Louisiana Tech contingent leads state’s NFL draft hopefuls

Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron rushes against Texas-San Antonio in Ruston on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Kita Wright)
Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron rushes against Texas-San Antonio in Ruston on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Kita Wright)

Considering he’s from Napoleonville and graduated from Assumption High School, it’s not a surprise that former Louisiana Tech tackle Jordan Mills is a longtime fan of the New Orleans Saints.

But the 6-foot-5, 316-pound Mills would become an even bigger fan if he’s lucky enough to be selected by his home-state team this week at the NFL draft.

One of about a half-dozen Louisiana Tech players who could be selected in the three-day draft, which starts Thursday night, Mills visited the Saints’ Metairie training facility April 11 to meet team officials and work out for offensive line coach Bret Ingalls.

“I’ve always been a Saints fan, so it was a great experience to go down and see the facility,” he said. “It was great to go and show the coaches what I can do. To be drafted by them would be a dream come true.”

Even though Mills played right tackle his last three college seasons and was an All-Western Athletic Conference pick as a senior, he said he believes he could handle the switch to the left side, a position of need for the Saints after they lost two-time Pro Bowl pick Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears in free agency.

Since Louisiana Tech didn’t accept a bowl bid despite a 9-3 season fueled by one of the nation’s top offenses, Mills said a lot of scouts didn’t know who he was when he was called in late as an injury replacement for the Senior Bowl in January. He also was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine workouts, where he attempted to make an impression.

Mills is ranked the 14th tackle and 146th player overall by NFLDraftScout.com. He’s projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but he could go higher because tackle is a deep position this year.

“I told teams I would be willing to go back to left tackle,” he said. “I had played left tackle since little league, so if they need me there, I can do it. If they need me on the right side, I can do that. I can even play H-back if they want. Anywhere they need me, I’ll play.”

A solid Louisiana Tech contingent leads a small group of athletes from state schools other than LSU that could get draft calls. The highest-rated player is Tech receiver Quinton Patton, the eighth-ranked player at his position and 68th overall. He’s projected as a second- or third-round pick.

Four of his teammates — punter Ryan Allen, quarterback Colby Cameron, receiver Myles White and tackle Oscar Johnson — are rated as seventh-round picks or free agents by NFLDraftScout.com.

Other state players projected to go in the draft are Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford (Rounds 2-3), Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin (6-7) and UL-Lafayette kicker Brett Baer (7-free agent).

Louisiana high school players projected as possible picks are Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (Dutchtown), Tennessee tackle Dallas Thomas (Scotlandville), Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers (Istrouma) and Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti (Mandeville).

Lacy is the top-rated running back and is projected as a first- or second-round pick, while Thomas is seen as a fourth- or fifth-rounder despite suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder at the Senior Bowl. Lathers is projected as a seventh-rounder; Mauti, who battled knee injuries during his college career, is rated as seventh-rounder or free agent.