Last season, there was a good bit of chatter in the college football world that the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 were as talented as the SEC. I never believed it, and the 2019 NFL Draft reinforced my opinion with 64 selections out of the SEC.
The Big Ten was a distant second with 40 players drafted and the ACC was fourth with 28, five behind the Pac-12. The Big 12 had just 26 players drafted.
Auburn tied Clemson, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Penn State for the seventh most players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft with six apiece. Alabama topped the list with 10 followed by Ohio State with nine. Oklahoma and Washington each had eight players drafted with Georgia and Texas A&M next with seven apiece. Auburn’s six selections are the most since having six drafted in 1991.
The most Auburn players chosen in an NFL Draft was 1989 with 10 selected. That year there were 337 players drafted compared to the 254 picked in this year’s event that went seven rounds.
Players from Coach Pat Dye’s team drafted in 1989 included wide receiver Lawyer Tillman (2nd round), tight end Walter Reeves (2nd), defensive tackle/end Brian Smith (second), defensive tackle Tracy Rocker (third), defensive end Ron Stallworth (fourth), defensive tackle Benji Roland (seventh), punter Brian Shulman (eighth), offensive tackle Jim Thompson (10th), safety Carlo Cheattom (10th) and wide receiver Freddy Weygand (12th).
The Tigers have not produced a first round draft pick since 2014 when offensive lineman Greg Robinson was the second player selected and Dee Ford was No. 23 off the board. A pair of current Auburn defensive linemen, tackle Derrick Brown and Nick Coe, have the look of potential first round picks for 2020 if things fall into place for those guys. If he has a big finish as a senior, offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho has the type of physical tools that could make him an early draft pick.
All six of Auburn’s 2019 picks have excellent shots to make NFL teams this year. The first of the group taken, cornerback Jamel Dean, has the physical tools to be a can’t-miss type of guy, but has been plagued by knee injuries. If the third round pick can stay healthy, I believe he will stick with Tampa Bay.
The guy who may end up having the longest NFL career of the group is Dontavius Russell, who has the tools to play many years at the pro level as an interior defensive lineman even though he didn’t go until the final round.
Jarrett Stidham being taken by the Patriots in round four could be a sweet situation for the quarterback, who will be an understudy to aging future of Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Coach Bill Belichick has done a great job of developing high profile players, lower profile draftees and free agents over the years. His latest free agent pickup from Auburn, slot receiver Ryan Davis, looks like a great fit for the Patriots’ offensive system.
Another Auburn receiver, Darius Slayton, was drafted in the fifth round and has the tools to make the roster of New York Giants. The same is true of linebacker Deshaun Davis (sixth round, Cincinnati) and fullback Chandler Cox (seventh round, Miami), who will be relentless in their quests to earn a spot on an NFL roster.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter