for 416 yards.
In Helaire’s junior season, he did not stop producing until a hamstring injury reduced his snaps in the Peach Bowl. Before that point he had helped push the LSU Tigers and Burrow to new heights, he rushed for 1,400 yards and 16 TDs, also helping Burrow out with 55 catches for 450 yards and a TD. The Peach Bowl might have been quiet for LSU’s productive back, but he was back on form for the national championship where he put up 164 total yards on 21 touches.
Analysis: At 5’8 and 209 lbs he’s low to the ground with great balance and explodes through poor attempts to tackle him. He does not profile as a good pass blocker, but he finds blocks at the first level extremely well with great footwork and lateral quickness. Helaire is not slow but lacks the acceleration and the true second gear to avoid being chased down if he bursts through a hole. He is not a natural pass catcher but runs some nice routes out of the backfield.
His future in the NFL: The Chiefs have several capable backs already on the roster so Helaire will have to separate himself from the bunch to see significant snaps. He should be productive in this offense with so many playmakers as they look to win the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons. In a committee, it could mean that he isn’t too worn down as the seasons go by and he secures himself a decent contract for a running back.
Grant Delpit, DB, No.44, Cleveland Browns
The player in college: As a freshman with the LSU Tigers, Delpit started 10 games and recorded one pick with 60 tackles. He then returned in 2018 as a full-time starter and won the Jim Thorpe award after racking up 74 tackles, 10 for a loss, five sacks and five picks. In the Tiger’s national championship season, Delpit wasn’t as dominant in his junior season but decided to enter the draft forgoing his final year of eligibility.
Analysis: The major issue with Delpit is his tackling, 2019 was better than 2018 but he might miss a lot of tackles that he should be able to make. He can also be a little loose in zone coverage but he is a highly intelligent player so this could be solved with good coaching. He plays confidently and has a quick trigger to pull when lining up in the box to stop the run. Delpit will contest most catches in his coverage and is very athletic, able to play any position in the back seven.
His future in the NFL: If he can keep up his tackling progression then Delpit could turn into a monster on the backend of the Browns. Cleveland is building a fearsome defence and their secondary could be a lot better with Delpit patrolling in the box and over the top. He will be a big piece in helping this team turn the corner.
Kristian Fulton, DB, No.61, Tennessee Titans
The player in college: In his first year at LSU, Fulton made just two total tackles across three games. Following the season, he was suspended by the NCAA for two seasons for tampering with an official drug test. He appealed but it was rejected and Fulton sat out the entirety of the 2017 season. Before the 2018 season began, he once again appealed and it was originally denied but then accepted. Fulton then came back in as a starter despite not playing for 18 months and played well before ending the season early with an ankle injury. He entered 2019 as a preseason All-American and finished the year with 38 tackles, one pick and 14 passes defended to push LSU to a championship.
Analysis: There aren’t many knocks on Fulton, but he is a poor run defender and needs to work on tackling, not just ankle grabbing. He missed 2017 due to tampering with an NCAA drug test so that could be a bit of a red flag. Fulton has great press coverage skills and will compete for the ball on every route he covers, not getting antsy and keeping patient to wait for the pass. His footwork his so clean and his athletic potential so high that he can recover quickly against most opponents.
His future in the NFL: The Titans needed a cornerback badly, so they took Fulton before he dropped any further. He should be the No. 2 corner for them this season and potentially move into the No. 1 role with his talent and the lack of options for Tennessee. He has the talent to become an above-average corner in the NFL.
Damien Lewis, OL, No.69, Seattle Seahawks
The player in college: Lewis originally played for Northwest Mississippi Community College on a full scholarship and was named second-team Junior College All-American. He graduated early and then transferred to LSU over Ole Miss, Kentucky and South Carolina, among others. Named the starting right guard for the Tigers in his first year, Lewis started all 13 games. In the championship 2020 season, Lewis started all 15 games and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference second-team.
Analysis: Lewis is a mauler in the run game, keeping his pads low and always looking for the next player to punish. At 6’2 and 329 lbs, he is a large powerful man on the interior that acts as an anchor. He needs to improve in pass protection as speedier rushers could beat his edges, you wouldn’t want to depend on him in the screen game. Lateral mobility isn’t great and he gives up his chest, but he has the makings of an NFL starter.
His future in the NFL: Seattle has long had a habit of having a bad offensive line despite spending capital. Lewis could project to start at either guard spot where the Seahawks could use an upgrade. If he is half decent he’ll stick around the NFL for a long time.
Lloyd Cushenberry III, OL, No.83, Denver Broncos
The player in college: Cushenberry didn’t play much in his first two years, only seeing action on offense for six games. In his sophomore year, he secured the starting center job and performed well in all 13 games. In the 2020 national championship season, Cushenberry earned second-team All-American honours and was the leader of the line that won the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line in the nation.
Analysis: Was considered the second-best interior lineman in the class by many scouts. He has great length for a center and his handwork is superb. More comfortable in pass protection and can absorb contact very well from larger defensive linemen. He sinks his hips and is great at driving grown men off the line. However, like his teammate before him, he lacks the lateral quickness and ability to pull in some situations. Sometimes he can also lose his balance and interior rushers who have some speed get the better of him.
His future in the NFL: The Broncos just lost their starting center in free agency. Cushenberry should come in and start immediately for a team that has high hopes in 2020. He certainly has the skill set to be as good if not better than their former center McGovern.
Jacob Phillips, LB, No.97, Cleveland Browns
The player in college: While he didn’t start in his freshman season, he collected 18 tackles and a half-sack. He then took over the starting role in 2018 and earned himself SEC defensive player of the week honours in his first start. Finishing the year with 87 tackles, five for a loss and one sack put him in prime position to explode in his junior season. Leading the SEC in tackles with 113 led to Phillips being an interesting prospect on day two of the draft.
Analysis: Phillips is a very sound tackler who will rarely miss and if the lane is open then he will attack with ferocity, usually unleashing an explosive hit. Great at diagnosing the play and really a two-down player for his proficiency against the run. Lateral mobility and hips let him down as he doesn’t have the range to cover most assignments. Also struggles to process the play as it’s happening and shouldn’t be trusted in coverage.
His future in the NFL: While he projects well as a run stopper, he’ll need to become competent in coverage if he wants to stick around. However, he should see plenty of snaps for the Browns in 2020 as their cupboard is very empty at linebacker after some high profile departures.
This is part one, part two will be available here on 18/05/2020!