Mel Kiper Jr. Sizes Up Auburn NFL Draft Stock

ESPN anaylst Mel Kiper Jr. talks about Auburn's NFL Draft prospects.

Longtime NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is projecting Auburn tackle Greg Robinson to go to the St. Louis Rams with the second overall selection in next month's draft, a pretty consistent landing spot for a player who shot up the draft boards for teams late in the season and following his impressive combine performance.

While he could see the offensive tackle going anywhere in a group of three or four teams early, Kiper Jr. said some team is getting upside value with the pick that early.

"In terms of Greg Robinson I think right now if you had to script it out, No. 2 to St. Louis, (No.) 5 to Oakland, (No.) 6 to Atlanta, those would be the teams that would make the most sense," Kiper Jr. said.

"Greg Robinson has incredible upside," he noted. "He is a dominant factor when he has to throw people off the line of scrimmage. He needs to work on his pass protection technique. He is still sloppy in pass protection, and he had some issues in pass protection, which is obviously something that has to be corrected and has to be maximized once he gets to the NFL. He'll be a little bit of a work in progress coming out a third-year sophomore, but most upside, most talent, he's going to go two-to-six."

Robinson is one of several potential draft choices off Auburn's 12-2 SEC Championship team from last season. Another player who has bolted up draft boards with his combine performance, Dee Ford, now looks like a potential first round selection.

Missing two full games and part of another after a preseason injury, Ford still managed one of the best pass rushing seasons in Auburn history, finishing with 10 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for losses. Showing explosion off the edge and also with the speed to play in space if needed, Kiper Jr. said Ford could sneak into the first round if things fall right.

"Dee Ford is a borderline first," the analyst said. "I thought at different times and different stages maybe late first to New Orleans. They could be looking for a player like Dee Ford, Rob Ryan could. Or it could be early second round to Atlanta where he could put his hand on the ground and be a pass rusher, which is what Atlanta needs if they get the offensive tackle in round one. Late first or early second for Ford."

Dee Ford

As for the SEC Player of the Year Tre Mason, Kiper Jr. sees a little longer wait for him. With the running back position becoming less and less prized early in the draft process, he noted that the runner who finished with 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns will probably go on the second day of the draft.

"I think Mason is third round," Kiper Jr. said. "I talked about how his blocking must improve, but he caught the ball better and he's an excellent runner. He's a Ray Rice-type runner I believe. I would say third round for him."

Likely the next Auburn player taken will be defensive back Chris Davis. Making noise at the end of the season for his return to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, the senior was consistent all year long at cornerback and tested well on Auburn's Pro Day.

Second on the team with 74 tackles in 2013 and leading the defense with 15 pass break-ups, Davis has a nose for the football. When you throw in his ability in the return game, averaging 18.7 yards on 17 punt returns, he becomes a very good pick in the later rounds said Kiper Jr.

"Davis, with the return ability, you saw what he did against Alabama," Kiper Jr. said. "He's a developmental player in the secondary. I think he could be a fifth to sixth round pick."

Tre Mason

Another player who may get a look in the later rounds is punter Steven Clark. Finishing off his career with the Tigers by having one of the best seasons in school history for a punter, averaging 42.6 yards with 26 of his kicks finishing inside the 20-yard line and only four touchbacks, Clark is at the top of the heap, Kiper said.

"I have him as the No. 1 punter," he said. "I had Pat O'Donnell from Miami of Florida, Tom Hornsey from Memphis, Richie Leone from Houston, Michael Palardy Tennessee, Cody Mandell Alabama. I think Clark is a late-rounder. If you're looking for a punter, he's the No. 1 punter if you want a guy in the sixth, seventh rounder or a priority free agent."

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Kiper Jr. also took the time to answer questions on players from schools all over the country. Obviously, some of those questions were about Alabama players such as HaHa Clinton-Dix, C.J. Mosley, etc. He wasn't shy in his thoughts on the lack of sucess of Alabama guys once they get to the NFL. Here is his full quote.

"In terms of the Alabama players, is it a trend," he asked? "Is it one or two? No, it's more than that. You go back to Kareem Jackson. I have talked about Mark Barron. You look at Dre Kirkpatrick. You look at Rolando McClain and his situation. You look at Terrance Cody. The list goes on and on.

"There is a concern about that. It's probably because they are coached-up so well and they are in a great system. They all complement each other. They come into the league thinking they are pretty much as coached as they can be and they have basically hit the ceiling. They are as good as they're going to get. There's not that upside you see from some of the other guys.

"Maybe that's a factor," he added. "It is something you have to look at because there have been a host of players out of that Alabama defense that over the years have come in as high draft choices and frankly have been major disappointments."

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