Despite having several early round talents decide to stay for their senior year, Auburn will be sending an impressive contingent to this weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Among the six-man party of former Tigers are QB Jarrett Stidham, WR’s Darius Slayton and Ryan Davis, DT Dontavious Russell, LB Deshaun Davis, and CB Jamel Dean.
None of these guys are expected to be early round picks, but the Combine is a chance for them to impress scouts and build some momentum with the Draft just two weeks away.
The Combine, which can be seen on the NFL Network, groups players by positions. Today, running backs, offensive lineman, and special teams are being evaluated. Tomorrow (3/2) will showcase the quarterbacks and wide receivers, and tight ends. Sunday is for defensive lineman and linebackers, and Monday is only defensive backs.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, 6’2” 215 lbs - Of all of the Auburn players in the Combine, Stidham probably has the most to gain. It was only 6-7 months ago he was thought of as a first round shoo-in, but after a rough junior year behind a bad offensive line, Stidham is looking like a mid round guy right now. There’s never been any question of his arm talent (I’ve never seen prettier deep balls in JHS), but his decisions under pressure drew a lot of ill reviews last year. In a pristine situation like this, Stidham should be able to shine.
Darius Slayton, WR, 6’2” 190 lbs - Size? Check. Speed? Big check. Hands? Eh, maybe not so much. Slayton was a monster for Auburn the last two years as a deep threat. Despite being overshadowed in the speed department by all-world sprinter Anthony Schwartz, make no mistake about it - Slayton can fly. He’s got the skill set so many scouts crave, and the Combine will be a chance to show off his speed. A sub 4.45 40-time could help him earn a nice paycheck come Draft day, but he will also have to show he’s become more reliable on intermediate routes to be any more than a mid-late round flyer.
Ryan Davis, WR, 5’9” 185 lbs - The opposite of Slayton, Ryan Davis comes out of Auburn as a do-it-all slot receiver. He’s not going to beat anyone deep, and at his size, he’s going to have to rely on route running to get open. He has shown above average vision with the ball and solid hands, which will have to be a calling card for him in the League. If Davis can impress in the 3 cone drill with his agility, in might make a few scouts more comfortable with his athletic skill set, but Davis is has his work cut out for him in getting drafted.
Dontavious Russell, DT, 6’3” 320 lbs - The four year starter at defensive tackle has found himself in a tough position as he prepares for the Draft: how do you show off your NFL talent when your main job is to create opportunities for others? Russell is as big and strong as they come, which meant he was often the target of double teams in the middle of the line. He was never a stat sheet stuffer, and his highlights reel is pretty short if you’re the Sportscenter type. He might be the first Tiger picked come Draft day, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Russell play a long time in the NFL. Explosiveness has been a question mark for him, so a good score on the jumps would help his stock.
Deshaun Davis, LB, 5’11”, 245 lbs - Probably the most important player on the defense last year, Davis’s presence will be sorely missed next year. Coming in under six feet, he already carries the “undersized” label. Despite that, Davis was as productive as any linebacker in the SEC throughout his career, and has shown time and time again that his awareness of the game helps him put himself in position to make plays he shouldn’t otherwise be able to make. Unfortunately, that doesn’t show up at the Combine (outside of the interviews, which are... bleh). Davis won’t be an early round selection, but a decent enough Combine might make him the first Auburn linebacker drafted in over a decade.
Jamel Dean, CB, 6’2” 208 lbs - How’d those medical evaluations work out for ya, Ohio State? After being told by Ohio State he wouldn’t qualify due to medical reasons, Dean was a steadying force in the secondary for Auburn the last two seasons, first pairing with Carlton Davis then taking over for the now-Buccaneer this past season. Dean has the size to match up well with NFL receivers, but he’ll have to go to a team that wants him to play more of a press coverage.