LSU players get first chance at NFL career

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The NFL Network covers the Super Bowl Media Day in the Superdome on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in New Orleans.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The NFL Network covers the Super Bowl Media Day in the Superdome on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in New Orleans.

For many members of the LSU football program’s ultra-talented junior class of 2012, this week is the chance to make a good first impression on NFL front office executives, scouts and coaches.

While seniors preparing for the April draft are already familiar with the process through various all-star games held last month, the largest group of underclassmen to declare for the draft will get their first taste at the scouting combine workouts starting Wednesday in Indianapolis.

After lots of poking and prodding, measurements, psychological testing and interviews with team execs, groups of players will get on the field Saturday through Tuesday for timing sessions and workouts with position coaches.

Of the record 67 underclassmen who declared for the draft early, 11 come from LSU, whose total of 13 players matched Florida State for the largest contingents. Georgia had 11, while Alabama and Florida each have 10.

“We don’t have computer numbers on a lot of these kids coming out,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “For a lot of them, until you have them in that particular venue, you don’t have accurate numbers on them.”

Which makes the four-day stretches the players will be in town for that much more important, especially the LSU players. The group includes cornerback/kick returner Tyrann Mathieu, who was kicked off the team before the 2012 season started.

“There are so many (LSU) kids, we could sit here and talk about them for an hour,” said veteran draft analyst Mike Mayock, who’ll be part of the NFL Network’s broadcast team that will provide coverage of the on-field workouts starting Saturday.

LSU’s large group is headed up by junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo, who is projected by some draft analysts to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like the one the New Orleans Saints are going to.

Mingo is viewed by most as a top-10 pick, although Mayock has him at the bottom of the first round. But it all could change dramatically pending the combine results and his Pro Day workout at LSU on March 27.

Two of Mingo’s teammates — defensive end Sam Montgomery and inside linebacker Kevin Minter — are both seen as possible late first-round or early second-round picks.

So they’ll be trying to make their mark and ensure they’re chosen on the first day of the three-day draft that begins April 25.

Mingo and Montgomery are ranked third and eighth, respectively, among defensive ends by NFLDraftScout.com, while Minter is the top inside linebacker available going into the combine.

LSU has two other players listed among the top 120 draft-eligible players going into the combine. Free safety Eric Reid is rated second at his position, while tackle Chris Faulk is ranked 11th in a deep group there.

Reid is rated as a second-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, while Faulk is a third- or fourth-round selection.

LSU’s other combine participants are defensive end Lavar Edwards, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, cornerback Tharold Simon, center P.J. Lonergan, running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, and punter Brad Wing.

The LSU players will be joined by Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, who turned heads at the Senior Bowl last month and is rated as the ninth player available at his position and is a second- or third-round pick at this point, according to NFLDraftScout.com.

Five former Louisiana Tech stars are also on the list of 333 combine invitees: wide receiver Quinton Patton, tackle Jordan Mills, guard Oscar Johnson, quarterback Colby Cameron and punter Ryan Allen.

Patton is ranked as the sixth wide receiver on the NFLDraftScout list and is projected as a second-round pick, while Mills is the 12th-best tackle available and a possible third- or fourth-round selection.

Tennessee tackle Dallas Thomas, a Scotlandville Magnet graduate who’ll also attend the combine, is ranked as the No. 5 tackle available and a second-round pick.

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, a Dutchtown High School grad, and Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti, a former Mandeville High School star who has had knee problems, were also invited to the combine.

Lacy, the MVP of the BCS National Championship Game last month, won’t work out because of a small tear in the tissue around his hamstring. He is projected by Mayock as the only running back to go in the first round.