2008 Auburn NFL Draft Preview

Auburn has 11 former players hoping to get their names called on Saturday or Sunday or get picked up as a free agent as the NFL Draft takes place in New York City.

Quentin Groves
6-3, 255
Defensive End/Linebacker
Greenville, Miss.

Groves had three tackles in limited time as a true freshman middle linebacker in 2003, but then made the move to defensive end prior to the 2004 season where he had an immediate impact as a redshirt freshman. As a third-down specialist, Groves had 10 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles that season. He had eight tackles for a loss and six sacks as a sophomore, and then made big-time plays in big-time games as a junior. Groves sacked Florida quarterback Chris Leak three times and caused a safety in Auburn's 27-17 victory over the eventual national champs. In the regular season finale at Alabama, Groves used his tremendous speed off the edge to force a pair of fumbles on Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson which turned into quick scores for the offense in Auburn's 22-15 victory. Groves' senior season got off to a bang with a pair of sacks on Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, one of which was a fumble that teammate Antonio Coleman returned for a touchdown. Groves dislocated three toes in Auburn's 2007 win over Florida and was never the same all season although he did tie the school record for sacks at 26 weeks later against LSU. He finished his AU career with 117 tackles, 36 of which were being the line as well as eight forced fumbles.

At the NFL Combine Groves ran a 4.57 40, did an impressive 30 reps on bench, had a 10' broad jump and ran a 4.42 short shuttle. His combination of overall athletic ability and size isn't matched by many, and his quickness off the edge makes him an intriguing prospect. With the 3-4 a popular defensive alignment, Groves projects as a high draft pick as an outside linebacker, a role that he did his last two years in college under Will Muschamp. Groves is likely Auburn's first selection in this year's draft and could hear his name called quickly because of his athleticism.

Draft Prediction: First to second round.

Pat Sims
6-2, 310
Defensive Tackle
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Sims' rollercoaster Auburn career ended at its peak as he declared as a junior following his Defensive MVP performance in the Tigers' 23-20 victory over Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Sims' junior season was by far his best at Auburn with 37 tackles, 11.5 behind the line, 4.5 sacks a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery against New Mexico State where he rumbled 21 yards for a score. The big defensive tackle took some time to get used to the demands of an SEC athlete and quit the team early in the 2005 season. However, he came back in 2006 and showed flashes of his tremendous potential and had his best game of the season in the Cotton Bowl. For his career Sims had 53 tackles, 16.5 TFL and five forced fumbles.

Sims tested at both the NFL Combine and AU Pro Day. In Indianapolis he ran 5.06 in the 40, did 20 reps on bench and jumped 27" high. He improved that leap with a 30.5" vertical at Pro Day, ran short shuttle times of 4.62 and 4.67 and had a standing long jump of 7'11".

Draft Prediction: Sims will likely be taken in round two or three.

Patrick Lee
6-0, 200
Miami, Fla.

Lee was a classic case of a player continually getting better throughout his career. Out of Christopher Columbus High, he served as a backup in 2004 and 2005 and had 23 total tackles while breaking up four passes in his first two seasons. As a junior he had 23 tackles and six pass breakups, a forced fumble and also returned a fumble for a touchdown in Auburn's 27-17 win against Florida. Lee put together his best season as a senior, starting all 13 games, making 55 tackles, tying for the team lead in interceptions with four (all in a five-game span) and he also had a team-leading 10 PBU's. Because of his speed he was also a threat as a kick returner where he showed consistency by averaging a team high 25.8 yards per return despite having a long of 36.

Lee ran a 4.4 40 and did 15 reps on bench at the NFL Combine, but didn't help himself by running above a 4.5 at Pro Day. He did, however, help his cause with a 35-inch vertical. Lee seemed to play faster than a 4.5 guy in college, and his production as a senior should help his draft cause.

Draft Prediction: Could get a look late in the third round, but likely will be taken in the fourth or fifth round.

Jonathan Wilhite
5-9, 185
Monroe, La.

Wilhite had three years to play three after transferring from Butler County Junior College and earned a starting role midway through his first season at Auburn. He had 47 tackles in 2005, eight PBUs and his first interception in an Auburn uniform against Kentucky. Wilhite was slowed by injuries as a junior and made 24 tackles with five PBU's and a fumble recovery. As a senior Wilhite made 30 tackles, broke up a pair of pass and also had two interceptions in the Tigers' victory over New Mexico State.

He was slowed by injuries throughout his career, but wasn't slowed in Indianapolis running a 4.38 40. He also did 20 reps in bench. At Pro Day he had a 35-inch vertical, 4.17 short shuttle, and a 10-foot standing long jump.

Draft Prediction: Rounds five through seven.

Carl Stewart
6-1, 231
Maryville, Tenn.

Prior to redshirting at Auburn in 2003, Stewart was named the Tennessee 4A Mr. Football Back of the Year while leading Maryville High School to three state titles. Stewart played tailback at Auburn in 2004 and made the move to fullback in 2005 where he was a versatile player in Al Borges' offense. For his career he carried the ball 127 times for 481 yards and had two rushing touchdowns every season from 2004-2007. Stewart also played an important role in Auburn's play-action attack catching 38 passes for 603 yards. As a junior he had key receptions in the Tigers' wins over LSU and Alabama and also scored both of Auburn's touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, in Auburn's 17-14 Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska. Stewart played his junior and senior seasons as a post-graduate after receiving a degree in Political Science in spring 2006.

