By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
- Big Apple Bound
Jamal Adams is following in his father George’s NFL footsteps — literally.
Those tracks lead deep into the swamps of New Jersey, right to the Meadowlands.
The All-American LSU safety was selected sixth overall by the New York Jets in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft. George, a running back out of Kentucky, was the No. 19 overall pick of the New York Giants in 1985.
Father and son actually made a bet years ago as to whether or not Jamal would be drafted higher than George. Jamal recounted the wager during a radio appearance Friday with Mike Francesa of WFAN in New York.
According to Jamal, George backed out of the $100,000 wager as mock drafts projected Jamal as a virtual lock top-10 pick. It was relatively surprising he made it all the way to sixth. Some had him going as high as second.
But George wasn’t always so sure his son would make it to the league. He spoke to Tiger Rag two years ago for a profile of Jamal that appeared as the cover story for our 2015 Football Preview issue. It took some time for Jamal’s obvious passion for the game to ignite.
“He was chasing butterflies, picking up rocks and messing with the grass,” George said of Jamal’s early days playing the game he cherished. “I didn’t know if he was going to be a football player that year, but he came back the second year and it was like night and day. He just turned around like he knew. He was paying attention the first year when I didn’t even think he was.
“He came to me when he was about nine years old, and he asked me ‘Dad, one day I want to play with LSU or Florida. Do you think that I’ll be fast enough?’ And I said ‘Son, you will be fast enough.’ And that’s what he did.”
George was right about that.
The Adams are the eighth such father-son first-round duo in NFL history. Adams marks the fifth son to come out of the Southeastern Conference, joining Saints running back Mark Ingram (Alabama), Falcons tackle Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and the Manning Brothers, Peyton (Tennessee) and Eli (Ole Miss).
Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, remains the face of the New York Giants, who co-habituate MetLife Stadium with Adams’ Jets. Could Adams ascend to similar stardom with Gang Green?
The Jets were a picture of dysfunction this past year — and in many other years, honestly — but Adams will make them a better football team the day he walks in the door.
A case can be made that there’s no better pound-for-pound football player in the 2017 draft than Adams, and he’ll be a leader from day one. With Adams and Leonard Williams, last year’s sixth overall pick, the Jets have two foundation players to build a defense around.
- Migration Patterns
LSU added another stamp to its bona fide ‘DBU’ credentials as Adams and cornerback Tre’Davious White (27th overall to Buffalo) came off the board Thursday night. That makes five Tiger defensive backs selected in the first round over the past seven years.
“Proud of these guys and how they not only upheld, but raised the standard for DBU,” LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond tweeted along with a picture of the three together on draft night.
A case can also be made for LSU being “D-line U” with an assembly line of talent that stretches back through the ‘90s and Booger McFarland. The program is also known to produce explosive skill position players as well, notably Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and now Leonard Fournette.
But lately there’s been a new LSU trend sweeping the NFL Draft — in particular the NFC South — LSU linebackers.
Both Kwon Alexander, a fourth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, and Deion Jones, a second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons last year, have exploded onto the scene in the league.
Alexander led the NFL with 108 solo tackles last season. Jones played exceptional football straight through the Super Bowl. The pair have produced so well that both franchises chose to double down on Friday night.
The Falcons drafted Duke Riley, a near Jones clone, in the second round (75th overall). Jones and Riley bring a ton of athleticism to the linebacker corps in a sport that’s becoming increasingly centered on speed and matchup versatility.
One round later the Buccaneers drafted Kendell Beckwith with the No. 107 overall pick. The three-year starter and classic thumper in the middle went even earlier than may have been expected as he works his way back from knee surgery.
Conceivably half of the NFC South could start pairings of LSU linebackers for the years to come. Atlanta with the speedy duo of Jones and Riley. Tampa Bay with the one-two punch of Alexander and Beckwith.
The New Orleans Saints will play a quarter of its season against those four LSU backers while the hometown team continued its apparent moratorium on drafting LSU players. To be fair: the Saints did sign former LSU wideout Travin Dural as an undrafted free agent.
Next in line: Pass rusher extraordinaire Arden Key.
- UFDA Fits
The draft is only half the battle. Eight Tigers were selected through the seven round process, but eight move have signed with teams in the mad scramble to fill out rosters with undrafted free agents. Here’s a couple that’re particularly intriguing for one reason for another.
DB Dwayne Thomas (New England Patriots): Say what you will about Thomas’ brash comments before the Alabama game, but him and the LSU defense held up their end of the deal that night. They dominated, and Thomas played the best football of his career playing nickel down the stretch last season. He’s a smart, tough and versatile defender who excels on special teams, and those are the kind of guys the Patriots love to stock pile.
DL Lewis Neal (Dallas Cowboys): Neal wasn’t drafted after not being invited to work out at the NFL Combine. The sharp business man and defensive lineman took to twitter to share some thoughts. “Led LSU in sacks last year and took one for the team this year by two-gapping and career best game against Alabama out of position,” he wrote. Followed by the hashtag “sleep.” Don’t be surprised if that versatility gets him on an opening day roster for a Cowboys team in need of manpower up front.
The Rest: WR Travin Dural (New Orleans Saints), OG Josh Boutte (Cleveland Browns), DE Tashawn Bower (Cleveland Browns), TE Colin Jeter (Indianapolis Colts), TE DeSean Smith (Chicago Bears) and S Rickey Jefferson (Oakland Raiders).