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DandyDon.com's Q&A with Mike Detillier on LSU and the 2014 NFL Draft
Scott: Wow, what an incredible weekend it was to be a Tiger! A nation's best nine players drafted, including another nation's best of five players drafted in Rounds 1-3, plus four more who agree to free agent deals. What does this say to you about the state of the LSU football program?
Mike: Scott, first of all it speaks volumes for the talent in the state of Louisiana. Per capita, the state of Louisiana has produced more pro players than any state four out of the last five years. So, the talent pool is here and in 2005 there were 254 scholarship football players from the highest to the lowest level of college. In 2013 there were 404. It's incredible when you consider what happened hurricane-wise over that time frame and what it did South of the I-10.
The numbers don't lie.
From 2008-2014, in the Les Miles era at LSU, look how many players have been drafted:
Alabama & Ohio State-49
Florida State and Florida-42
1st round picks in that timeframe:
Florida and Florida State each with 11
There are 14, 15, 16-year-old kids watching that draft and seeing who is churning out those picks in numbers. It is an unpaid advertisement for the program and programs that lead the pack. Sometimes being in this area you don't see it as clearly. I have been blessed to do shows on both TV and radio across the country and they just marvel what is coming out of this state and certainly LSU.
Scott: I agree, Mike 100%, but what do you say to the folks out there who say, yeah but with all that talent why doesn't LSU have any recent championships to show for it?
Mike: It's a legit question. No question about it. But how many has Georgia, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma won in this timeframe?
Hank Stram would tell me, “To win it all, you have to have it all.” It is hard to win a national championship. Everything has to be in place.
Florida won it twice with Chris Leak, and Tim Tebow once, and Tebow a second time, and both with superb defenses. What Alabama has done has been remarkable, but they had great defenses and AJ McCarron did a very good job at QB.
Auburn won it with a once in a lifetime college player in Cam Newton and Nick Fairly was awesome on defense.
Last season FSU won it with a very talented defense and Jameis Winston at quarterback.
The key for LSU in the future is to develop the quarterback slot. The talent and the pool to get defensive players are in the state and now LSU recruits nationally. The key is at QB.
And I have never seen as much talent along the offensive line as I see today.
And the economy is getting people to migrate to this state too. A big pool means more players. It's fact. And football matters in this state.
Scott: Looking back at how the draft played out, there were quite a few surprises, at least in my book. Which picks (or no picks) surprised you the most?
Mike: The biggest drop was QB Zach Mettenberger and DT Anthony Johnson.
It was a freefall for Mettenberger, like McCarron and Aaron Murray, but Mettenberger couldn't ask for a better spot than Tennessee. The Titans are not totally sold on Jake Locker and Ken Whisenhunt does a great job with young QBs.
It all accumulated for Mettenberger. He was hurt for most of the season with a lower leg injury. He underwent major knee surgery. Then the diluted sample. It just sunk his draft boat.
He had a 2nd round pick grade physically, but those other things came into play.
But you can't worry about that. Tony Romo came into this league as an undrafted free agent, so did Jake Delhomme when he came out of UL-Lafayette. Tom Brady was a late round pick.There is nothing he can do about it, but let it motivate him. Everyone has a different story on how they made it in this league.
Zack had the strongest arm in this draft class, but there is more to playing quarterback than arm strength and he needs refinement in his game. He was blessed last season to work with Cam Cameron and when Zach was healthy, he was terrific, but the reality was he was not healthy from the Ole Miss game on.
On Anthony Johnson, it was a humbling moment. He is talented, but inconsistent and then the reported failed drug test. In this league and in the climate today, they are willing to give you a chance and two chances, but as an undrafted free agent, not a draft choice. He had a 4th round pick grade, but once the reports came out, it was all over.
Loved the fact on the plus side that Alfred Blue and James Wright got picked late. Both weren't starters fulltime, but they have a role to play in the NFL.
Scott: And what about JC Copeland and Craig Loston?
Mike: Fullbacks in this league are devalued, but Dallas picked up a good lead blocker, short yardage runner and receiver out of the backfield in JC, but there aren't a lot of fullbacks taken. Copeland will play in the NFL. He was my top-rated fullback in this draft class.
