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NFL Prospect Focus: LSU offense underclassmen

There's a good chance these Tigers are in next year's NFL draft. Greg Gabriel

Print This December 04, 2013, 03:04 PM EST

In conversations I have with scouts and agents, the word is that LSU could lose as many as five underclassmen to the NFL Draft. I have already written up defensive tackle Anthony Johnson. Today, I will talk about receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, running back Jeremy Hill, and tackle La’el Collins.

Odell Beckham – Receiver

Beckham is a third-year junior and has been a starter since his freshman year at LSU. He is a top receiver as well as their top return man, and shows NFL-tier skills both. This year, he has caught 57 passes for 1117 yards and eight TDs.

Beckham has adequate size at about 6’0 – 188 pounds, but he also has very long arms, which allows him to play taller than his actual height. He is an excellent athlete with good speed, excellent change of direction, body control, and leaping ability. I would not call Beckham a “burner”, but he is fast enough. His play speed is in the 4.48 – 4.50 range. He has a quick burst that allows him to get out of cuts quickly.

As a receiver, Beckham runs very good routes. He shows the skills necessary to uncover versus man and zone, and he makes big plays. He does a great job finishing his routes and comes back to the ball very well. He has excellent hands and always catches the ball away from his body. He is effective as both a short and deep receiver, and his run after skills are excellent. He can be a club's number one return man as soon as he comes into the league.

Overall, Beckham is very talented, and if he comes out, he should be a premium pick. Because the receiver position is tied so much to speed, how he runs at the combine and his pro day will determine where he actually goes. Regardless of where he gets drafted, he will play very early in his career. He has the talent to play either outside or in the slot and be productive at ether position.

Jarvis Landry – Receiver

Landry is a third-year junior. He played as a backup his freshman year in 2011. In 2012 while he only started one game, he was LSU’s leading receiver with 56 catches. He is a starter this year and has caught 75 passes for 1172 yards and 10 TDs. While he is used some deep, he is really the “possession” receiver in the LSU offense.

Listed at 6’1 – 195, Landry looks bigger because of his build and long arms. He is a physical receiver, but is also athletic, with speed. As an athlete, he has smooth change of direction and excellent overall body control. He consistently shows his top flexibility with the way he adjusts to poorly thrown passes. Like Beckham, I would not call Landry a “burner”, but he is fast enough. His play speed is in the 4.55 area.
Landry is a very good route runner who gets off the ball quickly and can make the sharp cuts necessary to get separation. While he isn’t a speed guy, he has a quick burst to the ball. Like Beckham, he does a very good job finishing routes. He has great hands and consistently “snatches” the ball. His ability to adjust to the ball and make the acrobatic catch is rare. After the catch, he is a strong runner with a burst and the ability to make the first man miss. 

Landry will play early in his career and will probably be a starter before his rookie year is over. Like I said above, regarding Beckham, where he ends up getting drafted will be a direct result of how he times. There is no questioning his talent, there are some questions on his overall top-end speed.

La’el Collins – Offensive tackle

Collins is a third-year junior and a former five-star prospect, who was recruited by the top programs in the country. As a freshman in 2011, he played as a backup. In 2012, he started every game at left guard and was moved to left tackle this season, where he, again, has started every game.

Collins has excellent size. He is listed at being 6’5 – 320 and looks all of that, if not more. He has excellent upper and lower body bulk, and is very strong and explosive. He is a good, but not a great, athlete for the position. He shows good quickness, and I would estimate his speed as being in the 5.35 area. Collins flashes good knee-bend, but does not consistently play with that bend. He can get straight-legged at times, and when he does this, he tends to waist bend. I have seen him play with good football posture, so I know he can do it. It will just take more concentration on his form.

Collins is best as a run blocker. He gets off the ball quickly and shows the power to get movement. He can get to the second level, and while not used often to pull, he shows he can get in front of a back and adjust on the move. I like that he keeps his feet running on contact and looks to finish blocks. In pass protection, he has adequate set quickness. He also has a strong punch and does a good job keeping his hands inside. Because of his strength and power, he handles bull rushers well. He can have some trouble with outside speed rushers. He lacks the top lateral quickness to stay with top speed guys. Against the average college pass rusher, he can mirror, slide, and recover.

Collins played guard in 2012 and that may be his best position in the NFL. He may be able to play right tackle, but I doubt he can be an effective left tackle. If he plays at guard, he may have Pro Bowl potential. Playing inside fits his athletic traits better and also plays into his strength as a run blocker. Collins is a premium-type pick, but I have questions if he is a first rounder. If as many O-Linemen go in the first round as last year, then his chances improve.

Jeremy Hill – Running Back

Hill is a second-year sophomore but because he finished high school in 2011, he can make himself eligible for the draft. He didn’t enroll at LSU until January 2012 because of some off field issues that needed to be cleaned up. In 2012, Hill played as a rotational back and ran for over 750 yards. This year, he is the starter but still plays in a rotation. To date, he has run for 1185 yards and 14 TDs. He has caught 18 passes for 181 yards. He has very good size for a running back at about 6’1 – 235.

Hill is athletic, with quickness and great balance. He has adequate speed that I would estimate at being in the 4.6 area. He shows good initial quickness and has very good vision/instincts. He is a patient runner who makes good decisions. He is a good cutback runner who finds an opening and bursts through it. With his size and strength, he can run with power and is very good at getting additional yards after contact. He runs low and under his pads and keeps his feet moving. While I would not say he is the most elusive guy, he can make the first man miss.

Collins has some long runs, but he is not what I would call a breakaway threat. He is best as a between-the-tackles, inside runner who can nickel and dime a defense to death. He is also very reliable as a receiver, used mainly on checkdowns and screens. As a pass blocker, I have seen inconsistency. While he is willing, he does not consistently get and keep good positioning, and he needs to use his hands better.

From a physical standpoint, Hill is ready to play in the NFL. He has starter talent and will be a good between-the-tackles power guy. He needs to improve his pass-blocking skills. The question most teams will have is his off field character. He had an arrest in high school and another earlier this summer. These are issues clubs don’t want to deal with. With the running back position already being devalued in the draft, and with his legal issues, I can’t see Collins being drafted before the third round and I might be high there.

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