LSU has always been a breeding ground for future NFL stars, creating a pipeline from Baton Rouge to pro teams across the country.

NFL teams have drafted a former LSU player in the first round in seven of the last eight drafts, and the 2007 class became the gold standard of drafts when four former Tigers were taken in the first round.

But LSU's 2011 draft class, which was supposed to lack early round talent after cornerback Patrick Peterson, left its own mark as five former Tigers came off the board in the first three rounds, a record for LSU.

Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was the first former LSU player off the board after Peterson, going in the third round with the 68th overall pick to the Buffalo Bills.

Three more NFL teams followed suit as running back Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots), defensive tackle Drake Nevis (Indianapolis Colts) and offensive lineman Joseph Barksdale (Oakland Raiders) were also taken in the third round.

The only other former Tiger drafted was defensive lineman Pep Levingston, who went in the seventh round to the Seattle Seahawks.

Wide receiver Terrence Toliver and kicker Josh Jasper went undrafted. They will have to wait until the lockout is lifted before they will get a chance to sign a free agent contract.

"The inconsistencies built up, and guys passed on them," Nadeau said. "I thought someone would give them a shot in the seventh round at least."

The players selected, especially the four in the third round, will join teams with ties to LSU.

Sheppard will suit up with Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams, who played for LSU from 2002 to 2005. Williams was the Bills' fifth-round choice in 2006.

"He comes back in the summer and works out with the team," Sheppad said during a conference call. "He's definitely a guy that I'm going to try to contact in the near future and get with him and start working out."

The Bills coaching staff got a firsthand look at Sheppard while coaching him in the Senior Bowl, and the linebacker visited Buffalo after the all-star game.

"Sheppard will be an immediate fit there," said Rene Nadeau, college football analyst for ESPN and TigerVision. "He can play all three [linebacker] positions. He'll play pretty soon."

Sheppard will face one of his former teammates at least twice a year in the AFC East.

Ridley, the 73rd overall pick Friday, will compete in the New England Patriots backfield with former LSU running back Kevin Faulk.

"Faulk's been down to Baton Rouge," Ridley said during a conference call. "I've seen him a total of two or three times, talking to him once or twice. I don't know him on a personal level, but I have met him before."

The Patriots also picked Ridley's Southeastern Conference former foe, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, in the third round.

Nevis will reunite with wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who also went to John Ehret High School, and former LSU running back Joseph Addai with the Indianapolis Colts.

"With Drake Nevis you weren't too sure where he was going to go," Nadeau said. "He's in a good place with the Colts."

Barksdale is connected to his new team, the Oakland Raiders, in a more notorious way. The Raiders picked former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the top selection in 2007, but he never panned out and was released in 2010.

The Detroit, native said he wants to pave his own reputation with the team on the offensive line.

"My dad actually told me a lot about the Raiders when I first started playing football," Barksdale said during a conference call. "I know Oakland has a pretty good track record when it comes to developing offensive line talent."

Nadeau said Levingston's versatility was the reason the Seahawks picked him with the 205th overall pick.

"He can play inside and outside, but he'll probably get more reps as a defensive end," Nadeau said.

LSU's six selections tied with Georgia for the most in the SEC, while USC and North Carolina each saw nine former players go in the draft.

Follow Michael Lambert on Twitter @TDR_Lambert.

 

 

 

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contact Michael Lambert at mlambert@lsureveille.com

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