Greg Robinson highlights what could be banner 2014 draft class for Auburn

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMay 3, 2014 

Former Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson was taken with the second overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in this year's draft.

LAUREN BARNARD — Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala. — When Greg Robinson met with reporters following Auburn’s Pro Day on March 4, he said he didn’t “even know how to explain” how it would feel to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.

Aside from it being “a dream come true,” Robinson didn’t want to speculate, preferring to wait until the first day of the draft arrives May 8. Still, setting the bar at simply being selected in the first round would be too low for Robinson. Look at nearly any mock draft floating around, and it’s likely Robinson’s name is somewhere in the top 10. Some are far higher than that. Take the ESPN duo of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay or the NFL.com trio of Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah: all have Robinson going to the St. Louis Rams with the No. 2 overall pick in their most recent projections.

According to Kiper, if the Rams pass on Robinson, the Oakland Raiders at No. 5 or the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6 are good bets to lock up the former Tiger.

“Those would be the teams that would make the most sense," Kiper said during a conference call last month. “Greg Robinson has incredible upside. He is a dominant factor when he has to throw people off the line of scrimmage.”

Dee Ford and Tre Mason are also former Tigers who could hear their names called in the draft’s first three rounds.

Not that he’s perfect. In Auburn’s run-heavy offense — which led the FBS in rushing yards per game last season — Robinson rarely had a chance to showcase his pass blocking.

NFL talent evaluators have noticed.

“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,” Kiper said. “He'll be a little bit of a work in progress coming out as a third-year sophomore but (as far as) most upside, most talent, he's going to go (No.) 2-to-6.” McShay was even more effusive in his praise of Robinson.

Since he first began breaking down prospects in 2002, McShay said he has never seen a more powerful offensive lineman, one with the ability, as he put it, “to just jack guys up — pick them up and put them down.” McShay conceded that Robinson’s pass blocking needed some polishing, pointing out that he “holds too much” and that his hands are out of place far too often.

But McShay said it would be absurd for any team not to take Robinson.

“Everything that you need to have in terms of (skill set), he has,” McShay said. “I’ve seen him re-direct as quickly as you’re going to see an offensive tackle his size. I’ve seen the awareness and just the natural instincts in picking up the late twists, X-stunts and different things that are hard to pick up. I’ve seen him do it. There are flashes of Greg Robinson doing everything that you need to do. … You just don’t find many guys like this. That’s the whole deal for me. It’s one of those (things) where you turn to your offensive line coach and say, ‘Figure it out.’”

Ford rocketed up draft boards after a dominating week at the Senior Bowl in January, which was capped with him capturing the game’s most valuable player award.

“Ford is a borderline first," Kiper said. "I thought at different times and at different stages maybe late first to New Orleans. They could be looking for a player like Dee Ford, (Saints defensive coordinator) 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."

If Ford joins Robinson in the first round, it would mark the first time two Tigers were selected that early since 2011, when Cam Newton (Carolina) and Nick Fairley (Detroit) went No. 1 and No. 13 overall, respectively.

While Mason isn’t expected to be among the top 32 picks, he’s still in contention to be the first running back taken, projected to go in the second or third round. After overcoming doubts about both his size and durability in a superlative 2013 campaign — which saw him become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after running for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns — Mason had more questions aimed his way last week.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that exams from the combine revealed Mason would need surgery on his wrist.

Mason quickly denied the report.

“I WILL NOT be having any type of surgery on my body!” he tweeted. “Well and healthy. Media is trying to paint a picture.”

Earlier this week, Gil Brandt provided an update. After talking to multiple teams, NFL.com’s senior analyst said Wednesday that all appear unfazed by the issue.

“Teams I have talked to say Tre Mason (wrist) … would pass their physical,” Brandt tweeted. “Mason questionable but would pass.”

Much like his former teammate, Chris Davis has had to answer critics who believe he’s too short — measuring in at 5-foot-9 and three-quarters at Pro Day — to be an every-down cornerback in the NFL. Thanks to a 40.5 vertical, Davis seemed to alleviate some concerns about his lack of ideal height. And Kiper believes with the speed Davis showed off during his epic Iron Bowl-winning return, the corner should be a mid-round selection.

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

Fullback Jay Prosch, defensive end Nosa Eguae and punter Steven Clark — who Kiper ranked as the top player available at his position — also could hear their names called at some point in the draft’s late rounds.

In turn, that creates the possibility this could be the most fruitful draft for Auburn since the turn of the millennium. Three times since 2000, the Tigers have had five players selected in the same draft: 2005, 2007 and 2008.

But with so many NFL teams engaging in subterfuge and refusing to disclose their feelings about prospects, who knows how things will end up?

Ever the candid speaker, Mason provided perhaps the best mind-set a player can take into the draft.

“I have no clue where I’ll go,” he said. “But wherever I am, I’m happy to help the team.”

AUBURN'S LIKELY DRAFTEES

STEVEN CLARK

Pos.: Punter

Ht.: 6-foot-5

Wt: 231

2013 stats: 56 punts, 42.6 yards per attempt, 26 punts inside opponent's 20-yard line, nine punts of 50-plus yards, long of 58 (twice)

Projected draft position: Sixth or seventh round or priority free agent

CHRIS DAVIS

Pos.: Cornerback

Ht.: 5-foot-10

Wt: 202

2013 stats (in 12 games): 74 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 15 passes defensed

Projected draft position: Fifth, sixth or seventh round

NOSA EGUAE

Pos.: Defensive end

Ht.: 6-foot-3

Wt: 269 pounds

2013 Stats: 29 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Projected draft position: Seventh round/priority free agent

DEE FORD

Pos.: Defensive end

Ht.: 6-foot-2

Wt: 240 pounds

2013 Stats (in 12 games): 29 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Projected draft position: Late first/early second round

TRE MASON

Pos.: Running back

Ht.: 5-foot-8

Wt: 207

2013 stats: 317 carries, 1,816 rushing yards (single-season school record), 23 rushing touchdowns (single-season school record; tied Tim Tebow's single-season SEC record)

Projected draft position: Second or third round

JAY PROSCH

Pos.: Fullback

Ht.: 6-foot-1

Wt: 256

2013 stats: Five receptions, 95 yards, TD

Projected draft position: Seventh round/priority free agent

GREG ROBINSON

Pos.: Offensive tackle

Ht.: 6-foot-5

Wt: 332

2013 stats: N/A

Projected draft position: Top 10 overall

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