Mel Kiper Offers NFL Draft Insight on Auburn Football Players Duke Williams, Sammie Coates and Nick Marshall


ESPN analyst Mel Kiper gave some NFL Draft insight Thursday on three Auburn football players via conference call. The longtime draft guru discussed the professional prospects of senior quarterback Nick Marshall and junior wide receivers Duke Williams and Sammie Coates.

Kiper, like many analysts, doesn’t see Marshall as a quarterback at the next level. Instead, he feels Marshall will be a late round pick as a defensive back, potentially a safety.

“You project them to wide receiver, some move to running back, or that safety spot,” Kiper said. “For Nick Marshall, that’s a possibility. I could see him in the fourth round, fifth-round picks as a DB.”

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The 6-foot-1, 210-pound QB has some experience in the secondary. He played cornerback at Georgia as a true freshman.

“There’s no doubt he’s a very talented guy and he’s playing quarterback as well as anybody in the league and probably in the country,” Georgia head football coach Mark Richt said before this year’s game against Auburn.

“We certainly looked at him as that, the possibility, but we believed he could be one of the best cornerbacks in America. We believe he could be a very high draft pick as a corner as well. He’s that talented of a guy.”

Marshall has proven to be a multi-talented quarterback. This season, Marshall has completed 163 of 271 passes (60.1%) for 2,315 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions and added 780 yards one the ground. The Georgia native is also tied for the team lead with 11 rushing touchdowns.

He earned a spot in the school record books with a single-game high of 456 passing yards in a 55-44 loss to Alabama in the regular season finale.

Nov 29, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) throws the ball in the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

But it sounds like Marshall would be open to making the switch, although he’s still holding out hope to play quarterback.

“It’s just something I have to think about,” Marshall said earlier this year. “As of right now, I’m open to play anything, but I’m looking to play quarterback.”

Marshall has a very strong arm, and has been an escape artist in the pocket eluding oncoming pass rushers, but there are concerns about his accuracy. Chances are, his best shot at a successful pro career is elsewhere.

Kiper mentioned that transitioning from quarterback to defensive back is less common today than it was in the past.

With NFL offenses more open to mobile quarterbacks such as recent first rounders like Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, players with Marshall’s skill set have gotten longer looks as signal callers recently. Plus, many converted quarterbacks – Denard Robinson, for example – have transitioned to other offensive positions like wide receiver.

However, Kiper pointed out that Marshall’s toughness should help him make the switch.

“You can see the toughness when he’s running with the football, the athleticism, the feet,” Kiper said. “To me, it’s something you’ll look at and say, OK, there’s been some guys who’ve made the move to safety.”

“They’re both similar in terms of where they’ll go,” Kiper said. “Maybe late one, but probably early to mid two.”

Two other players Kiper discussed were junior wideouts D’haquille Williams and Sammie Coates, neither of which have officially declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, but both are considering it.

“They’re both similar in terms of where they’ll go,” Kiper said. “Maybe late one, but probably early to mid two.”

Williams led the Tigers in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches this season despite missing two full games with an injury.

“I think Duke Williams, with his size and physicality and the year he had coming over from the JUCO ranks, if he runs well, he could be in the late-first (round) to early- to mid-second round discussion,” Kiper said.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Williams transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and made an immediate impact with 45 catches for 730 yards and five TDs. He hit the century mark in yards four times this season.

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  • “The smaller corners are going to have trouble with him.”

    Kiper also had kind words for Coates, who led the Tigers in all major receiving categories in 2013 and currently ranks third nationally with a 23.4 yards per catch average.

    “Sammie Coates is not as polished with route running and consistency, but he can beat you vertically down the field and that presents great value,” Kiper said.

    As many fans like to point out, Coates has been inconsistent this season, and he’s a little rough around the edges. However, he’s also a physical freak at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds that is one of the strongest players in the Auburn football program pound for pound. He’s also very likely to perform well in workouts, which will display his sky-high potential.

    And after all, the NFL Draft isn’t about what you did in college, it’s about the potential you have to produce at the next level.

    Finally, the question was asked whether or not coming back to Auburn in 2015 would improve either player’s draft status. Kiper didn’t say no, but he also said both players’ skill sets are pretty much defined.

    In other words, bye Duke and Sammie.

    Next: Latest Will Muschamp Rumors

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