Auburn football: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. evaluates Tigers headed for NFL draft

January 27, 2011 

Draft guru has Fairley as top pick, Newton as 10th

By ANDY BITTER

abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn’s Cam Newton and Nick Fairley both had one dominant year at the college level.

In the upcoming months, they’ll have to prove to NFL scouts that they’re more than just one-year wonders, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said during a teleconference Wednesday.

Kiper thinks highly of both players -- he projects Fairley to go No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers and Newton to go No. 10 to the Washington Redskins -- but said their final draft positions will depend largely on how they handle themselves before pro scouts, coaches and general managers in the three months before April’s NFL draft.

He said Newton has “all the potential and all the upside you would ever want,” but added that intangibles will determine whether he is a top-10 pick or goes late in the first round.

“Remember, he’s only got 14 (college) starts and people are going to be looking at that Florida situation and what went on there, what went on in the recruiting controversy with Mississippi State and Auburn and look into all that,” Kiper said.

“And if they feel he is worthy of being the face of an organization, worthy of getting a lot of guaranteed money and a guy you want to move forward with as your quarterback, then Cam Newton, based on what I saw this year, on his performance and his upside, I think he’s worthy.”

Kiper said a number of teams will likely consider Newton in the first round, including Arizona (5th overall), San Francisco (7th), Tennessee (8th), Minnesota (12th), Jacksonville (16th) and Seattle (25th).

He projected Newton going to Washington at No. 10 because of how the Redskins floundered after trading for veteran Donovan McNabb.

“I think (coach Mike) Shanahan needs to address this situation with a young quarterback,” Kiper said. “He went the veteran route with McNabb. It didn’t work. He did it in Denver. He drafted (Jay) Cutler out of Vanderbilt. I think he needs a young quarterback that he can mold.”

Kiper projects Fairley to go first overall to the Carolina Panthers, even though he doesn’t grade him as highly as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who Detroit selected at No. 2 overall last season out of Nebraska.

Fairley only had one dominant season of college football while Suh had several.

“I think there were some games here (Fairley) kind of paced himself,” Kiper said. “He didn’t go all out on every play and attack on every play and in the NFL you’ve got to adjust to that. …

“Suh played all out every play and he was a dominant player for two, three years. Really, it was a great performance for three years because he was out there making his presence felt. Fairley was only doing it for one year, so there’s a big difference between Suh and Fairley and their body of work.”

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is another possibility for Carolina at No. 1, but Kiper thinks the Panthers need a tackle more than an end, favoring Fairley.

“If the interviews go well and they’re solid on him, he was a guy who was a one-year wonder, but he’s got so much talent, so much ability that we’re going to forget about the fact that he only dominated for one year,” Kiper said.

Kiper gave early projections for Auburn wide receiver Darvin Adams, offensive lineman Lee Ziemba and linebacker Josh Bynes, saying they should go on the third day of the draft, which consists of rounds four through seven.

He called Adams, an early entry, “intriguing … just because of the talent he showed in a number of games that I watched this year,” saying the receiver could go early on the third day.

Kiper has Ziemba going in the middle of the third day and Bynes late.

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