Loaded LSU class gears up for NFL draft
April, 26, 2012
By David Helman | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertCornerback Morris Claiborne performs at LSU's pro day in March in Baton Rouge.
Mercifully, draft day has dawned.
It's been a winding road of workouts, interviews and speculation in the more than 100 days since Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers announced their intentions to enter the 2012 NFL draft on Jan. 12. With the draft finally beginning Thursday, the pair that helped anchor LSU's Southeastern Conference championship defense look like a lock to be selected in the opening round.
ESPN's Mel Kiper has projected Claiborne, the Thorpe Award-winning cornerback to be a top-six pick. Brockers' stock has been a little more volatile, as he's jumped from No. 27 to No. 8 before falling to No. 15.
As Brockers is quick to point out, none of that matters now.
"It's in God's hands right now," the defensive tackle said. "It's in the hands of the GM's and the coaches and whatever they think is the best fit for their team."
That relaxed attitude is easy to talk about, but perhaps a bit harder to follow through on. From the day of their announcement, through the NFL combine to LSU's pro day workouts and everything in between, LSU's first round prospects have gone through the gauntlet of media and league scrutiny. At the start of this final week, Brockers said he was doing his best to avoid the talk.
"I'm just not looking at it. I'm not watching ESPN, I'm watching movies. Just not trying to focus on it too much," he said on Monday.
But that's been easier said than done as the week has drawn on. Brockers, Claiborne and wide receiver Rueben Randle -- who some project as a third, first round pick for the Tigers -- will be in New York City at Radio City Music Hall for the draft. As invitees to the draft's green room, the three will be a part of the staggering 26 prospects who will be present to hear their names called. The Tiger standouts have been subject to the kind of media and league attention that goes along with such a trip, as well.
"It's been pretty busy -- I couldn't even tell you how many teams have called me asking for draft day numbers," Brockers said. "I just write it all down, and I'm just trying to see who's really interested in me."
Assuming Brockers and Claiborne have their names called in the first round, which seems like a guarantee, it would mark a big occasion for LSU. Coach Les Miles has produced at least one first round pick in six of his seven seasons at the helm in Baton Rouge, with the lone exception being 2010. But despite LSU's pedigree as an NFL pipeline, the program hasn't had multiple first round picks since the class of 2007 produced JaMarcus Russell, LaRon Landry, Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis.
"I guess it shows what kind of athletes we have at LSU, and what kind of guys Les Miles recruits," Brockers said. "I feel like it's special for three guys from the same school to be getting drafted in the first round."
Of course, the Tigers' big three aren't the only ones with professional aspirations this weekend. None of them are likely to be drafted tonight, but five other LSU players could be selected in the draft by weekend's end, including Brandon Taylor, Ron Brooks, Deangelo Peterson, Will Blackwell and Ryan Baker. As big a number as that seems, it's about par for the course for LSU. The program has had 25 draftees in the last four years.
While he won't be in New York, Taylor should be the first Tiger off the board after the top three. The three-year starter at safety has seen his stock rise. With some uncertainty about how long he will be waiting, Taylor said he's trying to keep his mind off of it.
"It just started hitting me yesterday -- I just started getting kind of nervous," he said. "You really don't know what city you're going to be in and what team you're going to be playing for."
Taylor has a unique advantage in family experience. His older brother Curtis, a fellow safety standout for LSU, was drafted in the seventh road of the 2009 draft. Taylor said his older brother will miss the draft party because of offseason workouts with the Oakland Raiders, but he imparted some wisdom about what to expect during the big weekend.
"He just told me to just sit back and relax. Enjoy the process but don't get your hopes up on anything," he said.