Auburn Football: Which Former Player Will Have the Best Rookie Season in 2012?
Auburn did not have a big showing in the NFL Draft this year, but the Tigers did see more than a few former players land on NFL rosters. Now that the Tigers have settled into their new teams, which former Auburn player will have the strongest rookie season?
Auburn has two offensive linemen, two defensive players and a long snapper that are new to the league. Each player will bring a unique look to their new team, with the impacts varying greatly.
Auburn has seen a number of its players go on to the league and have great rookie seasons in recent years. One that comes to mind quickly no doubt is Cam Newton.
Others have made big impacts out of the gate as well. Guys like Carlos Rodgers, Jonathan Wilhite, Pat Lee, Karlos Dansby and Jerraud Powers are a few that had strong rookie showings. Assuming that all five of these players make permanent rosters this fall, here is my look at which former Tiger will have the best rookie season.
Neiko Thorpe: Kansas City Chiefs
Neiko Thorpe was one of the first players off of the docket when teams began to sign free agents after the draft.
Thorpe had a great Pro Day at Auburn and impressed a number of scouts with his performance. Throughout his Auburn career, Thorpe had ups and downs, but he was a hot name for teams leading into the draft.
Thorpe was a part of a very talented outgoing defensive back class this year, but stands the chance to make an impact on special teams for the Chiefs early.
The Chiefs have a talented starting duo at the safety position, and have signed draftee DeQuan Menzie. Depth looks to be an issue this season as the Chiefs lost some players to free agency this winter, but I don’t expect to see Thorpe in the rotation this season at safety.
Brandon Mosley: New York Giants
Brandon Mosley was the lone draftee for the Tigers in the 2012 NFL draft. For that to happen is nothing short of amazing.
Mosley came to Auburn after playing JUCO football as a tight end. At Auburn, he would be too big to play the pure tight end role, and would likely be moved to the offensive line.
Mosley signed, and in his first season, he was called on to start by the fourth game of the 2010 season as A.J. Greene fell to a season-ending injury.
For the remainder of his time in orange and blue, Mosley was a starting tackle for the Auburn Tigers. It was a tough transition, but under offensive line coach Jeff Grimes he was able to make the move.
As a fourth-round draft pick, Mosley was expecting to get a decent payday once camps started. After a short stint at rookie mini-camp for the Giants, Mosley was signed to a four-year, estimated 2.5 million dollar deal. According to al.com, Mosley received a $300,584 signing bonus.
The Giants are searching for a rising star at the tackle position, and Mosley may be the guy. He is expected to compete for the starting position this fall.
Josh Harris: Atlanta Falcons
Josh Harris was one of the few special teams players that was a draft possibility this past April.
Despite going undrafted, Harris landed as a free agent signee with the Atlanta Falcons. Harris was invited to the NFL Combine, and was one of the few specialists that made the cut and earned the invite to Indianapolis.
Harris was highly regarded by scouts across the NFL and reportedly received interest from multiple teams. Harris told Ledger-Enquirer Auburn writer Joel Erickson, “After doing some homework, researching it and seeing where I thought I had the best chance of making a roster, the Falcons were a good opportunity.”
Heading to Atlanta, Harris will work alongside veteran deep snapper Joe Zelenka. I would expect Harris to compete for playing time right away, but he may sit a few seasons behind Zelenka.
Eltoro Freeman: Baltimore Ravens
Of all the free agent signees that landed in the NFL from Auburn, Eltoro Freeman is the one that immediately stands out to me.
Freeman was a workhorse for Auburn. He originally signed with the Tigers out of high school, but was forced to take the JUCO route. Once he made it to Auburn, he attacked every day like it was the enemy.
Throughout his career Freeman had to battle over-pursuit and out-running plays. When he did read the play well, he made it. Freeman was a sure tackler and fierce striker for the Tigers.
Looking at the persona that Freeman carries on the field and the abilities that he possesses, I expect that Baltimore is a great fit for the linebacker. Freeman will be able to study under the most passionate linebacker in the game.
Freeman will find his way in Baltimore, but it won’t happen this season. Expect his impact to grow with his years in the league.
A.J. Greene: Chicago Bears
A.J. Greene was one of the three Auburn players that was invited to the NFL Combine this season. Greene respectfully declined, deciding to give up football.
That is until the Bears from Chicagoland came calling. Greene had a change of heart after missing the combine and the Auburn Pro Day this spring. He signed with the Bears on April 30.
Greene broke his ankle during the 2010 season and had a very tough recovery period after the injury. Greene battled through pain during his senior season, but has decided to battle the pain further in the pros.
Greene was a great offensive lineman for the Tigers when healthy, and could be a good one for some time in the NFL. Greene is talented, but I don’t see him having a strong rookie season.
Best Rookie Season
Looking at the five players that have landed in the NFL, it is a tough task picking the most impactful rookie.
Neiko Thorpe had a good rookie mini-camp, but the depth that is in Kansas City and the addition of Menzie, I find it tough to see Thorpe landing in the regular playing rotation. Josh Harris is in the same situation. There is a veteran that is in front and it will be tough to climb onto the field this season.
Eltoro Freeman is a player that I think will be very good in the pros as a utility linebacker, but I expect his rookie season to be under the radar.
Brandon Mosley and A.J. Greene were both very good offensive linemen at Auburn and have the chance to continue their careers in the NFL with the talents they possess. Between the two, I would expect Mosley to earn playing time the soonest.
It seems like the safe pick, going with the draftee, but the legitimate open battle that Mosley walks into makes it hard to not pick him as the most likely to have a strong rookie season.
Look for Mosley to play often as a rookie. All of these players carry talent that will help pro teams down the line, but Mosley is poised for the strongest rookie season.