BATON ROUGE, La. — Whittling down the 10 best players on the LSU football team this season was no easy task. And properly ordering them into those 10 spots once we broke it down that far may have proven even more difficult.
But we at SEC Country gave it the old college try as we count down the top Tigers during the next two weeks. When it’s over, feel free to let us know what you think we got right — or wrong.
On Monday, we argued in favor of our No. 10 pick. On Tuesday, we reveal No. 9. Be sure to check back at SEC Country as we continue the countdown.
No. 9: LB Duke Riley
Why he’s here: Playing in the first full action of his four-year college career, Riley stepped in for now-NFL linebacker Deion Jones and exceeded expectations.
Riley finished second on the LSU defense and eighth in the SEC in tackles with 85. He recorded 9 tackles for loss, which ranked second at LSU. For his efforts, Riley’s teammates named him the LSU football team’s Most Valuable Player for 2016.
The only thing holding Riley back on this countdown is how reliable his position mate, Kendell Beckwith, was all season. Were it not for Beckwith, Riley likely would’ve been significantly higher on the countdown.
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As unthinkable as it might’ve been five months ago, Riley might be the LSU football team’s most ascendant draft prospect.
Thanks to Riley’s breakout season and Jones’ strong rookie campaign with the Atlanta Falcons, NFL teams might grab Riley as soon as the third or fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Bleacher Report’s NFL draft analyst Matt Miller lists Riley as the best sleeper among all draft-eligible linebackers, slotting Riley as the No. 11 linebacker in the class.
Because of Riley’s relatively short time as a starter, some teams might want to stay away from him. But given the success he had on the field and the support and praise his teammates give him off it, Riley is a shoo-in to be on an NFL roster next season.