The 2021 NFL Draft wrapped up this weekend with four former Auburn Tigers hearing their names called. Now NFL Draft experts will begin to turn their attention towards the 2022 class. There aren’t any obvious 1st round picks right now on Auburn’s roster but quite a few that could see their stock soar this fall especially in the Tigers’ new offensive and defensive schemes. Here’s a look at who has a great chance at hearing their name called this time next year.
#23 CB Roger McCreary | 6’0” | 190 lbs
McCreary was listed as a top 100 prospect on a number of NFL Draft sites and surprised some folks when he announced his intentions to come back. The former 3-star prospect has blossomed into one of the top corners in the SEC and will have a chance to prove he’s worth a 1st round selection this fall. Etheridge specifically mentioned earlier this spring that McCreary has all the athletic ability to be elite, it’s just about improving his football IQ.
“[McCreary] has the skill set to play on Sundays,” Etheridge said. “I mean, every single day with Roger is he comes up to my office. The biggest is improving your football IQ and making sure that you’re studying the game and not just playing on athletic ability. So he’s going to be a special player.”
I think it’s safe to say the former Williamson standout has a very good chance of continuing Auburn’s recent streak of putting cornerbacks in the NFL.
Dreshun Miller | 6’1” | 195 lbs
The West Virginia transfer isn’t even on campus yet but it’s hard not to include him on this list. The Georgia native was a breakout star in Morgantown, WV and is aiming to be one and done on the Plains. PFF ranks him as one of the best returning cornerbacks in the country. Competition is stiff to see the field in this Auburn secondary but if Miller wins a starting spot as expected don’t be surprised if the Tigers have two cornerbacks drafted in the first 3 rounds next year.
#0 Owen Pappoe | 6’1” | 226 lbs
A former 5-star, Pappoe has been a starter for the Tigers since signing in 2019. He heads into his junior season with an opportunity to emerge as one of the best backers in the country. An athletic freak, Pappoe might not have the length you usually look for at linebacker but has the speed NFL teams covet at this position in today’s game. He will need to improve in his ability to shed blocks and continue to improve in coverage to up his stock but a team will undoubtedly take him based off his athletic ability alone next spring.
#9 Zakoby McClain | 6’0” | 219 lbs
McClain was arguably Auburn’s best linebacker last fall recording 113 tackles. His size will likely limit his draft stock but he has the opportunity to thrive in Derek Mason’s scheme this fall and make it difficult for a team not to take a chance on him in next year’s draft. Like Pappoe, proving he can consistently shed blocks in the box despite his smaller size will be big for his chances in the 2022 NFL Draft.
#21 Smoke Monday | 6’3” | 199 lbs
A lot of folks thought Monday would join Jamien Sherwood in jumping to the NFL but the former 4-star elected to return for one more season. He likely made that decision knowing that he didn’t necessarily put NFL tape out last fall. Top end speed is a concern and unlike Sherwood he doesn’t have the size to serve as a hybrid backer at the next level. This fall it’s going to be about proving he can limit busts and improve his coverage ability.
#25 Colby Wooden | 6’5” | 278 lbs
A redshirt sophomore, Wooden will be draft eligible this fall. He was a breakout star on Auburn’s defense last season leading the team in tackles for loss. NFL teams might wonder about fit at the next level given his size but he’ll have a chance in Mason’s system to show his versatility. While I expect Wooden will likely be back in 2022, another strong campaign this fall could result in the former 3-star deciding to make the leap.
#10 Bo Nix | 6’3” | 214 lbs
Ok stop laughing, I am being serious here. Nix will be a junior this fall and NFL Draft eligible. Obviously, his play has been far from NFL good but there’s no question he possesses the tools to be so. It’s all about becoming more consistent and improving his accuracy and decision making. The QB position is always the most volatile every draft cycle. No one though Joe Burrow, Zac Wilson, or Mac Jones would be 1st round picks at this time in the process. If things click for Nix in Bryan Harsin and Mike Bobo’s new system, watch out.
#71 Brandon Council | 6’4” | 335 lbs
The Akron transfer missed spring practice and will have to earn his spot back in the starting rotation this fall. But he was without question the Tigers best offensive lineman last fall before his injury. If he can regain his form, his versatility makes him a possible late round candidate for a team looking to shore up depth up front.