LSU, state draft: LSU ties school record with 9 players picked

In their war room, the Denver Broncos saw linebacker Lamin Barrow the same way he was viewed at LSU: versatile.

During his career in Baton Rouge, the vocal leader on the Tigers’ defense was viewed as a swappable piece at weakside linebacker or middle linebacker.

He provided alluring flexibility that intrigued the Broncos, even as they worried that falling back in the draft might cost them a chance to pluck the Marrero native.

“We had to sweat it out a little bit,” Broncos General Manager John Elway said.

But at pick No. 156, the prize they sought awaited in the fifth round, becoming the first of four LSU players taken Saturday, joining five others picked in the first three rounds, as the program tied a school record for selections in the NFL draft.

“It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to (playing in the middle),” Barrow told reporters in a conference call.

“I feel like I’m going to work really hard, And whatever they need me to play, I’ll play it,” he said.

Oddly, though, few would have pegged the 6-feet-2, 237-pound Barrow as the first prospect to get a call from NFL brass.

Instead, former Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson — both pegged as likely second-round or third-round choices — were still available, their stocks taking a hit after Fox Sports reported Monday both failed to pass drug tests at the NFL scouting combine in February.

Mettenberger’s fall stemmed from perceived medical questions, which included a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Arkansas, a spinal condition with the potential impact his vertebrae, and the diluted urine sample that was flagged by the league.

Ultimately, Mettenberger’s uncertainty ended two picks into the sixth round.

The Tennessee Titans, seeking a potential alternative to the inconsistent and occasionally nicked up Jake Locker, grabbed LSU’s record-setting signal-caller with the No. 178 pick overall.

Johnson, a five-star recruit out O.P. Walker in New Orleans, fell out of the draft entirely before reportedly agreeing to a free-agent contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Running back Alfred Blue, who left LSU despite the NCAA granting him an extra year of eligibility after missing his junior season with a torn ACL, was grabbed three picks after Mettenberger by the Texans at No. 181 overall.

“It was kind of a surprise,” Blue said. “I talked to them a couple of times. I gave them a couple of answers to a couple of questions, but I never really met with them in depth about anything.”

The Tigers equaled their draft production from a year ago in the final round when wide receiver James Wright, who carved out a niche as a gunner on special teams, was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 239 overall pick.

Fullback J.C. Copeland, who was considered among the better prospects at his position in the draft, went unpicked.

He quickly signed a free-agent contract with the Cowboys.

Strong safety Craig Loston signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals.

Southern wide receiver Lee Doss signed a free-agent contract with the Redskins.

Three other state college prospects were selected.

Mammoth Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Justin Ellis went to the Oakland Raiders with the No. 107 pick. Dubbed with the nickname ‘‘Jelly,” Ellis moved up boards with a solid showing in the East-West Shrine Game and catching the Raiders’ eye during his pro day workout and later making an impression with defensive line coach Terrell Williams.

“When we first met, we hit it off pretty good,” Ellis said. “He kept saying how much he liked me, and I had a lot of interest from their program, so I did (have an idea) of them picking me.”

Bulldogs defensive end IK Enemkpali’s name also was called when the New York Jets used the No. 210 overall pick to take the pass rusher in the sixth round.

Tulane wide receiver Ryan Grant was picked by Washington early in the fifth round at No. 142 overall.

Aside from a meeting with the Redskins at the scouting combine, the slot receiver with sure hands and solid route-running didn’t have much contact.

“But it was all good vibes,” Grant said of the meeting.

Now he’ll get the opportunity to learn under a pair of veteran pass-catchers in Pierre Garcon and recently acquired deep threat DeSean Jackson.

Tulane kicker Cairo Santos, who won the Lou Groza award as a junior, signed a free-agent deal with the Chiefs.

Five Louisiana-Lafayette players signed free-agent contracts: tight end Jacob Maxwell with the Lions, tight end Ian Thompson with the Texans, defensive lineman Brandon McCray with the Saints, linebacker Justin Anderson with the Giants, and wide receiver/kick returner Darryl Surgent with the Chiefs.

Follow Matthew Harris on Twitter: @MHarrisAdvocate. For more coverage of LSU football vist the Tiger Tracks blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/tigertracks/.