Friday, April 23, 2010

LSU's Jones, LaFell drafted

LSU's Brandon LaFell notched 792 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009.
The first round of the NFL draft came and went.So did the second round.
When wide receiver Brandon LaFell completed his college career at LSU, he didn’t think he’d have to wait so long to see his name crawl along the TV screen.

Neither did safety Chad Jones, who gave up his final year for a shot at the pros. Both went in the third round Friday night — Jones at the 76th pick to the New York Giants and LaFell with the 78th to the Carolina Panthers.
Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith, from Pickering, went No. 74 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Late Friday night, LaFell, who had entered his name in the draft but then changed his mind after his junior season, knew the Carolina Panthers still had a third-round pick, and he had a good feeling about them.
He’d met with Panthers officials at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, a former LSU star himself, talked with LaFell at the Tigers’ pro day.
“After that, I kind of got a good feeling about them,” LaFell said. “Then, they called me a few days ago and told me if I was around when they had a pick, they were going to grab me.”

The Panthers made good on their promise.They took LaFell with the 78th overall pick.“The last couple of days have been kind of stressful. I thought I was going to go late in the first round, and I had to kind of sweat it out,” LaFell said. “But it worked out, because I got picked up by a good organization, and I think I’m going to a great situation. Whoo! I’m just happy it’s all over now, and I can start focusing on football.”The first round came and went Thursday without an NFL team selecting an LSU player, clinching the first time the Tigers did not have a first-round selection since 2003.Louisiana Tech was the first in-state school to send a player to the NFL on Friday.The Jacksonville Jaguars took Smith two slots ahead of Jones.Smith is the highest-drafted Tech player since 1999, when the Pittsburgh Steelers took wideout Troy Edwards at No. 13 overall. Smith started 44 games at Tech, finishing with 197 tackles and 12‰ sacks (though he had just 3‰ sacks as a senior).In a phone conversation earlier this month, Smith tried to assure Jaguars general manager Gene Smith his heart is in the game.
“I pretty much told him how I felt about it and my desire to play the game,” D’Anthony Smith said. “I guess he liked what I said. ... I feel like I’m a good competitor. I don’t think I’m inconsistent.”

LSU’s wait lasted a little longer Friday — straight through the second round and not until the New York Giants took Jones with the 12th pick in the third round.Jones will join a secondary that includes former LSU cornerback and St. James standout Corey Webster, who helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII.The Giants obviously wanted to fortify their defense in the draft.A day after taking South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round, the Giants added East Carolina tackle Linval Joseph in the second round.“We want to get better with our defense,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “We had a lot of points scored on us last fall. We are trying to upgrade our defense. We are trying to upgrade the entire football team.”Marc Ross, the Giants director of college scouting, said Jones was a versatile, 6-foot-2, 221-pound player who can run.“This kid may have some of the best pure hands of any position,” Ross said. “You can see this kid’s baseball skills, hand-eye coordination catching the football. He can really catch it.”
Being a two-sport athlete — Jones not only played on LSU’s baseball team but was 13th-round selection of the Houston Astros in ’07 — he never had a chance to concentrate full-time on football.Ross said the Giants believe Jones will only get bigger and better.
LaFell, meanwhile, heads to Charlotte, N.C., with a shot at becoming the Panthers’ No. 2 receiver.Dwayne Jarrett, a fourth-year player from USC, has been a disappointment as a complement to star wideout Steve Smith. Jarrett has one career touchdown.LaFell also has the chance to form a connection with a rookie quarterback — Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, who tumbled into the second round.“I met him at the Combine and talked to him a little bit, but we didn’t get to know each other too much,” LaFell said. “I know he’s a hell of a player and he’s going to be ready to prove he should’ve been picked earlier.”Funny. LaFell could have said the same thing about himself. And about Jones, his old teammate.The call came a little later than they’d hoped.But by Friday night, their dreams came true.