Jarrett Lee has done a great job filling in for the Tigers in the wake of Jordan Jefferson's suspension (which coincidentally ended yesterday as LSU reinstated him) and it will be interesting to see exactly what his role is throughout the rest of the season.

Jarrett Lee (Senior) has been a quality starter for LSU this year, but he isn’t a great NFL prospect. He has solid size at 6’2”, 206 and he has solid mobility. His arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, and he struggles to put zip on throws beyond 10 or so yards. His deep passes have a lot of air under them, and I’m not sure he can make every NFL throw with solid zip. He’s a pretty accurate passer but his deep balls aren’t often well placed, either over throwing his receivers or putting the ball on the wrong shoulder. I think that a lot of his inaccurate passes can be traced back to his issues with stepping into his passes, especially in the face of pressure. He has gotten better about this, but it is still a very significant issue. Frequently when he feels pressure he instinctually fades away from the pressure as he throws instead of stepping into it. That hurts his zip and his ball placement, and it’s very noticeable. He seems to be very smart and the team seems to respect him as a leader in spite of the loss of Jordan Jefferson, and I think they have a chance to win a National Title with him at the helm thanks to their amazing defense. I thought he reminded me a bit of Matt Flynn when I had seen him before, but he doesn’t have the same arm and poise that Flynn did in my opinion. I think he’s a very late round prospect or an undrafted free agent as of right now, but he’s got the potential to stick as a #3 or as a practice squad QB in the NFL. He’s only throw 87 passes in four games (about 22 per game) and while he has been efficient in those attempts, it will be interesting to see how he and the rest of the LSU offense does if he is forced to throw to open up the running game if opposing defenses stack the box and slow down LSU’s powerful combination of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. I think they might struggle, but I think they can win as long as he isn’t forced to throw 35+ times a game.

Spencer Ware (Sophomore) is a guy that I was extremely impressed with him when I watched him against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. He seems bigger and more powerful this season, and he has really impressed me in all three games of his that I’ve watched. Against Oregon he demonstrated fantastic leg drive, a great ability to push a pile, an unwillingness to go down to the first hit, and he frequently ran through arm tackles. His cuts weren’t incredibly crisp and were at times slightly deliberate, but he also has good quickness considering his size (5’11”, 225 pounds or so). He also showed pretty reliable hands out of the backfield. I think he definitely has the potential to be a 3rd or 4th round pick in the NFL Draft (since he probably won’t run a great 40 yard dash time or blow people away in drills) when he comes out this year or next, and then be a very effective power back in the NFL. I think he has quality vision, great power, and good hands. He has done a great job of wearing defenses down and grinding out tough yards for LSU this year. Then Michael Ford comes in and gashes them, and Jarrett Lee burns them with play-action passes.

Michael Ford (Sophomore) is the quicker LSU back, though he is still a load to bring down. He’s listed at 5’10”, 215 pounds and he has a lot of quickness and burst based on what I have seen. He demonstrated solid hands in addition to good vision to find cut-back lanes and seams, he ran patiently much like Spencer Ware, but he has more speed to rip off runs for large chunks of yardage. That’s why he and Ware are such a potent one-two punch. Ware grinds the defense down, then Ford comes in and is just as likely to run you over as he is to outrun you to the edge. He’s a quality back, and definitely has it in him to be a feature back in the NFL.

Rueben Randle has a lot of potential due to his combination of size and athletic ability, but I want to see him make catches with his hands away from his body more consistently. He tends to body catch, and that leads to unnecessary drops at times.

Rueben Randle (Junior) is an intriguing wide receiver because of his size, but his hands are inconsistent. He can make catches with his hands, but will also let passes get into his pads. He also attempts to jump up and catch passes at chest level (like on back shoulder throws in the red zone) instead of simply catching them with his hands away from his body. But at 6’4”, 208 pounds he definitely intrigues you because he has the speed to threaten deep and he can win jump balls because of his size and athletic ability. But if his hands don’t improve he won’t ever reach his upside as a receiver. That sounds stupid to say because a receiver’s job is to catch the ball first and foremost, but every year there are players that are over-drafted because of how good they could be if they learned how to catch the damn ball.

Odell Beckham (Freshman) has been huge for LSU so far this year. He doesn’t have great numbers (17 receptions, 193 yards and 1 touchdown) but he has made some big catches and has proven to be one of the most reliable (if not the most reliable) receivers on LSU’s roster. He’s been getting significant playing time and he continues to impress me every time I watch him. But being able to play well in his first game as a true freshman receiver in a critical game against one of the two teams who played for the National Championship the year before is extremely impressive. I always say that I love identifying players that step up in critical moments or in big games, and Beckham is well on his way to getting that reputation as far as I’m concerned. Watch out for him, because he’s going to be a good one.

Deangelo Peterson (Junior) is a tight end that reminds me a lot of Lance Kendricks, a tight end that I was extremely high on last year and had as my #1 TE for almost the entire year. Peterson is very athletic, has reliable hands, tracks the ball very well in the air, adjusts to the ball well in the air, can catch the ball away from his body, makes tough catches in traffic or with defenders draped over him, has enough speed to threaten down the seam, and offers solid run blocking as a wall-off blocker in the run game. He isn’t the same blocker that Kendricks is, but he’s got a similar blocking “style” in that he won’t drive block defensive ends four yards downfield, but he will get his hands on them and “wall them off” to create a seam or a cut-back lane and to take his man out of the play, even if he doesn’t dominate him. He’s only a junior, and in LSU’s run-heavy attack he won’t be featured very often, especially with all the talent they trot out at receiver, but outside of Orson Charles and Michael Egnew there might not be a better tight end in the country.

