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LSU running back Derrius Guice declared for the NFL draft. But was that the right call?

Did LSU juniors make mistake declaring early for the 2018 NFL Draft?

Nick Suss

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In draft news

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his first 2018 mock draft on Thursday and, much to the surprise of the LSU community, neither running back Derrius Guice nor edge rusher Arden Key slotted in his first round. SEC Country had the chance to ask Kiper about his rationale during a conference call, and you can find his explanation in this article.

Kiper’s mock drafts aren’t based on talent evaluation. More often than not, he makes his picks based on what he’s hearing from executives and team insiders. So if he’s hearing that Guice and Key won’t be first-round picks, it’s natural to wonder if they made the right decision leaving school early.

But let’s cool the breaks on that. Of course Guice and Key made the right decision. This is one mock draft. One that’ll likely end up hitting on maybe two correct predictions by the time April rolls around. Nearly every other mock draft you’ll find has Key in the first round, and most have Guice, as well.

You can make arguments about the other four juniors who came out. Donte Jackson probably could’ve used another year to hone his skills, Kevin Toliver II needs more positive tape, Will Clapp needs more experience at center and Toby Weathersby needs to prove he can stay healthy for a full season. But Jackson is going to vault up draft boards when he runs a sub 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Toliver, Clapp and Weathersby were smart to get paid when they can with their checkered injury histories.

Still, when talking about Key and Guice the argument is silly. Any way you slice it, they’re among the three best players at their respective positions in this class. And edge rusher and running back are commodities in the NFL, even if running back isn’t what it used to be. With strong showings at the combine and their pro day, these two should be first-round locks.

So don’t read too much into the mock draft frenzy. It’s OK to wish these guys were coming back to LSU. You can poke holes in their resumes all you want, but if you’re saying they’re not ready, it’s probably because you wish they were playing for your favorite team for another year. Which is fine. You’re a fan. It’s cool you think that way.

But these guys are ready. No matter what Kiper might think this week.

Must-read selection of the week

SEC Country’s Alex Hickey spoke 1-on-1 with former Auburn and Ole Miss football coach Tommy Tuberville about new LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. Ensminger and Tuberville worked together for seven years at Texas A&M and Auburn, and Tuberville hired Ensminger to join him at Texas Tech before Les Miles eventually poached him back to Baton Rouge.

What resulted was an in-depth conversation about Ensminger’s strengths and weaknesses, including Tuberville’s opinion that Ensminger would thrive as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator. It’s a fun read that hits at the core of why veteran coaches seem to love the Ensminger hire. If you were on the fence about the hire and were looking for someone or something to sway you, this might be it.

Revisiting the Austin Thomas saga

Former LSU general manager Austin Thomas has been looking for a new home for a couple of weeks now. Thursday, it looks like he found one.

Thomas, who left LSU to take the same position at Tennessee before that offer fell through, will reportedly end up at Ole Miss in Matt Luke’s regime. According to Football Scoop’s Scott Roussel, the only roadblock is bizarre phrasing in the NCAA’s Individuals Associated with a Prospect (IAWP) rule, the same rule keeping LSU from making its Kevin Faulk hire official.

ICYMI

LSU news never stops. In case you missed anything, here’s a recap of some of the biggest stories from Thursday:

In NFLSU news

Six former LSU football players will compete for a chance to make the Super Bowl this weekend. In case you’re an NFL agnostic or just a Saints fan looking for a new team to root for, here are the former LSU players you can cheer on this weekend:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette
  • New England Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois
  • Philadelphia Eagles punter Donnie Jones
  • Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills
  • Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter
  • Minnesota Vikings linebacker Tashawn Bower

Your non-revenue LSU sports preview

Football season is over, but LSU’s spring sports schedule is just getting started. Here’s what you need to keep an eye on this weekend:

  • The No. 1 LSU gymnastics team hosts Alabama on Friday night in the PMAC. The event is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be televised nationally on SEC Network.
  • The men’s tennis team hosts Arkansas Pine Bluff in Baton Rouge on Friday and Saturday.
  • Track and field travels to Iowa City Friday to compete in the Larry Wieczorek Invitational Friday and Saturday.
  • Men’s basketball travels to Nashville on Saturday for a noon tipoff against Vanderbilt. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
  • Women’s tennis hosts Southern at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday.

Today in made-up holidays

According to the folks at NationalDayCalendar.com, Jan. 19 is “National Popcorn Day.” That means you should go to the movies. Because in my opinion, anyone who eats popcorn and isn’t in a movie theater is kinda weird.

I mean, do your thing. If you feel like eating popcorn in the privacy of your own home, go for it. But any time I go to a friend’s house and he or she is just munching on popcorn as a snack, I get a little weirded out. I have a Pavlovian expectation that if I smell popcorn, I better be in a dark room with a bunch of strangers watching previews.

Because let’s be real. The popcorn never lasts into the movie. I get there too early and eat it all before the previews end. Like a normal adult with no impulse control.

Moral of the story? Popcorn is good as a treat. But if I’m at your house, don’t make me any. I’ll just end up getting kernels stuck in my teeth for six days.

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