When Devin White left Louisiana State to be drafted No. 5 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason, Patrick Queen figured it was his time to shine as the Tigers’ featured inside linebacker.
He’d been dreaming of that opportunity for many years, having grown up in the small town of Ventress, La., just up the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge.
But, to start the 2019 season, LSU coach Ed Orgeron told the junior Queen he’d have to wait some more.
“Going into camp, we were competing for a spot. Didn’t win it,” Queen said.
Queen, traditionally small for a middle backer at 6 feet 1 and 227 pounds, was informed that he had to improve at stopping the run and reading defenses. He attached himself to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s hip. After three games of limited duty to start the year, he got his first start against Vanderbilt.
The rest of the story — how he started the last 12 games, becoming a vital part of the LSU squad that went 15-0 and won the national championship and announced his intention to enter the NFL draft — is a testament to how quickly a player’s star can rise when talent meets opportunity.
Queen is now a projected mid-to-late first-round pick only months after watching his teammates win a big road game at Texas from the sideline.
“It was hard, but I never changed anything I did,” Queen said. “I always was that guy that gave 110% before that happened. So just kept everything the same, came in, put my head down and went to work.”
In LSU’s last three games against powerhouses Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson, Queen combined for 21 tackles including five for loss.
His speed and quick recognition was on full display. Still, he wanted to show more at the NFL scouting combine, hoping to run a 4.4 40-yard dash, which he said he had pulled off in training. He clocked 4.5 at the combine — a number that didn’t impress him but only confirmed his dart up draft boards to teams.
The only risk in Queen as the draft approaches is that he’s only started for one season.
“It’s a tough question to answer because everybody likes experience, but I feel like I proved everything I needed to on the field,” Queen said. “Even though I didn’t start at the beginning of the year, my film takes care of everything they have questions for.”
Certainly, Queen has analyst Lance Zierlein of NFL.com convinced.
“While other Tigers received more attention, Queen has some of the most eye-opening tape of the bunch,” Zierlein wrote. “He plays fast, physical and with impressive field confidence for a one-year starter. His ability to diagnose and flow are both very rapid, and he operates with excellent body control and balance to gobble up runners as an open-field tackler.”