NFL Draft 2011: Breaking Down Auburn's 5 Top Prospects

Ian BergCorrespondent IApril 12, 2011

Cameron Newton
Cameron NewtonKent Horner/Getty Images

Both the top offensive and defensive stars in 2010 left Auburn a year early to enter the NFL Draft. No other Tigers leaving school this year are as high profile as Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, but others are hoping to make a splash in the draft. With the Combine and Pro Days gone, some Tigers have improved their stock while others may have added some additional questions.

Many factors go into draft position and it can be a difficult science to breakdown. How players perform and how that skill set may match teams needs can be a little more predictable. Looking at the top five most likely draftees from Auburn, some will make the early rounds while others will surely be later round picks. Here is a look at the top five Auburn prospective draftees.

Cameron Newton

Cameron Newton has possibly the most questions of any of the prospects in this year’s draft. Despite your feelings about the Cecil Newton debacle and all the additional off-the field issues that are constantly played out, Newton's skills also may be the most elite in the draft.

He became the third player in college football history to pass and rush for 20 touchdowns in a season. He also finished the season with the Heisman in hand and a host of other trophies to speak to his talents at the collegiate level. Despite this, Newton's character issues seem to follow him, and one report went on to say he was untrustworthy in a locker room and appeared fake.

Regardless of the reports and the past, teams that are looking for a quarterback are not only looking for leadership but also a talented game changer. Newton has had the opportunity to make a good impression on individual teams recently and has risen on some draft boards. Look for Newton to possibly be the first quarterback selected in the 2011 draft.

Nick Fairley

Fairley was the most explosive defensive lineman in college football in 2010. His explosiveness off the line was unmatched and his skills spoke for themselves. He finished with 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

Fairley showed awareness and power from the middle and did anything to make plays. At times it seemed that even if he didn’t make the play, others did because of the tackling lanes he would open. The biggest question seems to be if Fairlye can translate to the NFL immediately.

Fairley has had one solid season for the Tigers so longevity is a question, but this also means that he hasn’t had to deal with some of the blocking schemes that can lead to injury. He will likely battle Marcel Dareus from Alabama for draft position. Fairley is looking to be a first round pick like Newton, and will be expected to come in and make an instant impact.

Mario Fannin

Fannin seems to be the Tiger that improved his draft stock the most when it counted. While at Auburn, Fannin seemed to always be a few carries away from making a major impact on the offense.

His largest contributions to the Tigers came in a blocking role and in the receiving game. Fannin was well known by fans for his explosiveness in the open field and getting the ball to him in space seemed to always be the goal.

How he will correlate those skills to the NFL seems obvious, as he could fill a scat back role or be a slot back in a more diversified offense. Turnovers and a nagging shoulder injury will raise questions but his 4.38 forty likely will not. Fannin will have some adversity ahead, but he is a hard worker and tough player.

Despite his lunch pail mentality and skills displayed at the combine, Fannin is likely headed to free agency.

Lee Ziemba

Ziemba was the Iron Man for the Auburn offensive line as he started every game of his career at Auburn. Locking up the left tackle position at an SEC school for four years is no small task, and Ziemba definitely lived through the growing pains of three offenses in four years.

However inconsistent the offensive play may have been during his tenure, Ziemba made a solid effort every game to win each snap. I would expect him to take the same mentality to the NFL, where he should be able to contribute.

The problem for Ziemba will be that he is slightly undersized compared to his collegiate profile listing, and a less than ideal wingspan. The best move is most likely to the interior, where he can play the guard position. He attempted that shift in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and earned strong reviews.

He also will face his poor showing at the combine. He didn’t do particularly well in the bench for a lineman; bench press is not a major gauge for draft status but it still matters. He was a consistent blocker and earned the SEC Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2010. Ziemba is looking to go in the second day, most likely in the fifth round.

Darvin Adams

Adams surprised more than a few people when he announced for the 2010 draft. After back to back seasons of 900 plus yards, Adams was Auburn’s go to receiver from ’09-’10 and most important reciever coming into 2011. Adams was a team leader and a focused player for the Tigers.

Even after two solid seasons for the Tigers Adams could have likely used one more year of development. He did finish his career with 1,978 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, so he has built a track record of consistency. He never made it into the mainstream name flow however, so his draft status wasn’t as researched as the other top receivers in the SEC.

Adams had a great showing at the combine and with his record of consistency and solid route running, a team will likely find a steal in the late rounds. Adams is likely to drafted, but expect somewhere in the mid sixth to early seventh rounds.

These five are the most likely of the departing seniors and juniors to be drafted. Others like Kodi Burns, Ryan Pugh , Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens will likely get their shot in free agency.