Craig Loston of LSU came into the year with a good amount of potential because he had a ton of athleticism and was able to make highlight plays amongst a great defense. His senior years was his opportunity to shine and while he still had some big plays, he never became the player that the Bayou Bengals hoped he could and the defense as a whole was not anywhere near their standard of excellence.
For the NFL, Loston is a remarkable athlete with great upside and potential, but has not shown a great deal of polish. His instincts tend to be slow and he needs to recognize what is going on in front of him better. Loston, when he has the play and is right in his read, can be a terrific player and show flashes of what he can be. Consistency is a major issue and something he will need to show in the NFL. Loston projects as a day three pick largely on his athleticism and potential who could contribute as a strong safety with development, but there is a small chance he could go undrafted as well.
Vitals & Build
Loston is listed at 6’2” 209lbs and has a strong, rangy build and really looks the part. He has impressive burst and long speed, but has some stiffness in his hips and can have some issues with changing direction. Loston shows good functional strength and power. There is certainly potential with Loston physically going forward, but he is great in that department now and needs to use it more effectively going forward.
Loston is usually a wrap up tackler who will show power in his hits. He is able to generate power relatively quickly and fires from his hips to generate pop. Loston needs to make sure he breaks down and does not simply run and launch tackle attempts as often as he does.
The other issue that Loston has is how he bring his head and helmet into tackle attempts, making it part of his tackle too often. In some respects, it is unavoidable but too often, it seems to make the first contact, which is problematic and dangerous for all involved, but especially Loston.
Loston can be a devastating force who can not only make a big impact but jar the ball loose in the process. He just needs to avoid swinging and missing on home run tackle attempts and try to avoid having his helmet involved so much.
Loston is big enough and strong enough to give the feel of having an extra linebacker on the field. The issue that he runs into is that he seems to process information slowly and not really able to adjust and react on the move. When he reads it and sees it, he gets downhill in a hurry and can show good range.
Loston has shown he has the ability to shock blockers and hold up at the point of attack. He can get to and make plays in the box, but again, it comes down to his ability to read and see the field. To this point, the instances where he is right are few and far between. Those plays are incredibly impressive and show just how much potential there is with Loston, but too often, his remarkable athletic ability is trying to cause Loston to simply draw average rather than exceptional.
If he can improve and get better in this respect, he suddenly becomes a weapon as a run defender with the ability to fly around the field and make impact plays, giving the defense a true hybrid player, but there has been little evidence to suggest that is going to happen.
When it comes to man coverage where Loston knows who he needs to cover and can just focus on them, he can be good. Whether it be a tight end, running back or wide receiver, Loston’s speed and size really show well and he has been able to blanket opponents at times.
The issue here is judgment and diagnosing who he needs to get at times. There are examples where someone in the secondary misses an assignment and someone ends up open and it becomes unclear where guys were supposed to be. Loston has had situations where he is either unsure other guys were going to do their job or trying to get a read on the offense and he picks up the opponent slow.
In zone coverage, Loston has trouble reading and reacting to what the offense is doing and where he needs to be to maximize his range and ability to stop plays. He ends up out of position or takes an awkward angle and too often, he seems to be trying to catch up rather than dictate what the offense can do.
The times where Loston is right, he has shown he can fly around on the field, can get to the sideline to help over the top and can make plays on the football. He has to continue to work to increase the percentage of the time where he is not only right, but is in a position where he can dictate to the opponent where they can and cannot go. If he can get to his zone quickly and read more effectively, he can more than do the job from an athletic standpoint.
Loston has shown he has pretty good ball skills and can catch the ball comfortably. The question that Loston has when it comes to this is judgment on when he should try to break up the play as an intimidator and when he can make a play on the football.
When Loston loses track of the ball, he tends to go for the hit and tucks his head, so he cannot see the play. He has plenty of strength and if he makes contact, he is going to make a big hit and send a message, so he needs to work on stay trying to find and locate the ball, so he can make a play on it. There are instances where Loston goes for the big hit, puts his head down and lays out a guy on a play where had he located the ball, he could have undercut it and intercepted it. Instead, he not only is not capitalizing on a potential opportunity, but putting himself at risk for a penalty.
Loston should be able to be a huge threat on special teams with his size, strength and speed. While he needs to avoid getting caught up with being a missile, he can be a big time player on coverage units as well as trying to block kicks with his length. This is an area he will need to excel in the NFL to hold onto a roster spot.
Loston has the ability to be a back end strong safety if he can improve his ability to read. He also has potential to contribute as a nickel coverage linebacker if he is used in man coverage. Give him a man to cover and let him go, he should be great. Meanwhile, he has the long term upside to be a starting safety as well as contribute on special teams. He has the capacity to help a team both in the short and long term.
Loston bears similarities to Taylor Mays of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both players have a good amount of athleticism, but it does not translate to the field for a few important reasons. In each case, the players have shown troubles when it comes to reading and diagnosing plays quickly as well as making quick twitch movements, so both players end up using their remarkable athleticism to play catch up rather than to impress. Like with Mays, the potential is there, but he has to make the adjustments that Mays has not been able to make in the NFL.
Craig Loston shows a lot of potential and flashes of being a great player. If he can find a way to improve his instincts and reads to get to where he can be a consistent, he has a bright future at the next level as a deep safety. He also has potential to contribute as a nickel linebacker as well as on special teams. Loston projects as a day three pick, but if he can develop, he could be an impact player.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com