Surprises on final day of NFL draft
LSU had four players selected on the last day of the NFL draft Saturday, but there were some surprises.
Wide receiver James Wright and running back Alfred Blue, two players most draft analysts had going undrafted, were chosen. Wright went to the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round, while Blue was a sixth-round choice of the Houston Texans.
Three Tigers players projected to be drafted never had their names called - defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, safety Craig Loston and fullback J.C. Copeland. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger lasted until the sixth round when he was picked by the Tennessee Titans.
The only LSU player who was chosen around the area expected was linebacker Lamin Barrow, the fifth-round selection of the Denver Broncos. The Tigers finished with a school-record nine draft picks - the most for any team in the country.
The three aforementioned undrafted players and Kadron Boone signed free agent contracts Saturday night. Johnson signed with the Miami Dolphins, Loston with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Copeland with the Dallas Cowboys and Boone with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Barrow was the fourth LSU linebacker to be drafted in the last five years. The other three were Perry Riley in 2010 (fourth round/Washington Redskins), Kelvin Sheppard in 2011 (third round/Buffalo Bills) and Kevin Minter in 2013 (second round/Arizona Cardinals).
Prior to this run, the last Tigers linebacker drafted was Bradie James in 2003. James was selected in the fourth round by Dallas. The Broncos traded down and were still able to pick Barrow.
"I was thrilled Lamin was still there," said Denver general manager John Elway. "We moved back and we had to sweat a little bit when there was a run of linebackers. I think Lamin can help us. Fortunately, he got to us. He is a tough guy with good speed and great instincts. He is a great competitor."
The most talked about proceedings of the day concerned Mettenberger. In recent days, it became public knowledge that Metternberger's drug test at the NFL Combine drew a red flag because it was diluted. Then, there were reports of a back problem.
Mettenberger also is recovering from January knee surgery. He made a lot of strides and was able to participate in LSU's Pro Day last month. Obviously, all of these issues dropped Mettenberger down the draft board.
"I am excited for this opportunity," Mettenberger said. "I have a great opportunity with a great organization. I am thrilled to be a part of a team. I am ready to go to work and show what I can do. The jury is still out on me and I am going to do everything I can to prove everyone wrong."
The Titans moved up in the sixth round in order to get Mettenberger. The only other quarterbacks on the Tennessee roster are Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson.
"We had heard that there other teams trying to move up to get Mettenberger," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We felt like it was a low-risk, high-reward type of situation."
Blue, who had knee surgery in 2012, could have returned for a fifth season. However, Blue opted to throw his name into the NFL pool. That decision turned out to be a correct one after the Texans drated him in the sixth round.
"I'm very excited," Blue said. "It was a long wait. It has been very difficult and very frustrating since the injury. Jeremy Hill took off and started having a great year. I was just trying to get back and reclaim my starting job. I pushed through it and overcame it. I think I am a better player now."
The Tigers had two running backs picked in the same draft for the first time in 11 years. Domanick Davis and LaBrandon Toefield were selected in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. Hill was picked in the second round Friday by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati was also the team which drafted Wright in the seventh round. Wright, who didn't catch a pass this season, was chosen because of his special teams ability.