BATON ROUGE – It wasn’t like a bong video involving Jalen Mills and Vadal Alexander of LSU surfaced on Twitter on Friday before the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft.
But Mills and Alexander plummeted from second or third round pick projections to the seventh and last round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. This after Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil dropped from a top five projection to the 13th selection of the first round by Miami after a video of him presumably smoking marijuana from a bong while wearing a gas mask caught fire on Twitter on Friday night minutes before the draft.
Mills and Alexander did not attract as much national attention as Tunsil, but each suffered a mightier fall. Both were invited to and played last January in the Senior Bowl, which usually produces players picked in the early to middle rounds of the draft. Of the 87 players at the 2016 Senior Bowl who were drafted over the weekend, 51 went in the first five rounds. In addition to Mills and Alexander, only four others went as late as the seventh.
A safety and cornerback, Mills went as the 12th pick of the last round and the 233rd selection overall to Philadelphia. Alexander, an offensive guard, went one pick later as the 13th pick of the seventh round and the 234th selection out of 253.
“Both took unbelievable falls,” Mike Detillier, an NFL Draft expert for three decades who works for WWL Radio in New Orleans, told Gannett Louisiana on Monday.
Detillier, who correctly predicted that the New Orleans Saints would take Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins with their first pick of the first round at No. 12 and is usually very accurate concerning LSU projections, missed badly on Mills and Alexander as did local, regional and national drafter prognosticators. Detillier had Mills going in the upper half of the second round, and he had Alexander getting selected in the upper half of the third round.
Detillier was right on about LSU offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins going late in the fourth round, whereas other outlets had him going in the second or third round. Pittsburgh took Hawkins with the 25th pick of the fourth round as the 123rd player overall.
Mills’ 2014 arrest for allegedly hitting a woman may have hurt his standing with NFL teams, Detillier said, though that charge was dismissed after he went through a pretrial diversion program as he had no previous arrests. Or it could have been the fact that Mills was not at his best in the 2016 season as he missed five games with a broken leg.
“The NFL is sensitive to off the field issues and domestic offenses,” Detillier said. “It killed him in the eyes of many, and he is coming off an injury. But he’s a quality player who can play cornerback, free safety and in the slot.”
Detillier had Alexander going as the 15th pick of the third round to the guard-hungry New Orleans Saints as the 78th overall pick. Instead he ended up 19th from the bottom.
“Concerns about his weight and future conditioning hurt him,” Detillier said of Alexander, who was listed at 6-foot-6 and 329 pounds by the Senior Bowl and by LSU. Detillier had Alexander as the third best offensive guard in the draft in his annual Draft Report publication.
“He didn’t win the offseason in workouts,” Detillier said. “He didn’t run or test out well. But turn on the tape, and the guy is a football player.”
The Saints could have taken Alexander with the 13th pick of the fifth round, but they traded that pick on Saturday with their fifth round spot in 2017 to get back in the fourth round after trading their original fourth round pick on Friday. New Orleans then drafted defensive tackle David Onyemata of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, in the fourth round. Onyemata just began play football five years ago in high school in Winnipeg and is considered a project.
“In a perfect world we would’ve gotten a guard,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Saturday. “We had our eye on a few guys. We just didn’t get the opportunity to draft them where we thought the value existed.”
Loomis obviously did not believe Alexander had the “value” of an Onyemata, whom he even admitted lacked quality collegiate competition in Canada.
“We recognized that he wasn’t playing at an SEC school obviously,” Loomis said. “So there are some questions about the level of competition.”
The Saints had a seventh round pick, but it was three spots after Oakland took Alexander. New Orleans took running back Daniel Lasco of California with the 16th pick of the seventh round and 237th overall. Saints coach Sean Payton said that the best guards were gone as the draft got into the middle rounds.
“Most important is paying attention to where these grades are falling,” he said Friday night after the second and third rounds. “We felt specifically with the offensive line that there was going to be that early first-round, end of the first- early-second-round run. And in all likelihood when we picked in that spot in the second round that the first wave of players would be gone. And that next clump of players we saw the grades on were going to be a little bit further back. Those guys just go a little quicker, and you know that going in.”
Detillier had listed Mills as the No. 1 free safety in the draft. He remains mystified by each player’s fall.
“Both of these guys were four-year starters at one of the top schools in the college football,” he said. “Strange world.”
LSU ADDS TOP QB COMMITMENT: The Tigers received a major commitment for their class of 2017 on Monday when four-star prospect Lowell Narcisse, the No. 4 dual threat quarterback in the nation out of St. James High, pledged to LSU.
Narcisse (6-foot-2, 205) is the No. 68 dual threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com and is considered the No. 2 prospect in Louisiana out of St. James, which is between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Arizona State and Georgia are among the schools recruiting Narcisse and have offered him a scholarship. Narcisse is the second quarterback to commit to LSU in less than a week.
Myles Brennan, a three-star and nationally unranked prospect out of St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, committed to LSU last week. Brennan (6-3, 180) has been offered scholarships by California, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kentucky, Memphis, South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Arkansas State.
LSU has six commitments for the class of 2017.