2011 NFL Draft: Top Prospects To Watch in BCS Championship Game

Charles ConradContributor IJanuary 6, 2011

Auburn QB Cam Newton
Auburn QB Cam NewtonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Teams: Auburn vs Oregon

Location: Glendale, Arizona

Telecast: Monday, January 10, 8:30 PM Eastern, ESPN

Auburn Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Cam Newton - QB, No. 2, Jr. (6-6, 247): Newton was easily the most polarizing player in college football this year. Controversy has followed him since his arrest at Florida regarding a stolen laptop. In 2010, he was at the center of a recruiting scandal in which his father tried to secure money in exchange for Newton's services. Newton denied any knowledge of the incident.

After leaving Florida in 2008, he played junior college football at Blinn College in Texas, leading them to the 2009 championship. Enrolling at Auburn in 2010, his God-given talent was displayed on the big stage, leading the Tigers to the BCS title game. The Heisman Trophy winner, Newton became the first player in SEC history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. He carried the Auburn offense on his back, combining for a total of 48 passing and rushing touchdowns.

Although Newton has not yet declared for the NFL draft, it is highly unlikely he will return to Auburn in 2011. Newton has the whole package of arm strength, size and running ability. He should be able to make the adjustment from a spread offense to an NFL-style offense. The fact cannot be ignored, however, that a cloud of controversy has followed him throughout his college career. He will be a first round draft choice, but his success will depend on how he handles NFL fame and fortune and whom he decides to surround himself with off the field. He is the classic risk-or-reward type of prospect.

Nick Fairley - DT, No. 90, Jr. (6-5, 314): Fairley has not yet declared for the NFL draft. Considering the fact he could be a very high selection if he does forgo his senior year, he is worth mentioning here. Perhaps no player in the country in 2010 has made as astronomical of a leap in draft position as Fairley. Barely a blip on the draft radar before the season, he is now considered the best DT prospect available along with Alabama's Marcel Dareus. Coming from junior college in 2009, Fairley was a part-time player who was inconsistent at best. Under the tutelage of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, he has improved his skills and showed the combination of quickness and explosion that could vault him into the high first round. The 2010 Lombardi Award winner, Fairley accumulated 10.5 sacks and 21 tackles-for-loss. He has the athleticism and size to play either a 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE in the NFL. Could be a force in the pros if he maintains his consistency.

Lee Ziemba - OT, No. 73 (6-8, 320): Ziemba has been a durable force for Auburn, having started 51 straight games in his four years. He was voted to the 2010 AP All-American Second Team. He played LT for the Tigers, but will likely switch to RT or OG in the NFL. Ziemba excels as a straight-ahead blocker with power to move the pile. He is a very aggressive player who always looks to hit a defender. The negative is his lack of fluidity, which will hinder him against NFL-caliber speed rushers. Ziemba tends to come out of his stance high and appears stiff at times. He should be considered as a third or fourth round prospect.

Josh Bynes - MLB, No. 17 (6-2, 239): Byrnes is the veteran leader of Auburn's defense. He is a very solid tackler who has compiled 228 career tackles and seven interceptions. Byrnes loves to hit and will make a ball carrier pay for coming at him. Despite the ability to create turnovers against the pass, he may struggle in the NFL because of stiff hip movement and lack of lateral quickness. He also needs to shed blocks a little better. However, Byrnes is a good football player who should be drafted in the late rounds and make an NFL roster.

Other Auburn Draft Prospects

  • Mario Fannin - HB, No. 27 (5-11, 227)
  • Terrell Zachery - WR, No. 81 (6-1, 211)
  • Ryan Pugh - C, No. 50 (6-4, 293)
  • Mike Berry - OG, No. 66 (6-3, 323)
  • Antoine Carter - DE, No. (6-4, 260)
  • Mike Blanc - DT, No. 93 (6-4, 297)
  • Zach Clayton - DT, No. 98 (6-3, 298)
  • Craig Stevens - OLB, No. 46 (6-3, 224)
  • Zac Etheridge - FS, No. 4 (6-0, 210)
  • Wes Byrum - K, No. 18 (6-2, 211)

Oregon Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Casey Matthews - MLB, No. 55 (6-2, 235): The latest in the Matthews family tree will be headed to the NFL in 2011. Casey doesn't come with the fanfare of his brother Clay, now a starting linebacker with the Green Bay Packers. Casey isn't used as much as a pass rusher because he plays middle linebacker, while Clay played on the edge at USC. He plays with great passion and instinct and, if needed, has the athletic skill to play outside linebacker in the NFL. His best position may be a 4-3 OLB because he may lack the ideal frame to shed blocks in the middle at the NFL level. He was voted 2010 First Team All-Pac 10 and a finalist for the Ronnie Lott Impact Award. Matthews should be drafted by the third round, but could rise with a good postseason showing.

Jeff Maehl - WR, No. 23 (6-1, 184): There are many analysts who question Maehl's NFL capability because he doesn't measure up to the preferred size-speed ratio. That's what they said about former Seattle Seahawks and current Hall of Fame WR Steve Largent as well. This is not a comparison of Maehl to Largent by any means. However, Maehl is a clutch receiver who seems to catch everything thrown his way. He is a great route runner who knows how to get open. He doesn't possess great speed, but will make plays downfield due to his route running and ability to recognize defensive coverage schemes. Maehl has 169 career receptions for 2,178 yards and 24 touchdowns. He deserves a shot at the next level as a slot receiver. He should be a late round or free agent pickup.

Kenny Rowe - DE, No. 58 (6-2, 232): Rowe is too small to play DE in the NFL, so he will need to make the switch to OLB. He is a good pass rusher who comes off the edge with decent speed. He will need to prove to NFL scouts that he has the athleticism and instincts to drop back in pass coverage on a consistent basis. Rowe is a very good player near the line of scrimmage with 31.5 tackles for loss during his time at Oregon. He also recorded 99 total tackles and 22.5 sacks. He will most likely be viewed as a late round prospect.

Brandon Bair - DT, No. 88 (6-7, 272): Bair is another Ducks prospect who will need to switch positions at the NFL level. Although he does move back and forth between DT and DE at Oregon, he lacks the bulk to play inside in the pros. He is not the most talented player on the field, but he is productive and works very hard. During the last two seasons, Bair has 90 tackles, including 24 for a loss. He doesn't have elite pass rushing skills, but is among the nation's leaders in pass deflections. Has long arms and good timing to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. Bair is an older prospect at the age of 27, as he served time as a Mormon missionary before completing his college education. If he is not drafted, he will still have a chance at a training camp next summer.

Other Oregon Draft Prospects

  • Jordan Holmes - C, No. 54 (6-4, 295)
  • Bo Thran - OT, No. 69 (6-5, 290)
  • C.E. Kaiser - OT, No. 68 (604, 300)
  • Spencer Paysinger - OLB, No. 35 (6-3, 226)
  • Talmadge Jackson - CB, No. 37 (5-10, 182)


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