Auburn Football: NFL Draft Projections for Every Former Tiger
After a dismal 3-9 record in 2012, Auburn made a minimal impact on the 2013 NFL draft, with only one player making the seven-round cut—the same number the Tigers had selected in the 2012 draft.
But this year, following the Tigers' remarkable 12-2 run to the SEC title and the BCS National Championship Game, Auburn looks like it will be well represented once again in New York City's first-round extravaganza and throughout the weekend.
With a potential Top-3 pick and several campus legends making their way up the scouts' boards this spring, look for several Auburn players to hear their names called during this year's draft.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has five former Auburn stars getting picked in his latest mock draft, which features two Tigers going in the first round. Auburn has not had five selections from one draft since 2008, and the Plains has only produced multiple first-rounders twice since 2000 (2011 and 2004).
Here is a closer look at all five of the Tigers who Miller has going in this weekend's draft.
OT Greg Robinson
First Round, No. 2 overall pick to the St. Louis Rams
After flying under the radar as a key member of Auburn's run-heavy attack in 2013, Greg Robinson's draft stock exploded during the final few games of the Tigers' championship run and the NFL Scouting Combine.
Robinson, a former 4-star offensive tackle who left Auburn after just two seasons of collegiate experience, blew scouts away at the combine with his size, speed and strength. The 6'5", 332-pound Robinson ran a blistering 4.85 40-yard dash—a feat that had him featured in a new "Auburn Fast" promo— and bench-pressed 225 pounds an impressive 32 times in Indianapolis.
Greg Robinson is a freak, and his natural strength and quickness would work well on either side of the line. He's not as established or clean of a pass-blocker as Jake Matthews, but his dominance in the running game and upside make him too tempting to pass up.
Miller projects the run-blocking specialist to be the first offensive player taken in the 2014 NFL draft behind another physical beast from the SEC, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
The St. Louis Rams currently hold the No. 2 pick in this year's draft after a trade with Washington two years ago, when the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III. According to Miller, the Rams have a hole at right tackle and need depth following left tackle Jake Long's injury last season, which makes Robinson an ideal pick for the franchise.
DE/OLB Dee Ford
First Round, No. 27 overall pick to the New Orleans Saints
Dee Ford made a name for himself at Auburn with his pass rush at defensive end, and that top-level ability might earn him a spot in the first round of this year's NFL draft.
Like Robinson, Ford rocketed up the boards this offseason with an impressive showing in front of several pro scouts. But while Robinson stood out at the NFL Combine, Ford "made a little money" staying in the state of Alabama at Mobile's Senior Bowl.
Ford recorded two sacks and a pass deflection in the annual game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, and his performance earned him the game's MVP honors.
Ford would be an undersized defensive end on most NFL rosters, but Miller said the former Tigers star could find playing time as an outside linebacker on Sundays:
Ford is more than just a pass-rusher, though. For a 6'2", 252-pound edge player, he holds anchor against the run well and is very aware and smart in attacking the football. If the quarterback is out of his reach, Ford will start throwing his arms in an attempt to bat the ball away or swat it down after it is released.
One team that could use Ford's talents at outside linebacker is New Orleans, who is continuing its transition to the 3-4 system under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. If Ford is available when the Saints are on the clock, look for him to be wearing the black and gold this fall.
RB Tre Mason
Second Round, No. 42 overall pick to the Tennessee Titans
Tre Mason, last season's Heisman Trophy finalist and all-around workhorse back for the Tigers' record-breaking offense, has been toward the top of this year's deep running back class in almost every major mock draft.
The 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year broke several Auburn's single-season rushing records with 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Mason was the focal point of the Tigers' rushing attack, and his 304-yard performance in the SEC title game against Missouri earned him a spot in New York City for the Heisman ceremony.
Standing at 5'9" and 207 pounds, Mason is smaller than most professional running backs, but that did not stop him from being a force between the tackles in Gus Malzahn's Hurry-Up, No-Huddle offense.
Miller has Mason as the first running back off the board in this year's draft, the No. 42 overall pick to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are looking to replace departed star running back Chris Johnson, and Mason could be the next feature back for Tennessee after a record-breaking career in Auburn.
A lingering wrist issue that could require surgery has been a potential red flag for teams interested in Mason over the last few weeks, but NFL.com's Ian Rapoport and Gil Brandt report the issue will not affect Mason's draft stock.
CB Chris Davis
Fourth Round, No. 126 overall pick to the New Orleans Saints
Chris Davis has earned hero status in Auburn for his 109-yard missed field-goal return to defeat No. 1 Alabama in this year's epic Iron Bowl.
Now the cornerback is focused on turning that fame into a professional contract.
Davis brings both speed and toughness to the cornerback position, as he was both a threat in defending the pass and run during his time at Auburn.
Not only did Davis return the memorable missed field goal against Alabama, he also ranked No. 3 nationally in 2013 in punt return average with 18.7 yards per return. According to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., Davis' special teams prowess could be what pushes him over the edge in the eyes of several NFL teams:
"Davis, with the return ability, you saw what he did against Alabama," Kiper told the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea. "He's a developmental player in the secondary."
Miller has Davis going in the fourth round of this year's draft, where he could join first-round teammate Dee Ford with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints could use the depth in the secondary as it reloads its defense for the 2014 season, and Davis could make an early impression at corner.
FB Jay Prosch
Seventh Round, No. 236 overall pick to the Green Bay Packers
The old-school fullback might be a fading position in modern football, but Jay Prosch could have a future there in the NFL.
Prosch, a former All-American fullback at Illinois and a veteran H-back at Auburn, was a key component of the Tigers' success on the ground in 2013. The Mobile, Ala., native found was used a sledgehammer-type of lead blocker, opening running lanes for Mason and Co. alongside Auburn's veteran offensive line.
His movement from a traditional fullback role in the Big Ten to a versatile hybrid fullback/tight end in the SEC makes Prosch an intriguing final-day choice for several teams. Prosch told the Kansas City Star he appreciates the more modern type of work he got on the Plains after his transfer from Illinois:
I feel well-rounded now. When I started at Illinois, we had a lot of downhill, iso blocks so it was easier to get a head of steam and you could really see who the bigger man is. But doing Coach Malzahn’s offense, I really enjoyed that, too. I feel like I grew at it.
The physically dominating Prosch was a surprise snub for a NFL Combine invite earlier this year despite being the highest rated fullback on many draft boards.
Miller has Prosch as the first of two fullbacks in his mock draft, placing him with the Green Bay Packers in the final round. The Packers use veteran fullback John Kuhn in their offense, and Prosch could be his replacement down the line as a physical run-block specialist.
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