In-Depth Look At Auburn's Draft Prospects

Auburn's list of potential NFL draft choices begins with standout offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

Auburn, Ala.--Thursday night the annual NFL Draft will begin in New York City and it is expected to be a big time for Coach Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers with offensive tackle Greg Robinson likely to be one of the first players off the board.

With Dee Ford also a possible first round selection and several more Tigers expected to be taken, Auburn will be front and center on one of the biggest non-playing football weekends of the year.

As another group of Auburn football players prepare to take it to the next level of professional football, it's time to take a look back and the recruiting process for each and how they played during their time on the Plains.

Greg Robinson--Rated a four-star prospect and the number seven guard in the country coming out of Thibodaux, La., Robinson had limited football background when he chose the Tigers over LSU and several other schools following several visits to Auburn. With close friend Trovon Reed already with the program, it was a good fit for Robinson and he never looked back.

Showing big-time athleticism and physical play his first season at Auburn, Robinson came close to getting on the field, but instead redshirted in 2011. Starting in 2012 as the Tigers changed offensive systems, Robinson was a brute force in the running game, but struggled protecting the quarterback with an offense that was constantly in third and long situations. Back in a familiar offensive system with Malzahn back in control, Robinson flourished in 2013 and had one of the best years for an offensive lineman in school history.

What's Next For Robinson

Rated by most draft analysts as the top offensive tackle in this year's class, Robinson is expected to be a top-five pick on Thursday night. The most likely landing spot for him is second overall to the St. Louis Rams.

Dee Ford--Rated a four-star prospect and the #26 defensive end in the country coming out of St. Clair County, Ford only had offers from Mississippi State, South Alabama and Troy when he committed to Tommy Tuberville and the Tigers in July of 2008. Sticking with Auburn when Gene Chizik and his staff came onboard, Ford played as a true freshman despite weighing just 215 pounds.

Heading into the 2011 season he had played in 26 games as a reserve defensive end, but had just 22 tackles and three sacks. Suffering a back injury that required surgery for a herniated disk, Ford missed the 2011 season and struggled with injuries throughout 2012 as well. Despite starting just seven games he managed six and a half sacks as a junior to build plenty of momentum heading into his final year. Even though he missed two full games with a knee problem to open the season and was very limited in another, Ford led Auburn with 10 1/2 sacks to put his name squarely on the minds of NFL scouts.

Dee Ford

What's Next For Ford

Expected to be a late first round draft choice, Ford put on an impressive display at Auburn's pro day to cement himself as one of the top pass rushers in the draft. A possible landing spot could be with the New Orleans Saints with the 27th pick in the first round. If he were to fall it's doubtful he would get past Atlanta with pick number 37.

Tre Mason--Rated a four-star prospect and the nation's number 29 back by, Mason chose Auburn over Ole Miss, West Virginia, Michigan, Texas A&M and several others. A true speed back coming out of Park Vista High in Florida, Mason carried the ball just 28 times for 161 yards and a touchdown as a freshman in 2011.

With no Michael Dyer to contend with as a sophomore in 2012, Mason was one of the few bright spots for an Auburn offense that struggled to move the football all season long. Becoming the first running back to lead the team in total offense since Bo Jackson in 1985, Mason ran for 1,002 yards as a sophomore, but the best was still to come. Taking on the role of workhorse for the Tigers, Mason set a school record with 1,816 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns on the way to being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

What's Next For Mason

Among the top three or four backs in the draft, Mason could be a late second round selection if backs such as Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill go off the board a little earlier than expected. A perfect landing spot could be Denver late in the first round with Knowshon Moreno no longer a Bronco.

Tre Mason

Chris Davis--Rated a three-star prospect and the number 32 cornerback in the country coming out of Woodlawn High in Birmingham, Davis was a player that had to learn to be an every-down defender after playing mostly quarterback and returning kicks in high school.

Choosing Auburn over South Carolina and UAB, he played right away in 2010 and was a key contributor all the way until he was injured on the opening kickoff of the BCS National Championship Game. A solid player the next two seasons, starting 16 games, Davis came into his own as a senior. Adding punt returns to his game in 2013, Davis finished second on the team with 74 tackles and was third in the nation returning punts, averaging 18.7 yards per attempt. His biggest play came when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

What's Next For Davis

With NFL teams looking for bigger cornerbacks, Davis' size may hurt him in terms of draft stock but his physical play and ability to return kicks should make him a steal for a team in the later rounds. Detroit, New York Giants and San Francisco 49'ers are three of the teams that will be looking for help at the position in later rounds.

Chris Davis

Steven Clark--Rated a two-star punter out of high school, Clark saw some action as a true freshman in 2010 but hit his stride as a sophomore the following season. A Ray Guy Award finalist in 2011, he averaged 40.8 yards per kick with 33 downed inside the 20-yard line.

