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Draft Class Review: LSU

Known for churning out top-end talent and lots of it, LSU’s 2015 draft class didn’t have quite the same star appeal as usual.

After producing 29 total draft picks from 2011-2014, including six first-rounders, the Tigers only had four players drafted this year. LSU also saw its four-year streak of producing at least one first-round pick snapped, though that wouldn’t have happened if not for La’el Collins’ unexpected situation.

Let’s take a closer look at LSU’s 2015 draft class below.

Jalen Collins, CB, Atlanta Falcons (2nd round, 42nd overall)  

The NFL’s demand for tall corners has made players like Jalen Collins highly coveted on draft day. So even though he didn’t go in the first round, the 6’1”, 203-pounder didn’t last long on Day 2. New head coach Dan Quinn took his first step toward building the Legion of Boom 2.0 by selecting Collins in the second round to pair with 2013 first-rounder Desmond Trufant.

Possessing 4.48 speed and plus overall athleticism, Collins slipped to the second round due to concerns over his inexperience (just 10 starts) and shoddy technique. On paper, he has every tool to be a top-flight cornerback or free safety. But Falcons fans may need to temper their expectations for the first-year corner.

Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings (3rd round, 88th overall)

Yet another physically gifted underclassman who declared early, Hunter probably would have benefitted from returning to school. Like former Tiger Barkevious Mingo, Hunter is a long, lean edge player who boasts tantalizing talent without the production to match.

Tipping the scales at 6’5”, 252 pounds with 4.57 speed, Hunter looks great coming off the bus. The big question is can he develop into a premier pass rusher? Currently, he’s essentially a one-dimensional player who has yet to harness his natural gifts as a pass rusher. It will be up to Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to develop Hunter into more than just a stout edge setter. Luckily, Zimmer enjoyed tremendous success molding similarly gifted athletes in Cincinnati with Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.

Kwon Alexander, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4th round, 124th overall)NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 08 Alabama at LSUOne of the most underrated linebackers in this draft, Kwon Alexander stands a good chance of outperforming his draft status. The late fourth-round pick doesn’t have great size, but he makes up for it with blistering 4.55 speed and explosive hitting ability.

A ready-made weak-side linebacker, LSU’s leading tackler from last fall has a lot of suddenness and quickness to his game. At the very least, he should be a great special-teamer early on. Oh, and he’ll have a chance to learn the nuances of the position from one of the best linebackers in football: Lavonte David.

Kenny Hilliard, RB, Houston Texans (7th round, 235th overall)

Every year it seems that LSU produces a running back. In 2014 it was Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue. In 2013 it was Spencer Ware. Stevan Ridley went in the third in 2011 while Charles Scott went in the sixth in 2010. This year it was Kenny Hilliard who snuck into the final frame.

Part of a running back-by-committee throughout his four years at LSU, Hill averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry while scoring 27 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, he killed his draft stock when he ran a 4.83 and registered a 27” vertical at the combine. Ultimately, the 6’0”, 226-pounder doesn’t possess enough power for a guy his size or enough elusiveness to be a starting-caliber back. He’ll have to stand out on special teams to earn a roster spot in Houston.

La’el Collins, OT, Dallas Cowboys (Undrafted Free Agent)

Expected to be a top-20 pick, Collins’ legal situation caused enough skepticism for teams to complete avoid him in the draft. Ultimately, the SEC’s top offensive lineman went undrafted. Even before his name was fully cleared, teams were already clamoring to secure his services. In what seems like an unfair stroke of luck, the Cowboys landed the biggest undrafted free agent prize in NFL history. Collins joins a line that already features three former first-round picks in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.

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