Inside Slant: LSU's early-entry trend unlikely to continue in 2015

To whatever extent the record numbers of college underclassmen declaring early eligibility for the NFL draft the last two years is a problem, LSU has been the face of that problem. As the number jumped from 73 to 98 last year, LSU lost 17 underclassmen to the draft over those two years -- incredibly, about 10 percent of the total -- and that's not even counting defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, now of the Arizona Cardinals, who was dismissed from the program before deciding to make the jump himself.



At last, it looks as though Les Miles' program won't finish first in the race no college football coach wants to win.

That's not to say the Tigers don't have some talented underclassmen with a difficult decision to make, but the likelihood the Tigers will pile up double-digit early exits again appears slim to none at this point.

Defensive backs Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins are exceptional talents who could be the most pro-ready of LSU's junior class, and exits by both would be a major blow to the LSU secondary. Junior offensive lineman Vadal Alexander has been an effective three-year starter and was picked second-team All-SEC by the league's coaches this year, and he could also give the NFL draft strong consideration.

But beyond that, there aren't as many obvious possibilities.

There could always be a head-scratcher or two; sometimes, players would rather risk being drafted late or not at all than spend another year in school. But the overall damage done to the Tigers program figures to be light by recent comparison.

It's a relief Miles certainly deserves.

This week, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks assessed LSU's roster as the nation's fifth-most talented. But fortunately for Miles, only one of the six players Brooks identified as the Tigers' most talented -- third-year sophomore receiver Travin Dural -- could be a 2015 early entry. Four are only freshmen. The speedy Dural, with only 44 career receptions, could certainly use more seasoning at the college level. The other is senior offensive tackle La'el Collins, the one star junior who decided to stay at LSU last year rather than step on the early-entry train out of town.

It didn't go unappreciated by Miles.

If Miles turns out to be right in projecting Collins as a first-round pick, he'll have a gift that could keep giving: an example to show future underclassmen of a player improving his draft stock by staying for his senior year.

No doubt, Miles will need it.

A few dozen of last year's 98 early entries went undrafted, and while LSU has produced its share of elite prospects who have been drafted high, more than a few Tigers underclassmen have gone undrafted, as well. Defensive lineman Anthony Johnson was a classic example of one who might have made the wrong decision. He went undrafted last year but managed to hook on with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

This year, most Tigers underclassmen are more likely to follow Collins' path than Johnson's.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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