2011 NFL Draft Headquarters
Six Tigers hear their names called in New York City
As many as seven LSU Tigers could hear their names called by the NFL in the next three days. Patrick Peterson will hear his first, but where will Stevan Ridley, left, and Kelvin Sheppard, right, land? (Photos by Gail Chisum)
Tiger Rag Staff Report
For the second straight April, the NFL Draft is set to kick off in its new Thursday-Friday-Saturday format.
A year ago LSU wasn’t represented on opening night, failing to put a player into the first round for the first time since the 2003 Draft.
That’ll all change in a hurry tonight as cornerback/return man extraordinaire Patrick Peterson looks to be one of the first six or seven names to be called at the podium by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
But before we dive into where Peterson and several other prominent LSU Tigers will land, let’s take a quick look back at the recent history of Bayou Bengals in the Draft.
*NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of this post throughout the next three days for the most up-to-date live information on LSU players being selected.
LSU in the NFL Draft since 2000
As previously mentioned, LSU didn’t have a first-rounder in the 2010 Draft. The Tigers did, however, finish with a total of six players drafted last April.
Safety Chad Jones (third round, 76th overall, New York Giants) and wide receiver Brandon LaFell (third round, 78th overall, Carolina Panthers) went two picks apart and were the first LSU players off the board. That rounded out the purple-and-gold action through Friday, but on Saturday LSU placed two players apiece in the fourth and sixth rounds.
Going in the fourth round were linebacker Perry Riley (Washington Redskins) then defensive tackle Al Woods (New Orleans Saints). Capping the day off, the Houston Texas selected receiver/return specialist Trindon Holliday before the Philadelphia Eagles took running back Charles Scott.
Taking a trip down draft memory lane for the six editions prior (2003-09), LSU had at least one Tiger taken in the first round of every single one.
2009: DE Tyson Jackson (third overall pick, Kansas City Chiefs)
2008: DT Glenn Dorsey (fifth overall pick, Kansas City Chiefs)
2007: QB JaMarcus Russell (first overall pick, Oakland Raiders)
S Laron Landry (sixth overall pick, Washington Redskins)
WR Dwayne Bowe (23rd overall pick, Kansas City Chiefs)
WR Craig “Buster” Davis (30th overall pick, San Diego Chargers)
2006: RB Joe Addai (30th overall pick, Indianapolis Colts)
2005: DE Marcus Spears (20th overall pick, Dallas Cowboys)
2004: WR Michael Clayton (15th overall pick, Tampa Bay Buccanears)
Interestingly enough, the Tigers didn’t produce a single first-round Draft pick from 2000-2003, a period when Nick Saban was still building the program into a national power. Check out below when the first LSU player came off the board during those four Drafts, respectively.
2003: RB Domanick Davis (fourth round, 101st overall, Houston Texas)
… And two picks later, LB Bradie James (fourth round, 103rd overall, Dallas Cowboys)
2002: WR Josh Reed (second round, 36th overall, Buffalo Bills)
2001: OT Brandon Winey (first pick of the sixth round, Miami Dolphins)
2000: S Mark Roman (third pick of the second round, Cincinnati Bengals)
And now for some stats to wrap up this review of the past decade for LSU in the NFL Draft.
31 - The number of LSU players that have been drafted during Les Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge.
55 - The number of LSU players that have been drafted since the beginning of the 2000 Draft.
9 - The number of LSU players that have been selected in the first round since beginning of ‘00 Draft.
Comparing those numbers to LSU’s SEC brethren, only Georgia (61), Tennessee (60) and Florida (59) had more players drafted since the ‘00 Draft began. And only those same three schools in the SEC had more first-rounders than LSU in the same time period (Florida and Tennessee, 12; Georgia, 11).
LSU players in the 2011 Draft
It’s a no brainer that we’ll start out with LSU’s top prospect and someone who could wind up having one of the best pro careers in school history — cornerback Patrick Peterson.
The two-time All American jumped to the top of practically everyone’s big board when he ran a blistering 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in late February.
However, the biggest challenge Peterson faces if he wants to be the highest cornerback ever taken (no CB has ever gone higher than No. 3 overall) is that it’s simply not a position coveted in the NFL Draft.
Scouts will tell you that cornerbacks only directly affect about 10 plays per game while tackles, defensive linemen and quarterbacks affect every single play for their ballclub.
That’s why it’s quite likely that Peterson falls out of the top-5 despite having the most ‘can’t-miss’ talent. His two most likely suitors, at this point, appear to be the Arizona Cardinals at No. 5 overall or the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7.
The second Tiger to be drafted will almost assuredly be Drake Nevis.
