LSU pumps out NFL talent unlike any other school in the nation. The Buccaneers already have some former Tigers on their roster, but could they be after more in this year’s draft?
The talent on LSU’s roster year in and year out is undeniable, but it hasn’t been put to great use in recent years. In his final few seasons, Les Miles’ offenses were behind the times. This past year, the polarizing Ed Orgeron started his tenure with a hot-and-cold season, then parted ways with offensive coordinator Matt Canada after their relationship soured to the point of no return. Long story short, the LSU program is in somewhat of a strange place. However, the Tigers continue to field high-caliber players. There are countless prospects that Buccaneers could look into before April. Here’s a list of LSU players available in this year’s draft:
Linebacker- Donnie Alexander
Wide Receiver- D.J. Chark
Center/Guard- Will Clapp
Quarterback- Danny Etling
Kicker- Cameron Gamble
Wide Receiver- Russell Gage
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Defensive Tackle- Greg Gilmore
Running Back- Derrius Guice
Defensive End- Frank Herron
Defensive Back- Donte Jackson
Edge Rusher- Arden Key
Defensive End- Christian LaCouture
Offensive Tackle- K.J. Malone
Fullback- John David Moore
Defensive Back- Kevin Toliver
Linebacker- Corey Thompson
Defensive Tackle- Travonte Valentine
Offensive Tackle- Toby Weathersby
Running Back- Darrel Williams
Senior to Watch: DL Christian LaCouture
The crop of seniors coming out of LSU isn’t all that intriguing, but there are a couple of prospects worth keeping an eye on. Wide receiver D.J. Chark is the best senior of the group, but the Bucs aren’t exactly looking for a receiver. Instead, they should look into a position of need. The defensive line is a major need, which is why Christian LaCouture is worth looking at. LaCouture can play on the interior of the line, but is also able to move to the outside in a 3-4 alignment. That should interest Tampa Bay, considering the potential that a 3-4 defense would have given the team’s depth at linebacker. Regardless of where they would line him up, the 6-foot-5 lineman would be a nice addition to a very thin defensive front.
LaCouture is likely a late round guy, and could perhaps be available as an undrafted free agent. He thought about leaving LSU after the 2015 season, but instead decided to return for his senior year. In 2016, he went down with an ACL injury before the season. That gave him an extra year in 2017, which ended up being his best year as a Tiger. He finished with a career-high 66 tackles and six sacks. He also had eight and a half tackles for loss and five pass breakups. That type of production would be welcomed by the Bucs, who struggled to get much of anything out of guys not named Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald.
In terms of leadership, he would also fit in. He had the honor of wearing No. 18 for LSU in 2017, which is given to someone that displays selfless leadership and represents the program in a positive way. Give me any guy like that, please.
Tampa Bay needs to find interior help to pair with McCoy and, if they bring him back, McDonald. The three-year starter could have opened some eyes during Senior Bowl week, where he made at least one notable splash play during practice and finished the game with five tackles and half of a sack. Plus, if the idea of moving to a 3-4 defense is more than just talk and turns into a legitimate option, LaCouture fits in as a 3-4 end. That’s where he spent time at LSU once defensive coordinator Dave Aranda transitioned from a 4-3 front. Drafting someone like LaCouture late or signing him in the days after the draft is definitely a low-risk, high-reward move.
Underclassmen to Watch: EDGE Arden Key, RB Derrius Guice
Sure, it’s a cop-out to include two underclassmen here, but it was difficult to even narrow it to two. There are mock drafts out there that have the Bucs taking Arden Key with the seventh overall pick. That might be a little high, but Tampa Bay might just be desperate enough to reach for him. UTSA’s Marcus Davenport is another edge-rusher not named Bradley Chubb to keep an eye on for the seventh pick. Regardless, Key has been linked to the Bucs by some.
There’s also the possibility of trading down. Tampa Bay likes scouting LSU. That’s clear. So if the guy that Jason Licht wants is Key, there’s definitely a chance that the Bucs could drop a few picks to take him, much like they did for Vernon Hargreaves in 2016. In three years with the Tigers, Key totaled 21 sacks. That included a career-high 12 in 2016. He left the team before the 2017 season for personal reasons, then came back and spent much of the season trying to get back into football shape. Even still, he’s still a top-three edge rusher in this week’s draft, which makes him a guy to watch for the Bucs.
Derrius Guice is another major player to watch. With the emergence of Georgia’s Sony Michel and the potential for him to jump into the first round, Guice could be around at the top of the second. Or, the Bucs could be more proactive. Licht could decide to trade back in to the first round and grab his running back of the future. Guice is the type of runner that would add a whole lot to the Buccaneer offense. Since taking over the Walking the Plank podcast, my co-host and I have repeatedly made the point that Dirk Koetter’s offense is at its absolute best when it has a competent running game. Guice, paired with Peyton Barber and perhaps a free agent, would make the backfield way more than “competent.”
Guice rushed for 3,074 yards and 29 touchdowns in three years with the Tigers. His career-high in rushing yards came in 2016 when he was still in the same backfield as current Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. Then, even while battling through injuries in 2017, the 5-foot-11 back ran for 1,251 yards, eleven touchdowns and went for 5.3 yards per carry. Guice has a mix of strength and speed that would be a joy to watch in a Buccaneer offense that already features a solid passing game.
Key and Guice would both be huge additions for Tampa Bay. But they aren’t the only two underclassmen from LSU that the Bucs could want. Defensive backs Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver would give the secondary a boost, while Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby are good options to help the offensive line. The Bucs could legitimately like all of them. As our own Michael Horan pointed out last year: