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Can LSU Bounce Back from the NFL Draft in 2020?

Steve Shoup

In team sports, there is always the chance that you will become a victim of your own success.

After a successful season, your players become hot property – and that was certainly the case at LSU, who tied the all-time record for the number of their stars picked during the NFL Draft.

All told, a staggering 14 LSU Tigers were drafted to the pro ranks, which matches the same number selected from Ohio State back in 1994.

It’s no great surprise really given that the Tigers dominated in 2019-20, compiling a perfect 15-0 record and going on to claim the National Championship. In the eyes of many, this was one of the finest college football teams ever put together.

Star quarterback Joe Burrow was the first player selected in the NFL Draft, and it’s the Cincinnati Bengals that will benefit the most from his laser-like passing, which served up a staggering 5,671 yards in the SEC last season and – naturally enough – took Burrow to the Heisman Trophy.

 

Both the offensive and defensive lines were decimated in the draft, with other first-round picks including linebackers K’lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Other stat leaders that LSU will have to do without this season are Jacob Phillips, who made more successful tackles than any other SEC player in 2019-20, pass defence specialist Kristian Fulton and Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit.

The complete list of 14 draftees was supplemented by six players who went undrafted, however they can still of course be added to a roster as free agents further down the line.

It leaves head coach Ed Orgeron with an almighty rebuilding job on his hands, and it is perhaps no surprise to see that LSU have slipped down in the sportsbooks’ latest NCAAF American football odds to +650 – putting them behind Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama in the pecking order.

So can the Tigers bounce back in 2020-21 and make a mockery of those predictions?

Firm Foundations

It’s not just the loss of 14 key players that will impact upon LSU’s chances: coaching personnel Joe Brady and Dave Aranda have also moved on to pastures new.

So Orgeron will be rebuilding from the bottom up, and his plans will have to focus on settling in new faces after such a dramatic upheaval.

There is a sense that they can ‘reload’ and go hard once again, and the head coach himself has commented with cautious optimism on the campaign ahead. “I think the culture that we’ve built is fantastic, but we need to keep that standard up.” Orgeron also suggested that there were ‘lots of good things’ that the new blood can learn from the alumni, which suggests come continuity across the board.

And, lest we forget, some big hitters will return for the new season. Ja’Marr Chase is an extraordinarily talented wide receiver – he ran more yards per reception than any other SEC player last season, and tied for touchdowns scored with Najee Harris. Can replacement QB Myles Brennan find him with regularity?

The likes of Tyrion Davis-Price and Chris Curry will try to replicate Edwards-Helaire’s offensive output between them, but a lack of experience and, dare we say it, quality, may ultimately prevent the Tigers from getting anywhere close to their achievements of last season this time around.



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