On surprising day, LSU finishes with its second-most NFL draft picks in single class

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Every time LSU had this many players selected in the NFL draft before, it came on the heels of a successful season. The 2012 and 2013 teams both produced nine draft picks after winning 10 games, which tied a school record before the 2019 national championship team shattered the mark.

That’s what made Saturday such a surprise.

Even after going 6-7 last season, LSU had six more players taken on the final day of the NFL draft: junior kicker Cade York, senior defensive tackle Neil Farrell Jr., senior linebacker Damone Clark, senior right tackle Austin Deculus, senior offensive guard Chasen Hines and senior defensive end Andre Anthony.

As those remnants of the championship team started their professional careers, LSU finished with 10 total picks, the second-most in a single draft class from the school.

It seemed appropriate that York came off the board first on a surprising day. He went No. 124 overall to the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round, making him the highest-drafted kicker since Roberto Aguayo went in the second round in 2016.

Cade York made LSU history again.

Only three other college kickers, including Aguayo, had left school early since 2000. Teams rarely spend draft picks on kickers. But York isn’t ordinary.

A three-year starter, he set records for the longest field goal (57 yards) in LSU history, the longest field goal (56 yards) in Tiger Stadium, the most consecutive extra points (118) and the most career field goals (15) over 50 yards.

York expects to make a slight adjustment like he did his freshman year, but he considered himself the best kicker in the draft.

“There’s learning curves, for sure,” York said. “I’m going to have some of those. I’m going to have to grow and get better. I don’t want to peak as a rookie. I want to peak 10 years down in my career.”

When Neil Farrell Jr. drove home after opting out in August 2020, he was a senior defensive tackle expected to finally compete for a starting …

The Browns watched York kick multiple times during the pre-draft process, director of player personnel Dan Saganey said, and hoped York would solidify the position.

The franchise has made 12 field goals over 50 yards since the start of the 2013 season. With Chase McLaughlin as the starter last season, Cleveland converted 72.7% of its field goals, the worst mark in the NFL.

“We like his mental makeup,” Saganey said. “That’s a big part of it. We really like his overall talent level for kicking in an outdoor stadium.”

Farrell came off the board two picks later at No. 126 overall to the Las Vegas Raiders.

A three-star recruit from Mobile, Alabama, Farrell spent two years as a backup before he became a steady rotational piece on LSU’s defensive line during its 2019 national championship season.

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LSU senior linebacker Damone Clark was picked No. 176 overall in the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

Poised to start his senior year, Farrell opted out to look after his beloved grandmother, Creola Morrisette, who was hospitalized with COVID-19. When Farrell returned a month later, teammates thought he looked more focused and had a stronger work ethic.

Farrell’s improvement turned him into a legitimate NFL draft prospect. Starting every regular season game last season, Farrell recorded 45 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

“What you saw last year from him was the ability to push the inside pocket as a pass-rusher,” said Mike Detillier, a draft analyst and WWL-AM host. “I’m not saying he’s going to be a 10-sack guy, but he has shown the ability to steal a quarterback’s launch pad.”

Next came Clark, who would have gone in the first or second round before an MRI at the NFL scouting combine last month revealed a herniated disk. Clark’s stock dropped after he underwent spinal fusion surgery to repair the issue because he may miss his rookie year, but the Dallas Cowboys still drafted him in the fifth round at No. 176 overall. 

When Clark received the call, his mother raised her arms and smiled. Clark, who struggled his junior year, had finally been rewarded for the immense improvement he made over the last year. As a senior, he led the Southeastern Conference with 137 tackles. 

“I still believe his best football is in front of him,” former LSU linebackers coach Blake Baker said.

Austin Deculus played in more games than anyone in LSU history.

The two offensive linemen followed in the sixth round, giving LSU three draft picks from a heavily-criticized line last season. Deculus, who set a school record by playing 61 games during his career, was drafted No. 205 overall by the Houston Texans. Hines went No. 210 overall to the New England Patriots after starting the last two years.

“I’m beyond blessed,” Deculus told reporters.

That seemed like the end of the draft for LSU players. Perhaps more would sign as undrafted free agents. But near the end of the seventh round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Anthony with the No. 248 pick, providing an uplifting moment at the end of a stunning day.

Anthony spent most of his career buried on the depth chart until he led the team with 5.5 sacks his senior year. He returned for his sixth season when the NCAA offered everyone an extra year of eligibility and recorded four sacks.

Then Anthony tore his ACL in the third game, ending his college career. He returned to run the 40-yard dash at LSU’s pro day, trying to give himself a chance. The Buccaneers gave him one.

2022 LSU NFL Draft Picks

  • CB Derek Stingley Jr.: Texans (R1, pick 3)
  • OL Ed Ingram: Vikings (R2, pick 59)
  • CB Cordale Flott: Giants (R3, pick 81)
  • RB Tyrion Davis-Price: 49ers (R3, pick 93)
  • K Cade York: Browns (R4, pick 124)
  • DT Neil Farrell Jr.: Raiders (R4, pick 126)
  • LB Damone Clark: Cowboys (R5, pick 176)
  • OT Austin Deculus: Texans (R6, pick 205)
  • OL Chasen Hines: Patriots (R6, pick 210)
  • DE Andre Anthony: Buccaneers (R7, pick 248)