The Auburn Tigers were moderately well represented in the 2014 NFL Draft, with two players going in the first round and four being selected altogether. Not bad, but a little low considering this team was in the National Championship Game a few months prior (and should’ve won, too). Rest easy, Tiger fans, because the number of Tigers selected in the next draft will certainly be more than four.
First, we’ll let’s look at some of the top pro prospects on the Tigers offense, and it all starts with QB Nick Marshall. The senior dual-threat originally went to Georgia as a DB, then went to JUCO, before ultimately becoming a tremendous fit in HC Gus Malzahn’s spread-zone-read-option (or however you want to label his ridiculously effective scheme). As a college player, Marshall is tremendous. As a pro prospect, it’s a little more dicey.
He’s certainly got the athleticism to play in the NFL, no one should doubt that. But in terms of developing into an NFL-caliber passer, he’s got a long way to go. Mechanically he’s raw. He’s never been asked to carry a team with his arm yet, and much of his passing success last year was a result of the thundering ground game forcing 8 to 9 men in the box. There’s no doubt he’ll need to make major strides in 2014 if he wants to play QB at the next level, but I think he’ll be in the NFL next year regardless, whether or not it’s at QB is still up for debate.
Senior running back Corey Grant will once again be splitting carries in the backfield, but he’s a game-breaker, as evidenced by his absurd 9.8 YPC in ’13 (think about that, he pretty much averaged a first down every time he carried the rock). He just might be the fastest running back in the country. Earlier this spring he was ‘unofficially’ clocked at a 4.18, 4.11 and 4.14, which is comparable to Bo Jackson’s unofficial times of 4.12 and 4.18. We must remember, ‘unofficial’ is the operative word here, but he’s clearly blessed with world-class speed, and that’s something that can’t be taught. Another strong season in ’14 could garner him early-round consideration in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Junior WR Sammie Coates and senior TE C.J. Uzomah represent the Tigers top receiving prospects. Coates’ 902 receiving yards in ’13 were nearly three times more than Ricardo Louis (325), who was second on the team in both receptions and yards. Coates is a good size/speed guy at 6-foot 2, 200-pounds and running an unofficial 4.36. Uzomah won’t put up huge stats but he’s incredibly versatile and does everything well. He’s a do-it-all kind of athlete who’s played everywhere from WR to FB for the Tigers.
Up front, the Tigers may be losing the number two overall draft pick in OT Greg Robinson, but there’s still plenty of talent, particularly on the interior with C Reese Dismukes and G Alex Kozan. Dismukes, a senior, has been an absolute rock for the Tigers the past few years, with 37 starts under his belt already. He’s a smart, heady player who plays with intelligence and good leverage to overcome average athleticism. He could realistically be the second center off the board in ’15 after Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu.
Kozan is only a redshirt sophomore, but so was Robinson last year before declared for the draft, so it’s not too far fetched to think this could be his last season on The Plains with another strong season this fall. As a redshirt freshman last year he was masterful, earning multiple Freshman All-America awards while playing a key role in the Tigers superb ground game. Personally, I’d be shocked if he left after this season, but he’s technically draft-eligible and has very good upside, so he needs to be considered.
In the next article, I’ll be breaking down the top prospects on the Tigers defense, which also features a number of intriguing pro prospects.