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NFL draft preview: Many former Auburn players fighting to get into late rounds

Auburn defensive back Jonathan Jones runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.
Auburn defensive back Jonathan Jones runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. AP Photo

Former Auburn players head into this weekend’s NFL Draft with plenty at stake.

With no projected first round picks in the group, many Tigers are just fighting to get into the late rounds on Saturday.

Offensive tackle Shon Coleman is expected to be the highest Auburn player selected as a day two (second or third round) selection.

On Monday, NFL Network’s lead draft analyst Mike Mayock released his final list of top 100 prospects before the draft. Coleman was the lone Auburn player on the list at No. 80.

Coleman hasn’t been able to help his own draft stock as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn MCL. Coleman attended the NFL Combine and Auburn’s pro day, but didn’t participate in drills. He hopes to be cleared for football-related activities in May, but the injury has kept him from working out for teams leading up to the draft.

The latest draft projections by NFLDraftScout.com have Jonathan Jones and Avery Young with mid-round grades and Ricardo Louis as a seventh rounder.

Jones followed up a strong performance in the senior bowl with standout numbers at the combine including a 4.33 40-yard dash. The credentials might have pushed Jones higher up the draft board if it wasn’t for the concerns over his size.

“The guy that hasn't gotten as much attention as I think he deserves is the corner Jones, and it's mostly because he's 5’9’,” Mayock said. “He runs a 4.4, he's got quick twist, he's got really good feet. He's got coverage skills. Teams are scared to death of his height. I think he's probably going to go in the fourth or fifth round, but I think he's a kid that's got a little juice to him.”

NFLDraftScout.com’s projection of running back Peyton Barber as an undrafted free agent is one his agent disagrees with.

“He’s a day three prospect,” Perrett said. “I haven’t talked to anybody who doesn’t have him on their board. Some teams have him as high as a fourth round pick, but no one that has him outside the seventh.”

During a conference call with reporters last week, Mayock agreed with Perrett’s assessment.

“Barber I think has got some interest,” Mayock said. “I could see him going in around the fifth-round range. He does everything pretty well, and I think he's got enough size-speed combination to entice teams.”

The importance of going on day three for Barber and his former teammates isn’t just about the dollars in a potential contract.

While a fourth round pick might have a guaranteed signing bonus in the range of a half million dollars more than a seventh rounder, higher draft picks are generally given more opportunities by NFL teams.

“There is some intrinsic value to going earlier,” Perrett said. “Teams are more prone to keep a fourth round pick than a seventh rounder. They want to maximize the value of those early picks.”

It’s the same for drafted players versus undrafted free agents.

Former Auburn players on the bubble include defensive back Blake Countess, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, linebacker Kris Frost, wide receiver D’haquille Williams and linebacker Justin Garrett.

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