While most LSU fans will happily trade a few nine or 10 win seasons for a national championship now, the Tigers lost a record 13 starters from their national championship winning roster to the NFL draft.
Considering the 2001 Miami Hurricanes lost 11 starters from their undefeated championship team and went 12-1 the next season, it's absolutely possible for teams to bounce back from huge losses to their rosters.
Besides, LSU has four and five-star players and recruits all over its roster.
Let’s all celebrate the former players from this "once-in-a-generation" team and use this time to display the talents that they can offer to an NFL team willing to choose them.
Here is a breakdown of the LSU players that will hopefully become NFL stars:
Joe Burrow became not only an icon among the Baton Rouge and Louisiana community, but a nationally recognizable name.
The presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Burrow has all the qualities to become a star in the NFL.
Burrow's experience, grit and calmness amid adversity set him above any quarterback in this draft class. His accuracy and decision making is unmatched as he threw for 60 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions on 76.3% completion. His arm strength and age have come under question from some NFL draft analysts and scouts, but there is nowhere near enough concern to warrant any drop in draft stock.
His accolades alone, like winning the Heisman trophy and the Davey O'Brien Award, warrant a top pick in this year's draft.
I believe the proper comparison for Burrow would be that of a right handed Steve Young. His pocket presence, scrambling, ability to keep his eyes down field under pressure and leadership qualities all add to this comparison.
Burrow has an unprecedentedly high floor for a prospect coming out of his senior year and looks to provide a unique blend of intangibles and ability to his future NFL team.
Draft projection: 1st overall selection.
Powerful, shifty and versatile, Clyde Edwards-Helaire went from rushing for only 658 yards and seven touchdowns on 146 attempts in 2018 to 1,414 yards, 6.6 yards per carry and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019. This incredible jump in production went not only for his rushing statistics but his receiving as well, going from only 11 receptions for 96 yards in 2018 to 55 receptions for 453 yards and one touchdown in 2019.
Edwards-Helaire's best performance came against one of the top defenses in the entire country. Against Alabama, he ran the ball 20 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns while also catching nine passes for 77 yards and one touchdown. The Crimson Tide had only given up nine rushing touchdowns the entire season up to that point.
Edwards-Helaire not only produced for the Tigers' offense this season, but also stepped up on the biggest of stages. A great performance against Clemson in the National Championship game helped his draft stock skyrocket.
Edwards-Helaire ran for over 100 yards in seven of his 15 total games, only one being a non SEC opponent in Clemson in the National Championship game. 782 of his 1,414 rushing yards came after contact and he recorded the seventh-most broken tackles after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
His explosive elusiveness, ability to run routes and big-game ability has made him skyrocket up draft boards; having an underrated knack for pass protection helps.
What is holding him back from being in the conversation with backs such as Deandre Swift or Jonathan Taylor in this upcoming draft is that he only has one season of high end production. While his 2018 season was good from an efficiency perspective, it did not make him stand out.
My initial comparison for Edwards-Helaire was going to be Maurice Jones-Drew, not knowing that I was thinking on the same wavelength as none other than Coach O himself.
Both are shorter, thicker running backs with similar college careers, starting out slow and improving every year. Both showed the ability to efficiently rush, receive and pass block.
Draft projection: Round 2-3 selection
The amount of improvement Jefferson had from 2018-2019 is almost as huge as Burrow's. Of course, these are related, but it does not take away from J-Jets' production jump.
Jefferson went from 54 receptions, 875 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2018 to 111 receptions, 1540 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2019.
Moving into his in-game analysis, Jefferson is a route running technician. His ability to distribute his weight with his lanky frame to sell his routes consistently gives him separation against almost all defenders.
Lining up mostly in the slot this season, Jefferson finished with the most slot receptions (109 out of 111), 1st down receptions (72) and slot touchdowns (18).
Jefferson also caught 12 of his 13 contested targets in 2019. This was the highest rate out of any wide receiver from the 2019 draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. Being able to catch contested targets is what put him in the first round of the draft. This attributes to his sure-handedness as Jefferson caught 111 out of 122 targets, a 91% catch rate.
Justin Jefferson caught 12 of his 13 contested targets in 2019.The highest rate in the WR Draft class. pic.twitter.com/tHXqAHiqFk— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 5, 2020
Some scouts had Jefferson slipping to the second round before the NFL Combine because of his lack of elite deep speed. However, these concerns were put to rest when Jefferson put on a show at the combine, running a 4.43 in the 40 yard dash, faster than both top receivers Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb.
My comparison for Jefferson would be Keenan Allen. While Allen lacks the speed of other receivers that line up on the outside, he is still an elite slot receiver because of his route running, separation ability and catching percentage.
Jefferson's shortcomings are manageable while his strengths are enhance-able. He should be able to have an instant impact on whichever team drafts him.
Draft projection: Mid-1st round selection.
Being the son of a legendary NFL wide receiver, the genetics are there.
Thaddeus Moss is an elite run blocker. His lateral ability and speed greatly enhance his run blocking ability, similar to an offensive lineman. He is able to roll his hips and establish a wide base while blocking efficiently.