Mystery on Loston. There has to be more than meets the eye on his story. He was a good cover strong safety, and so we will find out the details a little later, but something doesn't seem right with Loston. He was never a dominant player, but he was a good player and a ballhawk.
Scott: Seems like character issues, or rather character concerns, kept a lot of people down this year. Hopefully that will open the eyes of some youngsters and help them to realize what's at stake. Your thoughts?
Mike: Scott, I would hope so, but I say it every year and the same things happen. You think you are Superman and bulletproof at that age and then you get humbled. Nothing stays the same and you are not on scholarship anymore. You have to take care of yourself like you are a business. It is why 78% of NFL players 36 months after retirement from the game are broke.
This is a once in a lifetime shot and you have to accept it that way. I am telling you now, no matter how much you preach about it, some will do what they want at a moment in time they shouldn't.
Scott: How big of a mistake do you think it was for Anthony Johnson to leave early, and how big would it have been for LSU had he stayed?
Mike: I can't answer that. I don't know every detail of Anthony Johnson's finances and his family finances. He did what he thought was best for him. That is his choice.
Where else can a 21-year old leave school and make $350,000 to $400,000 a year. There is no job like that. It has to be humbling for him and a wakeup call to understand for the pros this is a business and they treat it that way.
When juniors leave to help their families, I can't fault them for that. But it is always a personal choice.
Everyone brings up the money and 1st and 2nd round picks get paid well, but the new CBA changed the rules altogether. There is less than a $100,000 difference between a 3rd/4th round pick and a free agent. You win the lottery by making an NFL team, but you win the Powerball by being an unrestricted NFL free agent five years later. You come out early and make it and you are one year closer to the Powerball shot. Let's face reality, some players are in school to play football.
With the new CBA rules the years of huge signing bonuses for 1st round players are a distant memory. It's all slotted today. That is why you will see 90 to 100 juniors come out every year.
Scott: Back to something you said earlier... I too was especially happy to see James Wright and Alfred Blue picked. I know you and I both spoke very highly of these two guys, and expected bigger things from them at LSU. Why do you think they didn't shine brighter as Tiger stars? And what do you make of their NFL futures?
Mike: Well for James Wright it was simple, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. He was a good player, but those two were elite college players. He will have a role in the NFL.
On Alfred Blue he just couldn't stay healthy and then Jeremy Hill hits town. Blue is a good role player and a terrific special teams performer.
Both are role players for the NFL and both have to excel on special teams to make a roster.
Scott: Along those lines, of the 13 Tigers moving on to the NFL, who should make it to the field early and whose futures look the brightest?
Mike: Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham and Jeremy Hill will play and play early. I think Hill and Landry will make the fastest impact. OBJ will make his impact more in Year 2.
I really think Trai Turner will have a long a career in the NFL at guard. He has All-Pro skills as a guard.
Those four were special players in college and all four have a chance to be special in the NFL.
Scott: It's early, but give me your thoughts on the best pro prospects on offense and defense for LSU in 2015?
Mike: On offense it would left tackle La'el Collins. He has a chance to be a 1st round pick.
On defense it would be defensive end Danielle Hunter. He has some special qualities as a rusher and he has very good football instincts. Pass rush defensive ends are very hard to find.
Scott: If you had a choice of any LSU player to select for your NFL team who would you take?
Mike: Can I take Leonard Fournette? He would be my choice. Along with Peyton Manning and Ed Reed, he is the best high school player I have ever seen come from this state in my time covering the football ranks. He is something special.
Scott: Thanks, Mike. It's always a pleasure to get your thoughts, and I know the DandyDon readers appreciate it. Until next time, take care.
Mike Detillier, based in southern Louisiana, is editor and publisher of Mike Detillier's NFL Draft Report. He's also the college and pro football analyst for WWL 870 AM Radio in New Orleans, a sports columnist for several newspapers and Web sites, and a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country. Visit Mike’s website at mikedetillier.com and follow @MikeDetillier on Twitter.
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