LSU head coach Les Miles has no problem bringing in top-ranked recruiting classes every February.
After the weekend’s NFL Draft, it’s evident that Miles and the Tigers also have the ability to develop that talent into NFL-ready prospects.
The Tigers tied with Georgia for the most players in the SEC selected across the three-day span (6), followed by Alabama (5), Florida (4), and Mississippi State (4). The SEC produced five of the first six overall selections, and 10 players from the conference went in the first round. After seven rounds, the SEC’s mark – 38 players drafted – was the highest of any conference.
With the draft in the rearview, here are some guesses as to how things pan out for four former Tigers.
First to the Field
Pick: Round 1 (No. 5)
Team: Arizona Cardinals
First Glance: Patrick Peterson, the highest LSU player taken, lands with a Cardinals team that already has one standout cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Despite needs at quarterback and both sides of the line, Peterson, widely considered to be the top player in the draft, was too good of a prospect to pass up with the fifth pick.
Second-year St. Paul’s (Va.) grad Gregory Toler owns the No. 2 cornerback spot for the moment, but Peterson should grab the position and run with it. Once Peterson is matched with Rodgers-Cromartie, Toler will turn into the team’s nickel back.
After he handed return duties on kickoffs to LaRod Stephens-Howling and punts to Andre Roberts, expect Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to insert Peterson into the special teams rotation right away.
First to the Super Bowl
Pick: Round 3 (No. 73)
Team: New England Patriots
First Glance: The New England Patriots have become a mainstay at the top of the AFC standings, and they’ve done so with a multiple running back system in place.
This year head coach Bill Belichick dipped back into the pool for a pair of runners: California’s Shane Vereen and LSU’s Stevan Ridley, taken in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Ridley and Vereen join a group that rotated Benjarvis Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk and Sammie Morris. Faulk, a 35-year old free agent, could be done with the Patriots, and the status of Morris remains up in the air after Belichick went with a pair of college backs in the draft. Green-Ellis would be the power back most similar to Ridley, while Woodhead and Vereen will bring a change of pace to the offense.
Part of the Process
Pick: Round 3 (No. 68)
Team: Buffalo Bills
First Glance: Kelvin Sheppard, a Georgia native who spent five seasons in Baton Rouge, ends up in New York after being selected by Buffalo in the third round.
After they finished 4-12 and earned the label of worst defense in the NFL, the Bills – avoiding the temptation of reaching for a quarterback – set their sights on rebuilding the side of the football that gave them fits in 2010. Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus came in at the No. 3 overall selection, followed by Texas cornerback Aaron Williams in the second round and then Sheppard in the third.
Inside linebacker was a specific need highlighted by the Bills organization before the draft began, and Sheppard – a First-Team All-SEC selection in 2010 – is a prospect that finished college with two straight seasons of 100-plus tackles.
Waiting His Turn
Pick: Not Selected
First Glance: For LSU fans the biggest shock of the weekend came when senior Terrence Toliver’s name was never called, sending the former five-star prospect into the free agent pool in an offseason that clouds the status of any player not already tied up with an organization.
Toliver, whose numbers were hindered by LSU’s poor quarterback play over the past few seasons, had his biggest year as a junior, when he finished with 53 catches for 735 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest single-game splash came in his final outing, tying a Cotton Bowl record with three-touchdown grabs against Texas A&M in January.
At LSU Pro Day in March he recorded a vertical jump of 33 1/2 inches and a broad jump of 10-feet, 2-inches. He then pulled his hamstring while running his 40 (4.54), but bounced back in individual drills with an impressive display of hands and route-running skills.
Of the wide receivers left on the board, Toliver makes a strong case for the most valuable.