Stewart made some noise at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis with impressive numbers in several events. He posted 30 reps on 225-pound bench, a 39-inch vertical and an 11'2" broad jump, which were all best among the running backs. However, his 4.69 40 puts him as a "tweener" between tailback and fullback in the league. Fullbacks of his size are becoming less of a commodity in the league.

Draft Prediction: Likely to be a free agent, but some team may take a shot at him in the late rounds because of his athletic ability.

Cole Bennett
6-5, 255
Tight End
Dalton, Ga.

Bennett was an immediate contributor for the Tigers during his freshman season in 2003 as a backup tight end, catching a touchdown pass in Auburn's 28-21 victory over seventh-ranked Tennessee. He also recovered a fumble for a touchdown in Auburn's 38-28 victory over the Volunteers in the 2004 SEC Championship Game. Bennett, who caught 29 passes for 312 yards in his career, had a TD reception in Auburn's 28-18 Iron Bowl victory in 2005. He earned a starting role as a senior in 2006, but broke his ankle against LSU in the third game of the season. Having already graduated in Management Information Systems, Bennett decided to return for a fifth year in 2007 and caught 11 passes for 108 yards.

At Auburn's Pro Day Bennett posted 23 reps of 225 on bench and also ran in the 4.7s on the 40. Bennett was a solid blocker through his career and could get taken late if teams are looking for that kind of player.

Draft Prediction: Free agent.

Prechae Rodriguez
6-4, 207
Wide Receiver
Tampa, Fla.

Originally out of Jefferson Senior High School in Tampa, Rodriguez transferred to Auburn from Coffeyville Community College. He scored the first two touchdowns of his Auburn career, one through the air and the other on a reverse, in the Tigers' 49-27 victory at Kentucky. Rodriguez's next and last TD in an Auburn career was a big one. Down 15-14 to Alabama, Rodriguez caught a 22-yarder from Brandon Cox late in the third quarter for the game-winning score over the Crimson Tide in 2006. Rodriguez played three years at Auburn, catching 13-240 as a sophomore, 13-150 as a junior and 11-122 in 2007.

Rodriguez ran a 4.5 and 4.53 40 at Pro Day and showed good numbers on his jumps. He posted a 35-inch vertical and had a 10'2" broad jump.

Draft Prediction: Rodriguez has a big frame at 6-4 and is athletic, but didn't produce enough to be selected. Look for him to get a free agent shot.

King Dunlap
6-8 ½, 311
Offensive Tackle
Brentwood, Tenn.

Dunlap came to Auburn in 2003 with a tremendous upside because of his size and athletic ability. He was the Tennessee Mr. Football Lineman of the Year for Division II-AAA and also a standout basketball player at Brentwood Academy. Dunlap redshirted in 2003 and served as a backup in 2004 and 2005 before earning a starting role as a junior. He started all 13 games at left tackle in 2006 and was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week against Tulane. Dunlap started the first three games of his senior season and three others late in the season.

Participated in Auburn's Pro Day and ran a 5.23 40, had a 30-inch vertical, 4.82 short shuttle and did 20 reps on bench.

Draft Prediction: Because of his athleticism and size Dunlap could get taken late in the draft by a team looking to catch lightning in a bottle.

Josh Thompson
5-11, 304
Defensive Tackle
Statesboro, Ga.

Thompson was a four-year contributor for the Auburn program and a starter his final two seasons for the Tigers. As a senior he led the team in tackles with 67 (40 solo and 27 assists), a rare feat for a nose tackle in this age of football. A run-stopper out of Statesboro High School, Thompson had 23 tackles as a freshman, four tackles as a sophomore and 37 as a junior in 2006. For his career he had 131 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss despite demanding a double-team because of his power.

Thompson repped out 31 on the bench press at Auburn Pro Day, but scouts only counted 24 because of bad form. He posted times of 4.6 and 4.79 in the short shuttle and a 5.27 in the 40.

Draft Prediction: Thompson may get a shot as a free agent.

Zach Gilbert
5-9, 187
Florence, Ala.

Gilbert was a walk-on to Auburn in 2003 and made his way into the rotation as a freshman in 2004. Despite scholarship offers to other small schools, Gilbert stayed at Auburn and earned a scholarship in 2006. As a career back-up, Gilbert made 38 tackles and broke up four passes. He had an interception against Western Kentucky as a sophomore and returned an interception against Tulane 57 yards as a junior.

Gilbert improved his stock at AU Pro Day as much as anyone by posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 and doing 17 reps on bench. He also ran a 4.11 short shuttle and turned heads with a 36 1/2-inch vertical leap. His standing long jump was a 10'1 ½" rounding out his impressive day in front of the scouts.

Draft Prediction: Gilbert may get a shot as a free agent.

Eric Brock
6-0, 204
Alexander City, Ala.

Brock was a three-year part-time starter for the Tigers at safety. He had an interception each of his first two seasons against Mississippi State and made several clutch plays as a junior. Brock broke up a fourth down JaMarcus Russell pass late in the fourth quarter and also made the game-saving tackle on Craig Davis in Auburn's 7-3 victory over LSU. In Auburn's win over Florida that year he intercepted Chris Leak late in the fourth quarter to help preserve a Tigers' victory. He had 45 tackles and eight PBU's as a junior and 59 tackles, five PBU's, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as a senior.

Brock checked in at 6-0, 204 at Pro Day and ran just upwards of 4.5 in the 40. He posted an impressive 37-inch vertical, ran 4.34 in the short shuttle and had a standing long jump distance of 9'7".

Draft Prediction: Free agent.

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