The 2021 season was an underwhelming one for the LSU Tigers. The team started at No. 16 in the rankings, but ended up finishing the year under .500 following a loss to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.
After years under Ed Orgeron, the Tigers will enter a new era under Brian Kelly, the longtime Notre Dame coach. And if there is something that can help Kelly succeed in Baton Rouge, it is the talent on the field.
LSU has a total of 31 players selected in the last three editions of the NFL Draft, including seven first-rounders. Highlighting that group is star quarterback Joe Burrow, selected No. 1 by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020, and two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson, picked No. 22 by the Minnesota Vikings that same year.
If the Tigers are able to have a bounce-back season, the stock of their 2023 draft prospects is bound to improve. Here are three LSU players with a great chance of being selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
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LSU Football 2023 NFL Draft First-Round Prospects
3. Edge Ali Gaye
After playing only four games last year due to injury, Ali Gaye made a good decision by using his extra year of eligibility and returning for a final season with LSU.
Despite limited time on the field in 2021, the talented edge defender finished the year with 19 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. In 2020, Gaye played and started all 10 games, receiving All-SEC Second Team honors from league coaches and the Associated Press. He also led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss. One of his highlights was an interception against Ole Miss and now Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Corral.
At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Gaye is able to move very smoothly. He is explosive and has the speed necessary to rush the passer. With long arms, he makes it difficult for quarterbacks once he is pressing them behind the line of scrimmage.
As a fifth-year senior, Gaye’s stock could be harmed as he would be an older rookie. However, that experience also means he could be more prepared for the NFL than his peers, ready to contribute right away as a rookie.
Fourteen defensive ends were selected in the first three rounds last year, and Gaye should be a lock around that area. Performing well in 2022, he could absolutely climb up draft boards and hear his name called in the middle of the first round.
2. Edge BJ Ojulari
BJ Ojulari is another LSU defender with high hopes of hearing his name on day one of the NFL Draft. Brother of New York Giants’ outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, the edge for the Tigers is ready to take it to the next level.
In 2021, Ojulari led all LSU defensive linemen in tackles with 55 tackles and seven sacks, ranking second with 11.5 tackles for loss. He and Gaye form one of the most disruptive edge duos in the country. Ojulari was recently named to the preseason watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, which recognizes the best college defender in the nation, regardless of position.
At 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds, Ojulari is quick and able to bend at his ankles and hips very well. He also has solid footwork, which helps him when rushing the passer. Last year, he had nine quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
Ojulari is likely to be selected around the teens of the 2023 NFL Draft, perhaps moving up to compete as the top edge rusher in this class.
1. Wide Receiver Kayshon Boutte
Despite going down with an injury and only playing six games last year, Kayshon Boutte’s impact in Baton Rouge was noticeable. Still able to lead the team with nine touchdowns and 509 receiving yards, the junior wide receiver is probably the best prospect on the LSU roster for this upcoming season.
Selected as a preseason All-American, Boutte will once again have the chance to show scouts that he can play at a high level. In his last fully healthy season, Boutte led the team in receiving yards (735) and finished second in both receptions (45) and scores (5). He also set a single-game SEC record with 308 receiving yards on 14 catches versus Ole Miss, earning Freshman All-American honors.
Once he has the ball in his hands, Boutte is quick and very difficult to be stopped by the defenders. Boutte is dangerous picking his spots after the catch, possessing good speed and outstanding field awareness.
The wide receiver should expect to hear his name called mid-first round. Depending on how he performs this upcoming season, Boutte might even be selected in the top-10.