Darron Thomas has ability as a quarterback, but I don't think he is a consistent or polished enough passer to project well to the NFL at this point.

Darron Thomas (Junior) had his struggles in this game. I don’t think he is a pure passer, rather he has the ability to pass but also threatens as a runner because of his athleticism, and I think he will be an effective college quarterback but not an effective NFL quarterback. He has solid size at 6’3”, 215 but he looks VERY skinny on film. He doesn’t go through his progressions very regularly and has a tendency to stare his receivers down, partially because of him and partially because of the offense he plays in. Regardless, it reinforces bad habits and it almost led to a pick six or two against LSU because of Tyrann Mathieu’s great instincts and closing speed. His accuracy is good on shorter throws, but as he passes further downfield it becomes more erratic, and he doesn’t seem to have a very good sense of timing. I do think he understands  how to attack zone coverage, but doesn’t understand WHEN to attack zone coverage. A few times he threw the ball behind his intended receiver but it was in the correct hole in the zone, so his receiver had to stop and make a catch on a ball thrown behind him. While that might look like a bad throw/poor accuracy, it reflects that Thomas knew that if he led his receiver he would lead him either into a huge hit or potentially give the defender a shot at the turnover. However, after re-watching the plays it was evident that he just didn’t go through his progressions fast enough and didn’t get the ball out quick enough, because the throw was there earlier as the play was developing. He just didn’t see it, and because he was delivering it late he had to throw it behind his receiver to put it where only his receiver would have a chance to catch it. So while he does have above average accuracy, solid arm strength and mobility, I’m just not sure he has the intangibles to make it as a quarterback in the NFL.

LaMichael James (Junior) has a ton of potential as a 3rd down back and as a complementary back in the NFL, but I don’t think he can be the feature back for an offense like he is at Oregon. The Ducks throw the ball very frequently, and James rarely has to be the guy that grinds down the defense at Oregon. While he did average about 24.5 carries per game as a redshirt sophomore last season, he was averaging almost 6 yards per carry and did not get hit hard frequently. He is most dangerous in the open field, when he can find a cut-back lane, or when he can bounce a run outside. While he is also effective running between the tackles, that is not the best use of his speed and elusiveness. And because of his size (5’9”, 185 pounds) I don’t think he could hold up to the constant pounding that a NFL RB takes on a game to game basis. That makes me think he is a late 1st to early 2nd round pick as far as my grade on him. He has a lot of ability and is an absolute game-breaker, but I don’t think he should be running the ball 20+ times per game in the NFL every week. Giving him 8-10 carries and some passes out of the backfield or when he is split out on a linebacker maximizes his value in my opinion. I really do think he can go that high though, because his speed, quickness, burst, vision and hands are all good enough to step in and contribute to a NFL team right away.

D'Anthony Thomas has a lot of game-breaking speed, and he impressed me as a receiver and as a running back against LSU. He's going to be fun to watch as he develops.

D’Anthony Thomas (Freshman) definitely stuck out to me because this was his first game as a true freshman as well, and he played very well before having some “rookie” struggles in the second half when he lost two fumbles to an opportunistic LSU team. However, his upside and versatility is undeniable. In four games playing both receiver and running back he has totaled 11 receptions, 172 yards and two touchdowns, 173 rushing yards on 23 attempts (7.52 ypc average) and one touchdown. Plus he has returned eight kickoffs for 163 yards, and has returned 3 punts for 52 yards (17.33 average per return). He’s undersized at only 5’9”, 173 pounds but he can get up to 180 or 185 pretty easily in my opinion. But one thing he definitely has is speed. He is extremely fast, has great burst and has reliable hands. He made some big catches on 3rd downs and was one of Darron Thomas’ most reliable targets against LSU as he had six of his 11 total receptions on the season in that game. It will be interesting to see how his role develops as the season goes on, but he is definitely a talented player and one that everyone should keep an eye on.

David Paulson (Senior) is a solid TE who I think will creep up boards slowly this year. He isn’t featured in this high flying Oregon offense by any means, but he has great size for a TE at 6’4”, 241 pounds. He isn’t an athletic freak and I don’t think he will blow you away with his 40 yard dash time, but he has reliable hands and provides Thomas with a reliable security blanket. He only has seven receptions for 48 yards and one touchdown in four games, but I think Paulson is a guy that will be under the radar for the majority of the season. If he is going to emerge I think it will be during the post-season in a game like the Senior Bowl or more likely the East-West Shrine Game where he will prove he has the necessary skills to play at the next level once he gets more reps and touches throughout the practices. I think he’s a solid sleeper at the TE position based off of what I’ve seen, but I don’t think he will ever be a game-breaker either.

Hopefully you enjoyed the second section of my Oregon-LSU post. I apologize for the length of each post, but hopefully most people reading this appreciate more information versus less. Thanks for reading, and look for a couple preliminary scouting reports in the next couple days!

–Tom

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