LSU’s defensive tackle had 56 tackles, 13 for loss, and six sacks last season, and he has shown tremendous athleticism for an inside lineman. Scouts are projecting the former John Ehret star to come off the board in the second or third round.
Nevis likely won’t start right away, but he could be a key reserve on a team looking for defensive line depth.
The battle to be the next Tiger taken will be an interesting competition between a pair of key seniors on last year’s squad - WR Terrence Toliver and LB Kelvin Sheppard.
Both project to be taken some time between the third and fifth rounds, and it will largely depend on which player fits into a team’s need first.
Toliver caught only 41 passes and five touchdowns last season, but he led the team in both categories thanks to inconsistent quarterback play.
He will bring prototypical wide receiver size to an NFL roster, but will have to work on the dropsies he suffered from occasionally during his time on campus.
His counterpart in the middle rounds, Sheppard, lacks the quickness to be a Pro Bowl NFL linebacker, but his football smarts and special teams abilities should keep him on an NFL roster for years to come.
Additionally, Sheppard can play all three 4-3 linebacker positions and was a special teams’ standout earlier in his LSU career, both items giving him versatility to an NFL franchise.
Three more Tigers have legitimate hopes of being drafted - OL Joe Barksdale, K Josh Jasper and RB Stevan Ridley.
Barksdale has all the physical tools needed for an NFL tackle, but scouts feel he simply isn’t aggressive and mean enough to excel at the highest level.
Because he’s too talented not to be drafted, look for him to go in the late rounds.
Even though only nine kickers have been selected in the past five NFL Drafts, Jasper is a consensus top-3 kicker in this year’s pool, so he’s got a good shot to go as well.
Finally, LSU’s leading rusher from a season ago is an interesting case study.
Watch the tape of Ridley’s 2010 campaign, and instinct tells you the Natchez, Miss., native is a lock to be drafted in the first four rounds. But, a 4.65 40-yard dash time at the Combine followed by a 4.66 effort at LSU’s Pro Day have taken their toll on his Draft stock. Expect the junior entrant to be selected, though it’s unclear at this point whether he’ll go in the third or fourth round or scrape by in the sixth of seventh (and final) round.
Opening night will feature only the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and both ESPN and the NFL Network have the live broadcast.
Before getting into the meat of the Draft, check out the NFL’s Statement on Operations, released today and listed on ESPN at the top of its live Draft telecast. The series of rules addresses several concerns many had about newly drafted players and will take effect beginning at 8 a.m. (Eastern) tomorrow morning.
- Players may use club facilities for physicals, rehabilitation and medical treatment
- Clubs may distribute playbooks and film to players
- Coaches may meet with players to discuss football matters
- Offseason workout programs may begin
- NFL will likely advise teams on procedure for handling player transactions Friday
Back to the actual Draft itself.
Continue to scroll down for current information on LSU players being selected, but for a complete catalog of who’s been drafted, by whom and where they were taken, visit the ESPN.com link below.
Selected: No. 5 overall to the Arizona Cardinals
The first defensive back taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, Peterson was the fourth SEC player off the board in only five short picks. What jumps off the page immediately about this selection? The CB tandem Peterson will immediately enter into alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That duo will be tasked with leading a defensive resurgence in the desert for a team still switching identities following the departures of quarterback Kurt Warner (retirement) and receiver Anquan Boldin (trade, Baltimore Ravens) just more than a year ago.
Looking for something to really sum up how complete a player PP7 is? When Peterson was taken by the Cardinals, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who had the LSU corner as his No. 1 overall player on his Big Board entering the night, listed Peterson’s strengths and weaknesses. Kiper’s weaknesses listed for Peterson? “None.” That about says it all. There is some speculation as to whether the Pompano Beach, Fla., native ultimately becomes a safety with his great size, but for now, Arizona got itself the best cover cornerback in the draft as well as arguably the best return man in the 2011 Draft.
UPDATE (10:45 p.m.): Bill Martin of the LSU Sports Information Department filed the following report Thursday evening, including a quote from the recently drafted Patrick Peterson.
NEW YORK — LSU All-American Patrick Peterson became the highest drafted defensive back in school history on Thursday night as he was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft on Thursday night at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.
Peterson is the 33rd first round pick in the history of LSU football and the eighth first round pick under head coach Les Miles. LSU has now produced at least one first round pick in seven out of the past eight seasons.
“This has been an unbelievable experience and to have my family here and Coach Miles means so much to me,” Peterson said at his post-draft reception. “It was something I waited for my entire life. You work so hard to get to this moment. I’d like to thank Coach Miles and the LSU family who supported me through my college career. Playing in the NFL is a dream come true. I can’t wait to get to Arizona and meet my teammates.”
