Which 10 Auburn Tigers are the safest bets to make it to the NFL?
The Auburn Tigers, like some of the other blue bloods in the SEC, are remarkably consistent with their ability to contend for conference and national titles and produce and develop NFL talent. Considering how well the Tigers recruit, particularly in their home state of Alabama and neighboring Georgia, it should be no surprise of their presence on draft day.
After producing four draft picks in April, including three in the top 63 overall, Auburn should actually be even better next year as it has a loaded junior class looking to take the next step developmentally. There’s also a chance that the Tigers see another QB picked first overall, following on the heels of Cam Newton in 2011.
So who are the top NFL prospects on the Tigers squad this year? Let’s take a look!
10. LT Prince Tega Wanogho
Wanogho is a very raw prospect, but his ceiling is astronomical. You have to remember when watching his film that he’s only been playing football since 2014 and made the move from DE to OT in just 2016, meaning he’s faced a remarkably steep learning curve in a short amount of time. He’s learned the sport and developed into a starting caliber SEC LT for one of the best programs in the country in just a few years, which speaks volumes to not only his athleticism, but his ability to learn and retain information.
At 6-7, 307 pounds, he has all the size and length you look for in an edge protector, with a powerful base and long arms. He has quick feet and moves well for a man of his stature, though he’s still coming along from a mechanical and technique perspective, which is understandable given his late start. As he continues to learn the game, the nuances of the position, gain strength and technique, he has the ability to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber OT.
9. WR Darius Slayton
Slayton was a big play machine last year, averaging an astonishing 22.2 yards per reception and hauling in 5 TD grabs. He didn’t have a whole lot of receptions – just 29 – but when he did catch the ball there was a good chance he was picking up chunk yardage. The kid can fly at 6-2, 190, with the ability to stretch the field vertically, constantly warranting safety help.
His biggest problems are somewhat common for college WRs – running sharp routes, consistently getting separation and reliable hands. He’s lackadaisical at times with his routes and certainly has his share of drops, though these are things that can be improved. What makes him special is something that can’t be taught, and that is his speed and burst, which make him a very dangerous weapon on the outside. Guys with his length, lateral quickness and deep speed are always highly sought after.
8. NT Dontavius Russell
It feels like Russell has been in starting lineup for the better part of a decade now. With 37 starts the past three years, he’s been a constant presence on the interior of Auburn’s line and has made a lot of strides developmentally to improve his overall game.
At 6-3, 320, he’s a massive prospect with a thick and powerful frame ideally suited as a 2-gap NT who can plug the middle of the line. He struggles at times to consistently shed blocks but offers a brutally powerful bull rush and plays with a good motor. NFL scouts love consistent players with a plethora of experience who can reliably stop the run while occasionally putting some pressure on the QB, and that’s exactly what they’ll get in Russell.
7. WR Ryan Davis
Davis was easily Stidham’s favorite target last year as he hauled in a single-season school record 84 receptions for 815 yards and 5 scores. The shifty Davis doesn’t have great size or length at 5-9, 185 but shows excellent lateral mobility and short area quickness with burst. He also can change direction and get upfield after the catch. He’s been running a somewhat limited route tree, but he runs nice routes, sinking his hips in and out of breaks and selling DBs with his fakes.
Considering his size, he’s probably destined for the slot, but if he continues to play so effectively at the flanker he should at least get a look there in the NFL. With his open field speed and elusiveness, he can be effective off the line, being used in motion and potentially in the run game as well. If he is destined for the slot, I like his upside there with his consistent routes, soft hands and burst.
6. DT Marlon Davidson
After a strong freshman campaign in 2016, Davidson battled numerous nagging injuries for much of 2017. Despite that, he still made an impact – particularly at the end of the year — albeit not as big as he was expecting. All indications are that he should be healthy this fall, when he should take his greatest leap developmentally.
