BATON ROUGE, La. — The Senior Bowl isn’t so much about proving how good you are as it is about proving how much better you are against your peers. And for the four former LSU football players in Mobile, Ala. this week, that means there’s quite a bit to prove.
This week for LSU’s four representatives the objective is simple: differentiate.
Tre’Davious White needs to pull ahead of every other corner in attendance and prove he’s a first-round pick. Ethan Pocic needs to solidify his standing as the draft’s top interior lineman. And Duke Riley and Travin Dural need to boost their stock by showing out against higher ranked competition.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the biggest competitors for LSU’s seniors, and what these guys need to work on to distance themselves from the pack.
All rankings from here on out will come from the Walter Football NFL Draft Position Rankings, which you can find here.
Ranking: No. 10 CB
Projected Round: 1st or 2nd
Player White’s Chase: Iowa CB Desmond King (No. 8 CB)
Player Chasing White: Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis (No. 11 CB)
White is one of the hardest players to project in this year’s draft class. He was a hyper-productive senior who led the nation in passes defensed and finished as a finalist for the Thorpe Award. But his junior season was pretty terrible, leading to accusations of inconsistency, and he’s had trouble forcing turnovers in his career.
The main thing holding White back is that this is a stacked year for cornerbacks. 13 corners have either first or second round grades in this year’s class, four of which are at the Senior Bowl. White, Lewis and King are all neck-and-neck competitively and are usually in the same tier but shuffled around depending on what ranking you look at.
From a shutdown perspective, White is probably the most proficient corner of the bunch. But there’s much more to being a modern corner than shutting down routes. You also have to make plays. And that’s why White might be lagging behind.
|Player||Career INTs||Career PDs|
As you can see, White, Lewis and King all finished their college careers with approximately the same amount of pass breakups. But King more than doubled Lewis and White in the interception department.
And that’s what White needs to prove this week. Can he take the ball away and be more than a tactician? Is he willing to take a gamble for the ball when his team needs it?
If he can prove the answer is yes, he’ll vault back up into the first round in no time.
Ranking: No. 1 center (No. 2 guard)
Projected Round: 1st-3rd
Player Pocic’s Chasing: Indiana guard Dan Feeney (No. 3 guard)
Player Chasing Pocic: Kentucky center Jon Toth (No. 3 center)
Pocic’s Senior Bowl goals are a little different than most. Not only is Pocic working to solidify himself as the top center in the class, but he’s also trying to prove that he can bump inside and play guard when asked.
Most of the projections about Pocic’s ability to play guard are based on his size and pure conjecture. He played a little bit of tackle in 2016, but other than that he was exclusively a center. The only guard tape anyone has on him is that stuff he’s done in Senior Bowl practices.
If Pocic can hang with the Dan Feeneys of the world and prove he’s just as gifted of a guard as he is a center, Pocic might be able to justify his first round grade. But that would involve separating from players like Jon Toth at his natural position.
Beyond that, there are players like Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp who are natural tackles fighting for reps at center to prove their versatility as well.
The knock on Pocic, if there is one, is that he doesn’t have elite strength. Against NFL-type talents like Auburn’s Montravius Adams, Pocic got bullied a bit.
This is the perfect opportunity for Pocic to prove he can hold his own against players of that caliber. If the burly center proves he can run block against massive space eaters, his status at the top of the draft board should be solidified.
Ranking: No. 11 ILB
Projected Round: 4th-6th
Player Riley’s Chasing: Clemson LB Ben Boulware (No. 8 ILB)
Player Chasing Riley: Florida LB Alex Anzalone (No. 12 ILB)
Duke Riley is the LSU football team’s most intriguing draft prospect. Given how well he played in 2016, and how well Atlanta Falcons rookie and former LSU linebacker Deion Jones has performed, Riley is shooting up draft boards.
But beyond 2016, Riley doesn’t have much tape to evaluate. By comparison, check out how Riley’s career numbers compare to Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware’s.
The biggest knock on Riley is his lack of experience. There’s not much he can do to change that at the Senior Bowl. But what he can prove is that he’s every bit as talented as the more experienced players around him.
If that’s something Riley can achieve, he very well could work his way into the third or fourth round. But if his inexperience shows, don’t be surprised if his stock craters.
Ranking: No. 15 WR
Project Round: 2nd-4th
Player Dural’s Chasing: Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo (No. 12 WR)
Player Chasing Dural: Clemson WR Artavis Scott (No. 16 WR)
From a productivity standpoint, Dural’s senior year was a disappointing one. He only caught 28 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown in 2016, a 47 percent dropoff from his 2015 yardage total.
Yet Dural is still a high-level prospect because of his natural ability. At 6-foot-2 with the ability to run a 4.50 40-yard dash, Dural is still an alluring prospect.
That said, nearly every wide receiver entering the NFL Draft is tall and runs fast. Dural’s main goal this week needs to be proving he can hold his own against the elite corners in this class. If Dural can show his ability against the Kings and Whites and Lewis’s of the world, he has the potential to climb back to being a fringe second-round talent.
That’s unlikely to happen, but with the lack of depth at wide receiver in this year’s class, it might be possible.