Auburn even worse off than originally thought

Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik (L) and defensive player of the game Nick Fairley kiss the championship trophy after defeating the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you do a Google search for the phrase “Auburn disrespected” it returns 1,160 results (in 0.16 seconds … Congratulations, Google). The Tigers were the defending national champions, yet came into the season ranked No. 23 in Associated Press poll, which ruffled some feathers down in Alabama.

This ranking was obviously wrong. Unfortunately for Auburn, not in the direction it was thinking.

The Tigers looked like a shell of their national-championship selves on Saturday, needing an onside kick and a late rally to defeat Utah State 42-38 at home.

Everyone knew Auburn would be down with the losses of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL, but I don’t think anyone figured it would be this far down. The Tigers were a 24-point favorite against the Aggies, who are better known as that team you sometimes pick to win a couple of games in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Not only did Utah State nearly upset the defending national champion, it controlled the line of scrimmage against it until the final three minutes, when it was in a prevent defense. The Aggies did whatever they wanted offensively, especially on the ground rushing for more than 200 yards, while Auburn struggled to get anything going in the run game. That doesn’t happen in these games. Normally these early-season close calls are born out of turnovers and big plays, not long, sustained touchdown drives.

Maybe Utah State is going to be good this year, who knows. It plays in the WAC, and with Boise State gone, maybe it can make a little run. But that’s irrelevant.

If Auburn has trouble going toe-to-toe with Utah State, imagine how tough it’s going to be when it plays any SEC West opponent? If Utah State runs for 200-plus against Auburn, what will Trent Richardson and Alabama do?

Yes, there are a ton of new starters for the Tigers, so it’s going to take some time to round into shape. But like I said, today was less about execution and more about losing at the point of attack. Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn have a lot of work to do if Auburn has any thoughts of finishing this season in the top 25.

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2011 NFL Draft: Five First Round Surprises

If you’re a fellow draft nerd like myself, you figured that there would be plenty of surprises in the first round on Thursday night. Here are five that caught me off guard.

1. The Falcons trade two drafts worth of picks for Julio Jones.
The fact that the Falcons traded into the top 10 wasn’t surprising. There were pre-draft reports that suggested they would do just that. The fact that they traded 72 picks in order to climb up in order to take him…wow. Make no mistake: Julio Jones is a stud and he’s going to look real good in an offense that already consists of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. But a first, second and a fourth this year, plus a first and a fourth next year is a TON to give up for one player. But hey, GM Thomas Dimitroff knows he has a Super Bowl-caliber roster and he just added an impact player. The loss to the Packers in the playoffs last year proved just how badly the Falcons needed a deep threat that could stretch the defense. Jones fills that need instantly; he just better pan out.

2. Titans take Jake Locker at No. 8.
With Vince Young heading out of town, everyone knew a quarterback was an option for Tennessee at No. 8. But the fact that they passed on Blaine Gabbert, who was arguably the better QB prospect, for Jake Locker was a surprise that not many people saw coming. That said, had Locker came out last year he would have probably be the No. 1 overall pick. But since he struggled as a senior at Washington, draft observers thought he would go in the late first round, or possibly even slip into the second. The Titans obviously were incredibly high on him and he’s going to bring a lot of excitement to Tennessee – at least initially. But consider this: if Locker doesn’t pan out and Gabbert does, not only will it set the Titans back, but Gabbert (whom Tennessee’s AFC South rivals the Jaguars traded up to take at No. 10) could wind up haunting them for years.

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Report: Nick Fairley missed flight, meetings at scouting combine and Pro Day

Auburn Tigers Nick Fairley holds the championship trophy after the Tigers defeated the Oregon Ducks to win the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

More red flags are starting to emerge for Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Fairley missed his flight to the scouting combine, missed a team meeting while he was there and was late for a team interview at his Pro Day. This is a prospect that has a reputation for taking plays off, so this news won’t surprise some observers.

You knew there was something going on when heading into the combine, Fairley was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick and then since that point, his stock has seemingly fallen off a cliff. Granted, nobody knows what teams’ draft boards look like right now, so maybe Fairley will still go among the top 5-10 picks. But there have been more than enough reports that lead you to believe he could fall out of the top 10 because of his work ethic (or lack thereof).

Of course the flip side of this is that Fairley is one hell of a prospect. I mean, this kid could really dominate if he’s motivated, focused and willing to put in the work. His skill set and abilities are off the charts but he doesn’t have the drive of someone like Ndamukong Suh. Or at least, that’s what the perception is and perception is often reality.

Report: Da’Quan Bowers failed at least two physicals

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers’ pre-draft stock continues to take a hit.

One scout told’s Peter King that Bowers “failed at least two physicals that I know of” after having meniscus surgery following the college season. As King points out, three months ago Bowers was a lock to be drafted in the top-5. But if he doesn’t prove to teams that his knee is healthy at his Pro Day on Friday, there’s no telling how far he could fall.

King also had some interesting stuff to say about Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who more and more is being perceived as a “one-year wonder.” Alabama’s Marcell Dareus has already passed Fairley on most team’s draft boards (or at least presumably based on reports), but the real question is how far the former Tiger will fall. Some mock drafts projected Fairley would be taken No. 1 overall by the Panthers before the scouting combine and now it sounds like he’s not even a lock to go in the top-10.

One other tidbit from King: The Bills like Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and Patrick Peterson “a lot.” King isn’t saying that they’ll take either player, but just that they’re high on both. I think the general consensus is that the Bills will go defense at No. 3 and wait until the middle rounds to address their need at quarterback.

2011 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: The Rise of Cam Newton

Auburn Tigers Heisman Trophy wining quarterback Cam Newton warms up for the Tigers game against the Oregon Ducks at the BCS Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, January 10,2011. UPI/Art Foxall

I’ll tell you what sports fans, I don’t know how anyone can compile a mock draft these days without wanting to slam his or her head on their desk about 25 times. I’ve made roughly 6,000 changes to this latest mock since the scouting combine wrapped up and I still hate it.

I hate it!

One thing I don’t hate is the addition John Paulsen has brought to Mock 3.0. He’s a statistical madman and recently thought of the idea to use players’ combine numbers to draw comparisons to prospects from previous years. He explains in more detail below.

More Draft Content: NFL Mock Draft 1.0 | NFL Mock Draft 2.0 | Ten Combine Winners | Ingram’s 40 Time an Issue? | Thoughts on QBs

John: I compared each prospect’s combine scores with players from the last six combines to determine the best athletic comparison. There are eight categories: height, weight, 40-yard dash, shuttle, 3-cone, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press. Not all prospects compete in all six tests, so certain comparisons are more confident than others.

Realize that we’re not suggesting that these players will turn into their comparisons – we’re simply saying that athletically, this is whom each prospect compares to based on their combine numbers.

All right, let’s rock out with our mocks out…what?

No. 1 Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
I’m not going to run from the fact that this is now the sexy mock pick, but it does make sense. Ron Rivera attended Newton’s Pro Day recently and the Auburn QB looked sharp. Blaine Gabbert is still a possibility here and so is Patrick Peterson but at the end of the day, the Panthers might as well go big or go home. There isn’t a more polarizing player in this entire draft than Newton, who is the very definition of “boom or bust.”
Combine Comparisons: Vince Young; Tim Tebow.

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