Deja vu on the Bayou: Early exits hit LSU hardest in college football

Leonard Fournette waving
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another crop of elite underclassmen leaving Baton Rouge for the NFL draft. Year after year, no SEC team is hit as hard by early exits as LSU, and 2018 is no different.

For LSU fans, the question is tough to escape: What kind of team could the Tigers have assembled if even an average number of those players had stayed four years?

The answer: Maybe a powerhouse, particularly in a season like 2013. An incredible 11 LSU players – even a punter – bolted for the draft after the 2012 season.

Nobody, not even Alabama, loses so many players early.

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Over the past five drafts (2013-17), there have been 27 early entrants from LSU. Six more have confirmed that they’re adding their names to the 2018 draft list: running back Derrius Guice, center Will Clapp, offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, edge rusher Arden Key and cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver. LSU’s six early entries are tied with Florida State for the most from one school in this draft.

Here’s the full list of LSU players departing during that span before finishing their senior seasons:


OT Chris Faulk
RB Michael Ford
DT Bennie Logan
DB Tyrann Mathieu
LB Barkevious Mingo
LB Kevin Minter
DE Sam Montgomery
S Eric Reid
CB Tharold Simon
RB Spencer Ware
P Brad Wing


WR Odell Beckham Jr.
RB Alfred Blue
DT Ego Ferguson
RB Jeremy Hill
DT Anthony Johnson
WR Jarvis Landry
G Trai Turner


LB Kwon Alexander
CB Jalen Collins
DE Danielle Hunter


OT Jerald Hawkins
CB Rashard Robinson


S Jamal Adams
WR Malachi Dupre
RB Leonard Fournette
DT Davon Godchaux


C Will Clapp
RB Derrius Guice
CB Donte Jackson
DE Arden Key
CB Kevin Toliver
OT Toby Weathersby

That’s a lot of Tigers. Losing players to the pros at this rate is unusual and, really, nobody else comes close.

Looking at the NFL’s annual lists of “players granted special eligibility” for the draft, no school has lost as much talent in the past half-dozen years as LSU. Note that these lists don’t include a small number of players, such as Florida’s Alex Anzalone and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in 2017, who had additional NCAA eligibility but already had graduated before entering the draft. Those players are classified slightly differently under league draft procedures.

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Alabama has won three national championships in those six years, but only 16 Crimson Tide players have left early for the draft (plus five who will head for the pros this year). Both Auburn and Georgia have played national title games during that period, yet both have only seven early exits. Tennessee has nine. Florida, the only SEC program that really comes close to LSU in losing players to the draft, has 21 (a number that will increase with Taven Bryan, Eddy Pineiro and Antonoo Callaway this year).

Nor do other national giants come close to LSU. Ohio State and USC have lost 15 players each, plus at least three or four more this season – barely half the Tigers’ total. Florida State also has lost 15 players to early draft entries since 2013, a number that’s going to increase by six or more this year. Clemson and Oklahoma lost 10 each.

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