Only playing one full season in the NCAA because of transfer rules and injury, Moss was able to bounce back and contribute to the success of college football's most prolific offense in history.
Being a part of the greatest offense in NCAA history in 2019 definitely had its benefits. Moss caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns, averaging about 12.1 yards per catch.
This production was average for a normal season, but considering his target share with the LSU receivers and running backs, Moss was mostly put on the back-burner. However, when his number was called, especially on the biggest of stages, he always stepped up.
Against Clemson, Moss was able to snag two touchdown passes while increasing his draft stock. Going from a probable late round to a possible 3rd round selection overnight.
Thaddeus Moss didn't drop a single pass in 2019 pic.twitter.com/Py74f5Db0F— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 30, 2020
As a route runner, his route tree is limited to mainly seem routes and short curls with nothing intermediate except around the goal line.
If NFL teams are looking for a Travis Kelce-type of receiving tight end, look the other way.
However, if NFL teams need a good run-blocking tight end with the potential to improve on his route running and separation, Moss is your guy.
His comparison is Jason Witten. Though Witten is taller than Moss, he was known for being a solid blocking tight end while being a reliable receiving option.
Witten was selected in the 3rd round by the Dallas Cowboys after finishing his last season at Tennessee with 39 receptions, 493 yards and five touchdowns.
Draft projection: Early 4th round selection
Lloyd Cushenberry III
The 6-foot-4, 315 pound inside offensive lineman played center most of his career at LSU. Considering the success of the Tigers’ offensive line this past season, Cushenberry saw his draft stock skyrocket.
Starting all 15 games on a national championship team can cause scouts to take notice of your talent. Before this season, Cushenberry was considered, at best, a 7th round pick. After the season, many scouts and analysts considered him a 2nd rounder, though his stock has gone down a bit since the combine.
Cushenberry's combine measurables are nothing special: 34 ⅛” arms (70th percentile) and 25 repetition bench press (48th percentile) to go with a 5.27 40 time, which is above the NFL average for centers.
What stands out about Cushenberry are his experience and selfless attitude towards the game and teammates.
Although his stock rose after the season, he is still being doubted because of his lack of physical domination in big games. LSU’s game against Auburn is the most notable knock to his resume as Derrick Brown was a force in the trenches and Cushenberry, as well as the other interior linemen, could not handle the Auburn front.
While Cushenberry’s run blocking can be improved on, pass blocking is where he excels. When he can anchor down, set his feet and keep opposing pass rushers in front of him with his long arms, he can give his quarterback ample time to throw.
My NFL player comparison for Cushenberry is Ben Jones, center for the Tennessee Titans.
Jones was a 4th round selection from Georgia and has become a solid NFL starter. Jones was one of four centers in the league last season to allow below a 2% pressure rate on 250 or more pass blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. If a team gives Cushenberry some pass blocking schemes and improves his power for the run game, he can turn into a valuable piece to an NFL offensive line.
Draft projection: Early 3rd round selection.
Another integral part of the Joe Moore winning offensive line, Lewis is stocked with the power of a bulldozer. His tape showed a run blocking guard with enough power to best even top tier defensive tackles like Alabama prospect Raekwon Davis couldn’t handle.
Lewis’ strengths come in his anchoring ability, to put his foot in the ground and stay there no matter who he’s up against. Lewis is an immovable object that has strong hands to control the defensive linemen in place if bull-rushed.
However, if Lewis is asked to pull block or move his feet against a shiftier defensive lineman, he can struggle. His quickness is a question and he fares better blocking within the box.
Lewis is a one position player with a lack of versatility to play the tackle position, but, on an island at guard, Lewis can excel and create holes for his running backs.
His play style is similar to Saints offensive guard Larry Warford. Both are anchoring, big men that may struggle at times in the pass game but excel in run blocking. Warford is a solid veteran guard that has a couple of pro bowls under his belt and has helped his line become one of the best in the NFL.
Lewis needs to be drafted by a team with an emphasis on a zone run blocking scheme to be a solid starter.
Draft projection: Mid 3rd round selection.
A monster of a man, Charles has been a starter for the Tigers since his freshman year.
Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 321 lbs, Charles is extremely nimble for his size. His movement rivals some of the top tackle prospects in the class. While his arm length is shorter than most at his position, Charles’ ability to leverage finesse pass rushers negates this shortcoming.
While Charles is mobile for his size, his strength and anchoring ability can use some improvement. He can sometimes get caught off balance by bull rushers. When in the process of getting out into space, he can be pushed around.
Charles has some red flags regarding his 6-game suspension in 2019, but this does not affect his game and physical ability.
Charles’ game correlates best with a former LSU standout, La’El Collins. Now on the Dallas Cowboys, Collins’ burst earned him a starting role on a stacked offensive line. Coming out of college, Collins was a sought-after prospect, but his off-the-field issues caused him to become an undrafted free agent. The Cowboys took a chance on him, and he has become a solid starter.
With Charles’ size, speed and quickness at only 20 years old, he is a project prospect that can turn into a star in the NFL. All he needs is a little polish and a few more years of experience.
Draft projection: Mid 3rd round selection