Draft Presence for LSU Bigger in 2016

After only four former Tigers were selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, TSD publisher Ben Love expects that number to rise in 2016. Who will be drafted from LSU next year and which underclassmen will declare?

The 2015 NFL Draft is less than a week old, but with mock drafts for next year already flooding the worldwide web, TSD is taking a look at potential LSU players in the 2016 Draft.

Les Miles got a relative reprieve this go-round from the underclassman exodus that’s plagued the program of late – with only four Tigers drafted in 2015 compared to nine apiece in 2013 and 2014, but next April has a chance to see LSU’s total creep back up closer to nine drafted players.

Here’s a list of 10 Bayou Bengals that will suit up this fall and, whether eligible underclassmen or seniors, have a legitimate chance at being selected in next year’s seven-round event.

In alphabetical order . . .

1. OL Vadal Alexander

A senior in 2015, Alexander (6-6, 320) returned to elevate his stock and will start somewhere along LSU’s offensive line for the fourth straight season. He’s got the capability of playing inside and out, but many believe he’s best served as an offensive guard on the college level. The “too-early mock” for Sports Illustrated has Alexander as the final pick of the first round, going No. 32 overall to the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll be first- or second-day pick.

2. LB Kendell Beckwith

Once inserted into the starting lineup at middle linebacker in 2014, Beckwith dazzled as a sophomore. He’ll enter his junior season with a firm grasp on the same starting gig and plenty of expectations, particularly as a run-stopper on the Tigers’ second level. At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, Beckwith has the size to compete in the NFL. He’ll have every chance to come out after the 2015 campaign, similar to what Kwon Alexander, a fourth-round selection, did after starting for a year and a half at linebacker.

3. WR Travin Dural

Dural (6-2, 192) is almost certainly gone after one last season. He’ll be a redshirt junior this fall, but the athletic wide-out nearly left following the 2014 campaign. It’s almost always impossible, barring injury, to talk players into coming back a second time. Dural averaged 20.5 yards per reception a year ago, solidifying himself as a true deep threat and red-zone option with his leaping ability. If he posts a similar season, or better if LSU’s quarterback play can improve, he could go flying up draft boards.

4. TE Dillon Gordon

Entering his third year as a starter, Gordon (6-4, 295) makes for an interesting NFL Draft prospect. That’s mostly because franchises may wonder if they can convert him into an offensive lineman on the professional level. He’s more or less served as LSU’s sixth lineman since 2013, an in-line blocker with plenty of power. Gordon is a senior, so 2015 is his swan-song season no matter what. But it’ll be intriguing to see if he’s drafted between the fourth and seventh rounds as a converted lineman project.

5. OL Jerald Hawkins

File Hawkins (6-6, 309) under the same category as Dural. A rising redshirt junior who took some convincing to return for 2015, Hawkins is a virtual certainty to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. And his move out to left tackle this fall will only improve his lot in life with pro franchises. Alexander is seen by some early mock drafts as a borderline first-rounder, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Hawkins to end up the higher-regarded prospect of the two this time next year.

6. DT Christian Lacouture

Of all the underclassman possibilities listed here, LaCouture (6-5, 300) feels like the least likely to bolt, potentially because it won’t be a viable option for him. He is heading into his third straight season as a starter at defensive tackle, quite a feat for a junior-to-be at LSU. LaCouture has the motor and size but may lack the type of explosiveness or elite athleticism to come out early. He also seems to enjoy being in college and in Baton Rouge. Ultimately how he plays this season will determine whether LaCouture is a bona fide candidate to make the leap.

7. LB Lamar Louis

Louis, a rising senior in 2015, is a bit like Gordon in this discussion but without the potential to move to another position. A strongside linebacker for LSU, Louis (5-11, 229) doesn’t really have the size required to move inside, especially in the NFL. He’s a very hard hitter and sure tackler once he gets his mitts on ball-carriers, but the take as we enter this summer is he’ll have to author a huge season – and improve his speed – to secure his place as a draftable player.

8. DB Jalen Mills

This is the only LSU player that’s currently viewed as a consensus first-round pick in 2016 by all the mock-draft prognosticators. SI has Mills (6-0, 194) going No. 23 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers while Bleacher Report has Mills, a senior, going No. 28 overall to the Denver Broncos. His versatility – Mills can and does regularly play corner, nickel and safety – is something professional brass love. That plus his experience make Mills a name that could easily be called on night one of the draft.

9. OL Ethan Pocic

Entering his junior season, Pocic (6-7, 301) is the underclassman – maybe along with Beckwith – that LSU fans will most closely monitor. He plays on the interior of the line for the Tigers, a starter a season ago at right guard and center. But Pocic, a tall offensive lineman, is seen as a tackle in the League. His cross-training makes him valuable, as does the fact he’s been in the top six linemen on LSU’s team since his true freshman season. This would be one of the toughest blows for the purple and gold should Pocic go, especially considering Alexander will graduate and Hawkins is a lock to declare.

10. CB Tre’Davious White

Of all the position groupings on the field, either side of the ball, defensive back is where LSU has lost the most underclassmen to the draft lately. White (5-11, 191) is believed to be next in line. A junior in 2015, White will start on an island for a third straight year. He’s also got a good chance to resume his duties as the Tigers’ punt returner, furthering his value come next April. Something surprising would have to occur for White to be back in an LSU uniform for 2016.

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