AUBURN, Ala. – The 2012 NFL Draft only had one Auburn Tiger taken in all seven rounds, the school’s worst output since 2003.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay believes Auburn will restore its usual successful pool of drafted players. In 2011, following the Tigers’ national championship, four Auburn players (QB Cam Newton, DT Nick Fairley, DT Zach Clayton and OT Lee Ziemba) heard their names called.
While there’s no prospect this year from Auburn of Newton’s caliber – or even Fairley – McShay projects four Tigers taken: defensive end Corey Lemonier, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, and yes, tailback Onterio McCalebb and wide receiver Emory Blake.
Lutzenkirchen (hip surgery) and McCalebb (hamstring) are battling through their own injuries, while Blake was not invited to the NFL Combine taking place next week in Indianapolis.
McShay added that safety is a deep class this spring, which could be bad news for Auburn linebacker Daren Bates – who is entering the draft at his natural position of safety.
Here’s what McShay had to say about the Auburn quartet on Friday’s teleconference:
COREY LEMONIER, DE, 6-4, 242 (underclassman)
Scouts.Inc grade: 86
DE rank: 7
Overall rank: 39
McShay estimate: 2nd round
“Lemonier’s obviously the best of the group in terms of pro potential. I liked him this summer when I studied him, and I just thought he had some explosiveness to his game. We’ll get a true (size) reading at the combine, but he gets off the ball and he’s able to make plays versus the run, even though he’s not a guy that does a great job against big offensive tackles, at the point of attack. What he does really well is make plays in pursuit from the back side and get after the quarterback. He’s instinctive, I think he has upper-body power, and I really like his motor when I study him on tape. To me, maybe he’s not a first-round talent, but I think he’s going to be a good value in the second round, and he’s a guy that, even though he’s an underclassman, he’s got enough experience, enough versatility and enough ability to get to the quarterback. Also, just the passion and intensity, and the motor he shows, when you have that combination of skills and characteristics about you, those are the types of players that always seem to work out, even if they’re not first-round picks.”
PHILIP LUTZENKIRCHEN, TE, 6-3 1/8, 255
Scouts.Inc grade: 57
TE rank: 9
McShay estimate: middle rounds
“He doesn’t have the ideal size, necessarily. But I think he can be a productive “F” tight end, or a joker, whatever you want to call it. He’s a hard worker – he’s not the fastest guy in the world, not the most athletic. But he has a knack for slipping off the line, getting open in playaction and making plays in the red zone. He’s a smart, tough guy, that if he can stay healthy at the next level, I think he can really contribute.”
ONTERIO McCALEBB, RB, 5-10 1/8, 164
Scouts.Inc grade: 36
RB rank: 26
McShay estimate: late rounds
“He’s a burner. You can’t coach 4.35 in the 40. That’s what we had him at Scouts from last spring, it will be interesting to see if he still runs that. He’s undersized. If presented the option to lower his shoulder and run over a guy, or to step out of bounds, he’s going to take out of bounds 100 out of 100 times. I’ve seen it on tape every single time. So he’s not the toughest guy in the world, not the most physical guy in the world, but he can fly, and he can create. I think a late-round pick on McCalebb makes a lot of sense to me.”
EMORY BLAKE, WR, 6-0 1/2, 196
Scouts.Inc grade: 31
WR rank: 41
McShay estimate: late rounds
“He’s got average measurables – 6-foot, 196 pounds, we’ve got him right around 4.60 in the 40. He’s just not going to be an explosive playmaker, but as a No. 4 or No. 5, I think he can contribute. He’ll probably get drafted late, is my guess. He’ll have to show he can help out on special teams and do different things. But he comes from a football family, he understands the game, he’s passionate about the game, he catches the ball well in traffic, and does a lot of the little things you have to do to hang on a roster, and I think Blake will wind up becoming a contributor at the next level, and has a chance to do so for a few years if he can find a way to help on special teams first.”