At 6-2, 280, he’s not the biggest or strongest defensive lineman, but he makes up for that with burst and lateral mobility. He’s a good athlete who moves well, showing a nice first step with the ability to get upfield and disrupt passing lanes. He’s still improving his hands and needs to continue getting more powerful in his base, but he looks like an ideal 3-tech for a 4-3 front at the next level, with the ability to slide over to the 5 to give the offense different looks.
5. ILB Deshaun Davis
Davis is a thumper in the middle of the defense, excelling against the run and offering some upside as a pass rusher in the A and B gaps. At 5-11, 233 he plays with good leverage, showing good open field tackling skills and the ability to enforce with brutal hits on ballcarriers. He’s still coming along in his man cover skills but isn’t bad in zone, showing good reaction skills and the ability to break on receivers quickly.
He has enough speed and range to play sideline-to-sideline and plays with an aggressive style that helps set the tone for the rest of the defense. He’s a smart and heady player who does a nice job reading the offense and making adjustments for the front seven, displaying strong leadership skills. Considering his skill set, he’s best suited inside a 4-3 in the NFL, but I also think he’d be a good fit at “SAM” LB as well.
4. CB Jamel Dean
Dean signed with Ohio State but was quickly and controversially removed from the program after concerns about the health of his knee, as the school ruled him medically ineligible. Dean has a long history of knee injuries dating to his junior year of high school and missed all of 2016 as a result. Last year, he was able to come back healthy and played better and better as the year went on.
At 6-2, 215 and blessed with fantastic speed and short area quickness, he has the size and athleticism to be a Pro Bowl-caliber corner. His length and physicality are all the rage for press corners, where the WRs continue to get bigger and bigger. The biggest question scouts will have for Dean are obviously concerning his knee and whether he’ll be able to consistently stay on the field. Other than that, he’s a big-time prospect with first-round talent.
3. CB Javaris Davis
Davis was arguably Auburn’s most consistent defensive back last year, which is high praise considering the talent in the secondary. He’s smooth and fluid in transition, showing quick feet and loose hips enabling him to be a wet blanket in man coverage. He shows good speed and burst, with very good lateral quickness who breaks quickly on the ball, consistently jumping routes.
He’s moving inside to NB this fall, which should be a good fit. He has the speed to cover slot WRs but also the tackling and pass rushing ability to apply pressure and defend the perimeter. The flexibility he provides and versatility to cover inside and out is highly attractive to pro scouts.
2. QB Jarrett Stidham
The transfer from Baylor got off to a bit of a rocky start last year, struggling against Georgia Southern and Clemson in the first 2 weeks. After that he settled down and got into a rhythm and by the end of the year was the best QB in the SEC. As a prospect there’s an awful lot to like about Stidham (6-3, 215), who is a good athlete with a nice combination of arm talent and mobility.
He shows good velocity on short and intermediate routes with the ability to drive the ball downfield and put it in a tight window. He has good accuracy with nice ball placement, though he’ll tend to drop his arm angle a bit when trying to get the ball out in a hurry. He has a quick release and shows good footwork and mechanics in the pocket, which contributes to his impressive arm strength. I think by the end of the season he could very well be in the discussion for being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, making him the second Tiger QB to claim that honor in the past decade.
1. DT Derrick Brown
As I’ve said before, if the 2019 NFL Draft class weren’t historically deep and talented at DT, Brown would be getting far more attention, which is saying something considering he’s already widely considered a first-round talent. At 6-5, 322 Brown has tremendous size and strength, which coupled with his athleticism make him a nightmare to try and block. He gets off the ball well, generally plays with a good pad level and regularly disrupts the pocket with his ability to exert his dominance.
His disruptive playing style constantly necessitates double teams, which frees things up for everyone around him. He’s stout against the run, can get off blocks with relative ease, and his ability to penetrate the pocket forces QBs to adjust, meaning either moving out of the pocket or getting rid of the ball quicker than they’d like, forcing mistakes. It’s hard to envision him falling out of the first round next April if he decides to bypass his senior season (which he should, if he’s healthy).