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Alabama, LSU go for record-tying ‘pick six’ in NFL draft

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 27.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Nobody knows when Southeastern Conference football rivals Alabama and Louisiana State will play against each other again. It might be Nov. 7 in Tiger Stadium as scheduled. It might not.

In the age of the novel coronavirus, it is better to focus on what little we actually know is coming. Thursday night’s NFL draft is taking on a greater importance on a societal level than it has before simply because it’s the only major sports event that has not been canceled or postponed since March 12.

Luckily for college football fans — particularly those who proudly accentuate their game-day gear with houndstooth or a well-placed tiger tail — the draft night stakes will be inflated too.

Take a look at the Los Angeles Times’ All 32 NFL mock draft. The beat writers assembled by the Times’ Sam Farmer from across the league set up quite a battle between Alabama and LSU.

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Each school had six players chosen, accounting for more than a third of the first round. If either the Crimson Tide or Tigers accomplish that feat Thursday, they would tie Miami, which set the record in 2004. And if either school added a seventh — LSU could if a team takes a liking to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a projected second-rounder — then that revered group of Hurricanes could be unseated.

Which positions, schools and conferences were selected most? Which position dropped off most after the top 10? How many guys who go by initials were picked?

A program win on Thursday night would mean more to Ed Orgeron and LSU. Recent drafts have been just another moment for Nick Saban to further assert his dominance over the sport. He’s got more first-round picks at Alabama, 26, than losses, 23, in a dozen years. The Crimson Tide had four players taken in the first round in 2017 and 2018. The last time that happened for LSU was 2007, and you’ll never guess who recruited those players to Baton Rouge: Saban, before he bolted for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

NFL scouts know that Alabama players are coachable and understand the level of work it takes to excel at the next level. In a year in which there were fewer pro days and individual workouts for teams because of the virus, it is possible scouts and general managers will trend toward taking more players from college football’s reliable talent developers.

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LSU quarterback Joe Burrow throws the ball under pressure against Clemson during the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Jan. 13 in New Orleans.
(Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images)

Orgeron coached plenty of players into pros as an assistant at USC, and now has LSU poised to increase production at its long-established factory. But he doesn’t have the cachet of Saban in the NFL, and won’t for a while.

On the field last November, the Tigers slayed the Saban dragon after eight straight losses. It was the win they had to have, and it spurred LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to the Heisman Trophy. Burrow will likely be the top pick Thursday to the Cincinnati Bengals, which might kick off a historic night for LSU and, possibly, big win over Alabama.

The Chargers need a quarterback, and Tua Tagovailoa could be there when they pick at No. 6 in the NFL draft, but they have other needs that could be addressed.

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Let’s not forget that LSU, after rolling to a 15-0 record and the program’s fourth national championship, put itself in the conversation for the best college football team of all time. That argument would only be buoyed by piling up first-round picks in this draft and in the coming years.

The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are often mentioned in that lofty realm. They had 15 players taken in the first round from 2002 to 2004.

Thursday night, LSU can start counting.


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