Continuing to hone his skills, Clark averaged 39.8 yards with 15 downed inside the 20 for an offense that kept him pinned on his own side of the field for much of the season. Coming back strong as a senior, Clark had one of the best years for a punter in school history last fall. Averaging 42.6 yards per punt, Clark put 26 inside the 20-yard line for the season. In his career Clark allowed just 22 of his 207 career punts to be returned for a 5.4 yard average.

What's Next For Clark

Rated the top punter in the draft by Mel Kiper, Clark could be a late round selection for a team wanting to bring a punter into camp or he may be forced to go the free agent route.

Steven Clark

Jay Prosch--Rated a two-star prospect out of UMS-Wright out of Mobile, Prosch started his career at Illinois where he played two seasons before transferring to Auburn to be closer to his ailing mother. A powerful blocker his first season, Prosch was one of the main reasons why Mason was able to top 1,000 yards in 2012. Needing to find his place in Malzahn's offense, Prosch showed his versatility by working in several different roles for an Auburn offense that became one of the most prolific running teams in SEC history.

What's Next For Prosch

It wouldn't be a surprise to see some team fall in love with Prosch and take him late in the draft, but with fewer teams relying on a full-time fullback he's expected to have to earn his way as a free agent.

Jay Prosch

Other players expected to have to earn a shot via free agency include:

Kenneth Carter--Rated a four-star defensive tackle and the number 17 player at his position in the country coming out of Greenville, Carter played as a true freshman in 2010, but never stepped up his game to the level expected of him coming out of high school. Carter finished his career with 53 total tackles and five and a half tackles for losses.

Nosa Eguae--Rated a two-star defensive tackle out of Mansfield Summit High in Arlington, Tex., Eguae was a late signee for Chizik and his staff in 2008. Redshirting his first season, Eguae played a big role in Auburn's success in 2010 with 22 tackles and three and a half sacks in 11 starts for the Tigers. A solid defensive lineman the next two seasons, Eguae's biggest contributions came as a senior when he moved inside to defensive tackle and became a leader on defense for the Tigers. Playing in all 14 games with 12 starts, he finished with 22 tackles and three sacks as a senior.

Jake Holland--Rated a three-star prospect and the 12th-ranked middle linebacker in the country, Holland chose the Tigers over Duke, Kansas State, Stanford, UCLA and others. Learning the ropes behind Josh Bynes as a true freshman in 2010, Holland finished his career with 167 career tackles in 29 career starts. His best season came as a junior when he finished with 73 stops in 10 starts at middle linebacker for the Tigers.

Cody Parkey--Rated a four-star prospect and the nation's second-ranked kicker coming out of Jupiter, Fla., Parkey got valuable experience as a true freshman in 2010 when he was used mostly as a kickoff specialist. Taking on the kicking duties as a sophomore, Parkey connected on 13-18 field goals in 2011 before making 11-14 as a junior. With his 15 makes in 21 attempts as a senior, he finished his Auburn career 39-53 overall with 11 of the misses coming outside 40 yards. He also made 136-138 extra-point attempts along with 130 touchbacks on kickoffs his final three seasons.

Craig Sanders--Rated a four-star prospect and the #23 defensive end in the country, Sanders chose Auburn over Alabama and immediately made an impact in 2010 as a special teams warrior for the Tigers. Second on the team with seven special teams tackles as a true freshman, Sanders recorded his first career sack in the SEC title game win over South Carolina. With just 30 total tackles and three sacks his first three seasons, Sanders played a much bigger role for the Tigers in his final year with 22 tackles and three tackles for losses in three starts.

Ryan Smith--Rated a three-star and the number 93 safety in the nation coming out of Cordova High School, Smith flipped his commitment from Kentucky to Auburn late in the process after getting an offer from the Tigers. Playing very little as a true freshman, Smith's defining moment as a Tiger came as a sophomore when he stopped Chris Relf at the goal line to preserve a win over Mississippi State. Totaling 53 tackles with three starts his first three seasons, Smith finally got a chance to shine as a senior and he delivered. Finishing third on the team with 68 stops last year, Smith was second on the team with three interceptions with eight starts.

Ryan White--Rated a three-star prospect and the 63rd cornerback in the country, White came to Auburn as a quarterback, but moved to defense his first season with the Tigers. A reserve defensive back for the Tigers in his first three seasons, White had just 34 career tackles entering his senior year in 2013. Known mostly as Auburn's holder for field goals and extra points, White became a key contributor in the secondary for the Tigers as he made 54 tackles in his two starts and also added his only career interception in a win over Texas A&M. In that game he was playing safety for the first time and had never practiced there after being forced to move because of an injury to Josh Holsey.

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