Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 17: LSU LB Patrick Queen

Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

17. LSU LB Patrick Queen

6-foot, 229 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.06 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Young, raw, ascending playmaker with vast upside to make his impact felt on all three downs

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, LSU wanted to turn Queen, who grew up playing running back, into a linebacker much the way it converted Devin White before him.

As a sophomore in 2018, Queen started the season as a reserve behind White at the team’s “Rover” position. He made his first start against Alabama that year when White was flagged for targeting the week prior. Queen ended up starting four of the final five games, making 40 tackles (five for losses) and one sack.

Again in 2019, Queen began the season as a reserve, but he took over the starting role inside in the fourth game and finished the season with 85 tackles (12 for losses), three sacks, one interception and two passes defended.

Queen, who turns 21 in August, declared early for the 2020 NFL draft. He suffered a hamstring injury — even leaving on a cart — after his 40-yard dash attempt at the scouting combine, but the injury does not appear to be serious.

Upside: Really good athlete with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and strong numbers in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (125 inches). Took over a starting role early last season and had a breakout performance against Utah State, raising his game seemingly with every week that passed. Stepped up down the stretch with strong performances in LSU’s biggest games. Made defensive calls during that critical stretch.

Plays fast. Rangy and energetic — motor revs hot for 60 minutes. Flips his hips and transitions well. Closes like a python. Uses his quickness and peripheral vision to slip blocks and beat ballcarriers to the spot. Reads and reacts well for a young player.

Natural gift for sniffing out misdirection plays. Shoots gaps to make plays in the backfield. Hunts down screens well for TFLs (see Utah State game). Click-and-close ability against short passing game is high level even at such an early stage in his development.

Very smooth dropping into space. Natural feel for pass coverage and can even get away with a false step with his quickness and recovery ability. Mirrors well in man — light feet.

On this play against Alabama, some have suggested that QB Tua Tagovailoa simply didn’t see Queen roaming underneath and purely made a bad throw right to him. That might not be giving Queen enough credit for this play. First off, Tagovailoa is looking Queen’s way from the snap, and Queen seems to bait Tagovailoa into throwing it, acting as if he’s going follow the underneath route (shallow cross concept) to Jerry Jeudy and instead sags onto the dig route run by DeVonta Smith, where Queen is able to make the easy pick right before halftime that led to a game-changing touchdown for LSU:

This was a crucial interception for LSU in the win over the Crimson Tide.
This was a crucial interception for LSU in the win over the Crimson Tide.

Often served as the “hammer” in LSU’s blitz packages to occupy blockers and create pressure lanes for teammates — selfless work that often allowed others to roam more freely and make more plays than he would. Experience on all four core special-teams units and won’t hesitate to take on those duties in the NFL.

Still very young. Just scratching the surface of his potential. Fiery temperament — tone setter for a defense. Outstanding confidence. Developing leadership skills. Won over trust of coaching staff eventually. Likely a better pro than he was as a college player.

Downside: Average to below-average height, weight and length for an NFL linebacker. Could use a full year or two in an NFL weight program to add the right amount of mass. Disappointing bench-press number (18 reps) for shorter-armed player. One-year starter who comes into the league with a lot to learn at the position.

Not yet an ideal run defender. Tackling still inconsistent at times — needs to wrap up more consistently. Multiple missed tackles in big games — see Alabama and Oklahoma — and 14 total charted by PFF in 2019 alone. Also misses by trying to deliver kill shots and flying in too recklessly. Has trouble sorting through the trash at times up front.

Still learning how to stack and shed. Shorter arms (31 5/8 inches) and lighter frame will require him to be more pristine, technique-wise vs. NFL-sized blockers. Still tries to slip blocks too much, and his inexperience will show up at times when reading keys and taking the best path to the ball.

Against Clemson in the national title game, Queen (No. 8) tried to go over the top of the block here, and his poor angle to the ball allows Travis Etienne to scoot down the sideline and make a long gain into LSU territory:

Queen took a poor angle to the ball here against Clemson.
Queen took a poor angle to the ball here against Clemson.

Sometimes glues his eyes on the quarterback in zone and doesn’t feel the action around him. Will drift off his spots on longer-developing pass plays. Can be manipulated by talented passers with pump fakes and look-offs.

Lack of turnover plays on his résumé — only one interception and one fumble recovery in three years. Zero forced fumbles and only three pass breakups. You’re projecting him into a playmaking role based on his traits, instincts and upside.

Didn’t earn the role of making defensive calls from Jacob Phillips until the fourth game last season — might not be ready to wear the green dot on his helmet in Year 1. Flagged for a few “discipline” penalties — facemask vs. Texas A&M, roughing the passer vs. Oklahoma — that must be cleaned up. Might need a demanding positional coach to coax the right balance of intensity and discipline from his game over time.

Best-suited destination: Queen is the prototype for the modern run-and-hit linebacker, the right mix of physicality with the ability to cover and blitz on passing downs. Ideally, he’d be spared play-calling duties early or given the proper leeway to grow into such a role. He’s a fit as a “Mike” or “Will” (or “Jack”) linebacker in an even or odd front.

Among the teams we could see being interested: the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans.

Did you know: Queen was the first player from his hometown of Livonia (population 1,400), which is less than 30 miles from Tiger Stadium, to earn a scholarship from LSU football.

Queen also was a talented baseball player who received recruiting attention for that sport, too. He was a left fielder and leadoff hitter who hit .380 in high school and got noticed by South Florida and UCF. But the allure of LSU football was too strong.

They said it: “For me, being able to stop the run. I felt like that's something I needed to improve on coming into this year and I felt like I improved on it. I still need to improve on it. I feel like people ... take it into consideration that I'm not a run-stopper and I feel like I am.”

— Queen at the combine, on what part of his game gets overlooked

Player comp: Roquan Smith, albeit slightly behind Smith in development.

Expected draft range: First round

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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