Unlike last year when Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene were first-round selections, it took a while before the first Auburn football player was selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. That was expected, but it was also a reminder that the Tigers need to do a better job of finding, signing and developing talent if they are going to get back in the mix to challenge for any kind of championships in the coming seasons.
The first Auburn player picked was the fastest guy on the roster the past three years, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz. He put his dream of being an Olympic sprinter on the backburner to focus on football. In the next four or five months we will find out if that was a good move or not.
Chosen in the third round by the Cleveland Browns as the 91st player drafted, Schwartz is undersized for a pro receiver, but may have landed in a good spot because the Browns need help at his position, particularly in the speed department. It is far from certain that Schwartz will stick in Cleveland, but he has a solid shot to survive the cuts because pro teams are infatuated by speed.
My take is that Jamien Sherwood needed another year of seasoning at the college level before entering the draft, but I have always thought he was a sweat the details type of guy and a solid all-around performer in the secondary as a safety.
Sherwood didn’t help his cause with less than impressive 40-yard dash times at his pro day. Because of what the stopwatch said and because of the other things he does well, including his skills in finding the football quickly and not missing tackles, the New York Jets invested at draft pick (No. 146 overall) with the plan to move him to linebacker. Hopefully, it works out for Sherwood, a good guy and good player for the Tigers.
K.J. Britt was the next off the board at No. 176 overall to the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs. A physical, old-school style inside linebacker with good instincts, Britt was selected by a team that returns all 22 starters. It is probably a longshot that he makes the opening day roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise see him begin his pro career on Tampa Bay’s practice squad.
Seth Williams picked a bad year to go out early as a wide receiver because the 2021 draft was loaded with talented guys at that position who were chosen ahead of the Auburn junior–29 to be exact.
Because of his size at 6-3, 211 pounds combined with plenty of athletic ability, I think the Denver Broncos may have gotten a steal by drafting Williams late in the process. Williams has okay speed for a receiver, but is a great leaper who can catch the ball in traffic.
A sixth round pick, he was the 219th prospect drafted, which he said has him on a mission to prove that he belongs in the NFL. In this case, I wouldn’t bet against that happening. Of the group of Tigers selected this year, I think Williams has the best chance to have success as an NFL rookie and the best chance to play in that league for multiple seasons.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter.