Rabalais: LSU players’ decisions to enter draft early mostly good

With the telethon that is the NFL Draft finally at an end, we’re here to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the six LSU players who decided to come out early this year:

Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver

First round, 12th pick overall, N.Y. Giants

Beckham’s decision to turn pro a year early was pretty much decided since he returned that missed field goal against Alabama-Birmingham for a touchdown in September.

Though not physical imposing at 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, Beckham has so many of the characteristics NFL teams crave. He has great hands, runs precise routes and has the knack for the big play. Include his considerable added value as a kick returner, and one could almost argue OBJ was a steal for the Giants, even though he went this high in the first round.

Great move.

Ego Ferguson, defensive tackle

Second round, 51st overall, Chicago Bears

There was some surprise that Ferguson went as high as he did. CBSSports.com projected him as a second- or third-rounder and the eighth-rated defensive tackle available.

But that he turned out to be drafted above his predicted slot despite being a one-year starter at LSU was the upside he displayed. The Bears obviously fell in love with that upside, feeling they can refine him into something better than he was in college.

While his future may be a bit murky, for now he certainly made the right choice.

Great move.

Jeremy Hill, running back

Second round, 55th overall, Cincinnati Bengals

Lost in the recruiting lust over Leonard Fournette’s impending arrival at LSU is how Hill rankled some inside and out the program with his decision to enter the draft after at first giving indications he would stay.

That said, it’s difficult to say Hill didn’t make the right decision for his football career. Few positions have as short of a shelf life as running back, especially those with a physical style like Hill.

He maybe could have stayed to be a first-rounder, though he risked being eclipsed by Fournette. But the harsh reality is running backs aren’t as valued as they once were. The first back taken this year, Washington’s Bishop Sankey, went with the 54th overall pick in the second round to Tennessee, a record late spot for the position.

Good move.

Jarvis Landry, wide receiver

Second round, 63rd overall, Miami Dolphins

Landry’s draft watch party at a Baton Rouge hotel Friday night threatened to turn into a deathbed vigil, but he was finally rescued by the Dolphins late in the second round.

Landry’s 4.77 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, last of the 45 wide receivers there, could have been a parachute on his back dragging him down through the draft. But in the end, his selection was pretty much in line with predictions: CBSSports.com for one had him as a second- or third-round pick, the 68th pick overall and 12th wide receiver to be taken. In the end, he went 63rd and was the 11th receiver drafted.

Landry has his strengths: a pair of magic hands tops among them. But his liabilities like average foot speed and the occasional “What the?” drop were likely to still be negatives a year from now.

Good move.

Trai Turner, offensive guard

Third round, 92nd overall, Carolina Panthers

I’ll admit, I soundly criticized Turner for leaving after his third but sophomore season at LSU, figuring he cost himself some draft spots.

As it turned out, Turner probably didn’t damage himself much if at all. Going in he was pegged as the fifth-rated guard and a third-round pick, and he actually was the third player taken at his position behind former LSU recruit Xavier Su’a-Filo of UCLA (first pick, second round) and Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson (17th pick, third round).

Guards aren’t as highly prized as tackles, so considering the position he plays and the spot in which this year’s top guard was taken, Turner probably wouldn’t have improved his standing very much by returning for his junior campaign. Another year of seasoning probably would have enhanced his ability for a longer-term career, but he will be playing in Louisiana on Dec. 7 when Carolina visits New Orleans.

GOOD MOVE (grudgingly admitted).

Anthony Johnson, defensive tackle

Undrafted

There could be no more stark comparison in this year’s draft than the disparity between Johnson and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.

Coming out of high school, they were the top two defensive line prospects in the country. Clowney went to the Houston Texans as the No. 1 pick of the draft.

Johnson was shut out after still being projected as a fourth-rounder going in by CBSSports.com.

Where did his problems start? Was it that he was labeled as an underachiever in his college career or that he reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL combine? Perhaps the latter was the last straw, and it was hardly surprising that Johnson went undrafted.

His future uncertain, the worry for Johnson that his chance and his talent will be wasted.

Bad move.