Peterson joined Tennessee’s Eric Berry (2010) as the highest drafted defensive back in Southeastern Conference history. LaRon Landry was previously the highest LSU defensive back when he went sixth in 2007 to the Washington Redskins. Peterson is also the fifth top-10 pick for LSU under Miles.
Peterson joins an Arizona team that features former LSU stars Alan Faneca and Early Doucet.
Selected: No. 68 overall (3rd round) to the Buffalo Bills
The second Tiger to come off the board is linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. He will join fellow former Tiger Kyle Williams in Buffalo’s front-seven. The versatility of Sheppard likely made him a high third-round pick with the ability to play every linebacker position and excel on special teams. His football smarts don’t hurt either. He has led the Tigers in tackles two years in a row with 116 in 2010 and 110 in 2009, and he was second on the team with 64 in 2008 despite starting only five games.
Sheppard will join a Bills squad that is switching to a 3-4 in 2011 and likely has two starters at linebacker sewn up with Paul Posluszny and Akin Ayodele (assuming they keep both when the lockout ends). Both had over 100 total tackles last year, so expect Sheppard to compete with Chris Kelsay and Aaron Maybin for one of the other two spots in the starting lineup.
Selected: No. 73 overall (3rd round) to the New England Patriots
The long list of LSU Tigers to play for the Patriots in the Bill Belechick era is about to add one more - running back Stevan Ridley. LSU’s leading rusher left school following his junior campaign after rushing for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns in his only year as the starter. It sure looks like he made the right decision to come out as he joins a Patriots squad that sure knows how to maximize the talent of running backs.
Undrafted running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis of Ole Miss led New England in rushing last year with 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. Fellow undrafted free agent Danny Woodhead found the end zone five times and ran for 547 yards last year. Of course, both saw extended playing time due to former Tiger Kevin Faulk missed all but two games with a season-ending injury.
Selected: No. 87 overall (3rd round) to the Indianapolis Colts
As if one player from the Crescent City in star quarterback Peyton Manning isn’t enough, the Colts went to nearby Marrero to select LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis. The powerful lineman has been a terror in the backfield his entire career in purple and gold, but it wasn’t until his senior year that he was really give the opportunity to shine. He responded with 56 tackles, 13 TFL and six sacks this past season.
He joins a Colts squad that has largely had a rotating door in the middle, between all-world ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, for the past several seasons. With Nevis’ football IQ and never-say-quit attitude, expect the Tiger to solidify one spot in the middle for the Colts moving forward. Indy now has two former Tigers on its squad as Nevis joins running back Joseph Addai.
Selected: No. 92 overall (3rd round) to the Oakland Raiders
The fourth and final Tiger taken in the third round is offensive tackle Joe Barskdale, who surely has all the physical skills to be taken at this position in the draft. However most scouts felt he didn’t have a mean enough attitude to be a force on Sundays. Well, what better franchise to teach Barksdale a mean-streak than Al Davis and the Raiders? Barksdale solidified a veteran offensive line that saw LSU rush for 185.7 yards per game and 29 touchdowns last season.
Jared Veldheer and Langston Walker were Oakland’s starting tackles last season, but even if Barksdale isn’t able to win one of the starting spots at tackle, the Raiders have set a recent precedent of moving a highly-drafted tackle to guard. The silver and black moved 2004 No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery to left guard, where he’s played above average and salvaged his career for the past several seasons.
Selected: No. 205 overall (7th round) to the Seattle Seahawks
The first Tiger to come off the board Saturday didn’t come until the early part of the seventh round when the Seahawks took LSU defensive lineman Pep Levingston. The versatile lineman has played both inside and outside for LSU, and he started 12 games at defensive tackle for the Tigers last season. Even though he didn’t make a sack in his senior season, he led the team with five pass hurries, and he made 25 tackles. The Ruston native had 70 tackles and three sacks in his career at LSU.
At LSU’s pro day, Levingston actually did once fewer bench press rep (20) than running back Richard Murphy (21), but the Seahawks must have seen something they liked in the former Tiger to use a pick on him. As a late-round draft pick, Levingston will compete for a roster spot once the lockout ends and team drills and practices begin.
The 2011 NFL Draft has come and gone and a pair of Tigers with hopes of being drafted didn’t hear their names called. Wide receiver Terrence Toliver, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection, didn’t get taken. Additionally, kicker Josh Jasper wasn’t selected, but only one kicker was taken in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Both will enter the pool of undrafted free agents, but as long as the lockout is in place, they will not be eligible to sign or even communicate with teams. The strong chance of abbreviated preseason practices and games could decrease the opportunity for either to make a roster before the first game happens next season, but both are surely talented enough to catch on eventually if they find the right system.