The 2018 NFL Draft is over and Auburn ended up with a few selections, not including a myriad of players who were locked in with a team for the time being as undrafted free agents.
Some of the selections came as a surprise, while others were perfectly logical. Let’s run it down.
Round 2 - Pick 5 - Indiapolis Colts - Braden Smith
The Colts got themselves a consensus “mauler” in the trenches to help out with what was no less than an abysmal offensive line in 2017. Indy allowed a league-worst 56 sacks and ranked fifth-worst in rushing yards per carry. Braden Smith should help that out immediately, and he’ll have some help two guys down on the line since the Colts also nabbed Quentin Nelson in the first round.
Round 2 - Pick 11 - Detroit Lions - Kerryon Johnson
We wrote about the nice match that Kerryon’s going to get with the Detroit offense, since he was a very capable receiver out of the backfield during his time at Auburn with 55 career catches. The two tailbacks in Motown caught a combined 78 passes last season, and now Kerryon’s going to get to add into that rotation as a running back who can help out a running game that only gained 1,221 yards last year in sixteen games.
Round 2 - Pick 31 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Carlton Davis
Tampa needs defensive backs, and they got Auburn’s best in the next-to-last pick of the second round. Right now, the Bucs’ defensive backfield pretty much consists of Vernon Hargreaves and nobody else. Coupled with the fact that Tampa plays in a quarterback-heavy division (Cam, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan), they need all the help they can get. Carlton Davis should help almost immediately.
Round 5 - Pick 30 - Minnesota Vikings - Daniel Carlson
The Vikings grabbed the SEC’s all-time leading scorer in the fifth round after a year in which they actually didn’t kick all that poorly. Minnesota made the NFC Championship Game after winning the NFC North by four games, and there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with the team. After the Blair Walsh disaster, wherein the Vikings could’ve beaten the Seahawks in the Playoffs a couple years ago, they got Kai Forbath, who wasn’t terrible. The Vikings are obviously looking to grab the franchise kicker for the next decade or so by taking Carlson, hoping to improve the league’s 18th-best field goal percentage.
Undrafted Free Agent - Denver Broncos - Jeff Holland
Here’s the most surprising thing from this year’s draft. Jeff Holland was one of the most disruptive players in the SEC, leading Auburn in sacks in 2017. He doesn’t have prototypical size for a defensive end in the NFL, but he’s going to be heading to a place that needs some help in the pass rush game. The Broncos recorded only 33 sacks last year (22nd in the NFL), which is sort of surprising for a team that’s had as many fantastic speed rushers as the Broncos have had over the past few years.
Undrafted Free Agent - Minnesota Vikings - Tray Matthews
Matthews will get to try out to be a part of the NFL’s top defense last year. The Vikings were 2nd in the NFL in rushing defense, and the same in passing D. It’ll be tough to crack the lineup, but Tray’s got good size and likely just needs to show his best stuff after overcoming some lingering injury issues.
Undrafted Free Agent - Philadelphia Eagles - Stephen Roberts
Stephen Roberts might have been the Tigers’ longest shot to get drafted, despite his exceptionally solid play in the back end in 2017. Remember his tackle on Bo Scarborough that basically ended Alabama’s offensive game in the Iron Bowl? He can hang with the big boys and he’s great at rebounding to make plays after allowing something to happen. I think he can stick around for a while, since the Eagles’ defensive backfield isn’t super deep after the great starting lineup.
Undrafted Free Agent - Minnesota Vikings - Kam Pettway
We’ve all seen what Kam Pettway can do when he’s fully healthy and engaged. He needs to show that every single day in the upcoming camps for the Vikings. Pettway’s got the wiggle to be a bruiser in the NFL, and when he gets moving he’s got enough speed to do some damage. Lingering injury issues and off-field issues are the biggest things standing in the way of success for Kam.
Undrafted Free Agent - New York Jets - Austin Golson/Darius James
For the Jets, it won’t be hard to improve in pretty much every area. They ranked in the bottom third in the league in rushing yards per carry, and were in the bottom half in total rushing yardage. They were 24th in passing offense, so there’s tons of room to move up there as well. That’s to say, no matter who’s on the front lines, Golson and James have as good a shot as anyone to make the roster to help protect Sam Darnold.
Undrafted Free Agent - New York Jets - Tre’ Williams
It’s a similar story for the Jets and Tre’ Williams on defense. They need some help. New York ranked in the bottom third in passing and rushing defense, and Williams is a guy that can bring some much needed toughness into the middle of the front seven. Like some other UFA Tigers, Williams needs to show that he can avoid the injuries that sidelined him toward the end of the season.
Overall, Auburn got plenty of guys into the league, and based on what they did as a team without any first rounders, the coaching job by Gus Malzahn and company is very impressive. War Eagle!