Originally found on CBS Sports:
LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers has declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, bringing an end to his three-year stint in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nabers is a projected first-round pick, ranking No. 11 overall and second among receivers in CBS Sports’ 2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings.
Nabers is coming off a junior season in which he caught 89 passes for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns — all career-highs. He teamed up with 2023 Heisman winner Jayden Daniels to create one of the most prolific quarterback/receiver tandems in the sport. Nabers posted a season-high 239 receiving yards with two touchdowns in the Tigers’ Week 3 win at Mississippi State.
“Tiger nation — the best fans in the world — the moment I stepped foot onto that grass in [Tiger Stadium], it was electric,” Nabers wrote in a social media post. “From screaming my name running onto the field, or when big plays were made, or from storming the field after a big win in the stadium [it was electric]! … I will truly miss spending that Saturday night with [you all] in Death Valley where dreams come to die, but mine came true!”
For his three-year LSU career, Nabers caught for 189 passes for 3,003 yards and 21 touchdowns with the Tigers. He also toppled the 1,000-yard mark in receiving during the 2022 season, helping LSU capture the SEC West Division championship in its first season under coach Brian Kelly.
Nabers’ draft stock
As it stands, there’s a clear consensus that Nabers will be an early first-round pick. Nabers, at 6-foot and 200 pounds, projects no later than No. 13 overall in the latest mock drafts from CBS Sports’ draft analyst trio of Ryan Wilson, Chris Trapasso and Josh Edwards. Nabers received the highest projection from Edwards, who slotted the LSU pass-catcher at No. 5 overall to the New York Giants.
“Malik Nabers has No. 1 wide receiver ability,” Edwards wrote. “They may have to run it back with Daniel Jones but at least the team is making progress with a wide receiver room of Jalin Hyatt, Wan’Dale Robinson and Nabers.
Regardless of where Nabers lands, he has a good shot to become the latest LSU product to thrive at his position at the next level, joining a lineage that includes former first-rounders Ja’Marr Chase (2021) and Justin Jefferson (2020). Chase was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2021, while Jefferson was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2022.
What it means for LSU
While Nabers’ departure for the 2024 NFL Draft was expected, it still marks the loss of one of LSU’s top playmakers on offense. The Tigers are now officially down both ends of the Daniels-Nabers tandem heading into 2024. They also lost Brian Thomas Jr. — the team’s only other 1,000-yard receiver from 2023 — to the draft. LSU is also on the hunt for a new offensive coordinator in 2024 after Mike Denbrock left for Notre Dame.
The departures of Nabers and Thomas leave Kyren Lacy as LSU’s top returning receiver in 2024. Lacy finished third on the team in 2023 with 588 yards and seven touchdowns receiving. While the to-be super senior’s impact on the Tigers’ offense should be substantial next season, LSU’s passing attack — presumably led by quarterback Garrett Nussmeier — will need other pass-catchers to also step up. Tight end Mason Taylor should also provide some continuity as he returns for a third season, but more help will still be needed beyond those two.
Kelly already went to the transfer portal to add one receiver, landing a commitment from Mississippi State transfer Zavion Thomas. Others could easily join that list by the time spring football rolls around. As far as other program newcomers go, Kelly’s 2024 signing class features features a pair of top-100 receiver prospects in Kylan Billiot and Jelani Watkins.
As it has done before plenty of times, LSU should be able to reload. Still, plenty of change is coming on offense with some of the key departures.