LSU vs. Florida State is 2024 NFL Draft gold for scouts

Oct 1, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end Jared Verse (5) reacts to losing the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end Jared Verse (5) reacts to losing the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports /

The opening slate of college football typically features tune-up games across the country, with only a handful of teams actually squaring off against high-quality opponents. Lucky for college football fans, and 2024 NFL Draft analysts, the showdown between No. 5 LSU and No. 8 Florida State has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Brian Kelly And LSU Look To Build On Successful 2022 Campaign

LSU head coach Brian Kelly enters Year 2 in Baton Rouge. Another year wiser and with another year’s worth of country twang added to his voice. All joking aside, Kelly settled in nicely for the Tigers in 2022 after losing the initial contest against these same Florida State Seminoles.

Kelly and Co. would go on to upset Alabama later in the season, parlaying it into an SEC Championship appearance vs. the Georgia Bulldogs. Unfortunately for LSU, their conference rival blew the doors off them in a dominant 50-30 title game.

Still, to go as far as the Tigers did, especially after starting the year with a loss, it is promising. Most of the core roster returned to campus this fall and is poised to finish what they started in 2022. Quarterback Jayden Daniels leads the way, with wide receiver Malik Nabers already earning “NFL Draft darling” status by scouts everywhere.

The offensive line should be a strong suit for the roster. Will Campbell was recently given the highly-coveted No. 7, a jersey that LSU only gives out to the team’s leader — and rarely is it ever an offensive line. But the sophomore left tackle is well worth it. Of course, per NCAA rules, Campbell must wear the No. 7 as a patch, not his “actual” jersey number. It still carries the same weight.

A few defenders to watch when LSU opens its 2023 campaign are LB Harold Perkins, DT Mekhi Wingo, and LB Omar Speights. Perkins is not eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft, but he will be one of the first 5-10 names taken in 2025 — get an early start on your scouting report with him.

Wingo transferred over from Missouri before the 2022 season, starting 12 of 13 games and serving as a focal point of the Tiger defensive line. The coaching staff hopes to see Wingo take another step and double his three-sack total from his initial season in Louisiana.

Speights recently transferred from Oregon State after logging multiple seasons of high snap counts. He is a late-round flyer type of NFL Draft prospect right now, but the move to the SEC will allow more eyes to see him. If Speights breaks out as the star for the middle of the defense alongside Perkins, it could be the difference between Day 2 and Day 3 consideration.

Maason Smith is still recovering from a season-ending injury that happened while celebrating in 2022. Smith is the best 2024 NFL Draft prospect on the roster when healthy, but he hasn’t been able to put up any tape since his freshman 2021 slate. I project him as an early Day 2 player right now. But we’ll have to wait longer to see if Smith can regain form, as he will miss the opener vs. Florida State.

Florida State Has Its Fair Share Of 2024 NFL Draft Talent

Now that we are acquainted with the talent on Brian Kelly’s squad, let’s turn our attention toward Mike Norvell’s ascending program.

Quarterback Jordan Travis returns to Tallahassee to continue leading the offense. He is far from perfect as a 2024 NFL Draft prospect, but Travis is a legitimate contender to win the Heisman Trophy at season’s end. His ability to create with his legs while also possessing ample arm talent could lead to absurd stats.

It helps to have such a stacked assortment of weapons surrounding Travis. Running back Trey Benson is a Top 25 player on my Big Board, and wide receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson are fixtures inside of most analysts’ Top 50 rankings. Add in the versatile Jaheim Bell at tight end and fullback, and it is easy to see how this offense could rival the 2010s Jimbo Fisher-led squad.

Perhaps even more exciting than the offense is how loaded the defense is upfront. Jared Verse, widely considered an early first-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft, could have easily been a top-five pick last April. However, he returned to school to polish off the remaining weaknesses in his game. Verse, the Albany transfer, is an explosive pass rusher who wins with trademark power.

Patrick Payton enters the season as one of my biggest sleepers in the entire class. At 6-foot-5 and 239 pounds, the FSU pass rusher flexes a frame that can handle upwards of 20 more pounds without sacrificing his burst off the snap. Reports say Payton has already bulked up; if he can refine his pass-rushing move set, including more efficient hand usage, the sky is the limit for this duo flying off the edge.

Florida State and LSU both have NCAA Championship aspirations for 2023. Several players across both rosters have 2024 NFL Draft aspirations. In a game that promises to be an exciting back-and-forth — both journeys begin on Sunday evening.