Tonight, the college football season will come to an end when the 14-0 Clemson Tigers and the 14-0 LSU Tigers meet at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans with the National Championship on the line. The game between number one Clemson and number three LSU will feature some of the best players in the country, which in turn means that NFL teams will take a close look at potential prospects to add via the 2020 draft.
Of course, not all of those players are realistic targets for the New England Patriots, who again will pick late in each round despite exiting the playoffs on wild card weekend. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, for example, will long be off the board when the Patriots are on the clock as will be his teammate Grant Delpit. Clemson’s outstanding linebacker Isaiah Simmons, meanwhile, is also expected to be out of New England’s range.
With that out of the way, let’s therefore take a look at six players to watch tonight that might actually find themselves in New England when the draft is said and done. As you will see, though, the list is rather LSU-centric for two reasons: the expected positions of need for the Patriots, and the fact that Clemson has a rather young team at those positions with a lot of players not yet eligible to enter the draft.
WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
New England’s wide receiver position was a weakness this season, and upgrading it should be a priority for the team this offseason. Enter junior wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who has been Joe Burrow’s favorite target this season: the 6-foot-3, 190-pound wideout brings not just size and production — he caught 102 passes for 1,434 yards and 18 touchdowns this season — to the table, but also versatility and strong hands. The Patriots already invested in a wideout early in last year’s draft when they picked N’Keal Harry 32nd overall, but Jefferson’s upside might make them go that route again
LB K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
With both Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr. scheduled to enter free agency in March, New England might need to add depth and talent to the linebacker position. Junior defender K’Lavon Chaisson would therefore be a perfect fit: an edge player capable of rushing the passer and dropping into coverage, the 20-year-old brings a tremendous athletic profile and enormous but raw upside to the table. If he declares to enter the draft, Chaisson will likely become a first-round draft pick — one that could end up in the Patriots’ range.
OL Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU
Lloyd Cushenberry might be LSU’s starting center, but he also has the versatility to line up at guard if need be — potentially making him an intriguing player for a Patriots team that could lose both starting left guard Joe Thuney and 2019’s starting center Ted Karras in free agency. At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Cushenberry is a big and physically imposing blocker whose athleticism stands out especially when he is making second-level blocks or pulling around the formation. While he needs to work on his technique, his upside cannot be denied.
WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
The only Clemson player on this list could very well end up in New England for the same reasons Jefferson could: the Patriots need to get more production out of their wide receivers next year, and a player of Tee Higgins’ talent might be one way to get it. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound pass catcher plays with good speed and strength and also is a willing blocker in the running game. While his route tree needs to be expanded, his production — 56 catches for 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns this season — and athletic skillset make him a potential target for New England in April.
TE Stephen Sullivan, LSU
After losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement and failing to find an adequate replacement through free agency and the draft, the tight end position turned arguably into the weakest on the Patriots’ roster in 2019. Adding some talent is therefore imperative this offseason, and Stephen Sullivan might be among the players the team could target. While entering draft season far from the top of the tight end rankings due to his blocking that needs considerable work before being up to NFL standards, the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder has the combination of size and athleticism to potentially find success as a developmental receiver at the next level.
TE Thaddeus Moss, LSU
After his father, Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, found plenty of success in New England it is only natural that his son could be on the team’s draft radar as well. Coming off the most productive season for a tight end in school history — he caught 42 passes for 534 yards and a pair of touchdowns — Thaddeus Moss could decide to enter the draft and might become a late-round selection as a raw receiver. That being said he would likely benefit from returning to LSU for another season after having missed both 2017 and 2018 due to the NCAA’s transfer policy and a redshirt campaign.