Jerald Hawkins,the only LSU underclassman to declare for the NFL draft, has found a home in the professional ranks.
The former Tigers offensive tackle was selected No. 123 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Saturday.
A three-year starter on the LSU offensive line, the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder spent his first two seasons at right tackle before shifting over to the left side for the final 12 games of his college career.
Hawkins won a starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2013, starting 12 games at the position. He also filled in for an injured La’el Collins at left tackle for one game.
Hawkins remained at right tackle for 13 starts into his sophomore season before protecting Brandon Harris’ blindside last year. Over each of the past two years, Hawkins has helped Leonard Fournette rush for more than 1,000 yards.He recorded a combined 81 knockdown blocks in that span.
Many NFL insiders suggested Hawkins could potentially improve his stock with one more standout campaign at left tackle.
Instead, the Louisiana native elected to test out NFL waters. At the NFL Scouting Combine Hawkins clocked a 5.23-second 40 and posted 23 bench-press reps. His arms measured in at 34.25 inches and his hands at just more than 9.5 inches, showing off both the size and wingspan to play tackle in the NFL.
Hawkins possesses strong run-blocking skills for a tackle, but his pass protection will need some time to develop at the next level. The former LSU standout is among the tallest tackle prospects in this year’s draft class, and also one of the lightest at the position.
Given his experience on both sides of the LSU line, he could very well see time right away at right tackle or be ushered is as a team’s future left tackle.