What Auburn Football Players Are Considering Leaving Early for the 2015 NFL Draft?


Two Auburn football players are likely to leave school early and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, but there are three others that may be considering it as well.

As much as Auburn football fans would love to see them on the field again next season, D’haquille Williams and Sammie Coates are as good as gone.

UPDATE: Sammie Coates is officially gone

The main reason? They are both expected to be taken in either the first or second round of draft next spring.

“They’re both similar in terms of where they’ll go,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said during a recent conference call. “Maybe late one, but probably early to mid two.”

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Kiper can’t see the future, and he’s not always correct, but he’s been covering the draft for a long time and knows what NFL talent evaluators are looking for. And he knows they’ll drool over the size and pure athleticism Williams and Coates possess.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Williams is a big, physical receiver that will create a lot of mismatch opportunities at the next level.

“The talent level is there,” Kiper said. “The smaller corners in the NFL are going to have trouble with him but he’s got to round off his game, he’s got to become more complete, he’s got to understand the intricacies of playing the receiver position. It’s not just running down the field and then making a play. There’s a lot more into it.”

Coates is also a strong receiver (and one of the strongest players on the roster pound for pound), but he struggled at times with drops this season. He’s rougher around the edges than Williams, particularly as a route runner, but he’s a burner that can blow by defenders.

“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.

Also, Coates graduated Saturday. In addition to a lot of praise from analysts like Kiper and knowing he will perform very well in pre-draft workouts, already having a degree could make it very easy decision.

But we knew Williams and Coates were considering taking their talents to the professional ranks. Who else is also pondering a jump to the NFL?

Kiper didn’t mention any of them, but the most likely candidates are junior linebackers Casanova McKinzy and Kris Frost.

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (8) in action against the Florida State Seminoles during the second half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

McKinzy has great size at 6-foot-3 and 249 pounds, and he has been very productive in his career with the Tigers. This season, the Birmingham native has 82 total tackles, which ranks second on the squad. McKinzy tallied a team-high ten tackles for a loss with 1.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

He had 75 stops in 2013, which led the squad. As a sophomore, he also had six tackles for a loss, two sacks and an interception.

Frost is the team’s third leading tackler with 75. The North Carolinian was second on the defensive unit with nine TFLs and registered 2.5 sacks and a team-leading three forced fumbles. Frost gave the Tigers a pass rushing threat they desperately needed and ranked third on the team with 11 quarterback hurries. He also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

One thing that could play a factor in a decision of both is the fact that if they choose to come back, McKinzy and Frost will be playing under their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. Brian VanGorder led the defense in 2012 under head coach Gene Chizik, but Ellis Johnson came on board when Gus Malzahn was hired as the head coach prior to the 2013 season.

Now, Will Muschamp is in charge. That means the pair will have to learn a third scheme in four seasons, and probably a new position – again. Mackenzie was an outside linebacker in 2013, and Frost played the middle linebacker position. In spring practices this season, Johnson flipped them.

“I think (McKinzy) has done some good things,” Malzahn said in November. “Him and Kris both, I think have responded well to moving to those positions. I think they are getting more comfortable each game.”

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  • But would they be more comfortable in a new system?

    With Muschamp on board, he’ll install a multiple defense that utilized both four and three -man fronts, meaning three and four linebackers on the field at the time instead of Johnson’s base two-linebacker scheme.

    On paper, McKinzy appears to be a perfect fit for Muschamp’s “Buck” linebacker position, which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position that Dante Fowler, Jr. played at Florida (and played well enough that he could be a first round pick this spring). However, that would also mean learning a whole new set of roles and responsibilities (plus more the following year when he made it to the NFL).

    Maybe McKinzy, and Frost might want to skip that extra step and make the jump to the pros. Of course, Muschamp is one of the best defensive minds in the game. A year under his tutelage could make McKinzy and Frost better all-around players, and therefore, higher draft picks.

    Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, is offensive lineman Avery Young.

    A 6-foot-6, 309-pound draft-eligible sophomore, Young started all 12 games for the Tigers this season and started nine others in 2013. He’s been  a valuable and versatile member of the offensive line, and has played right tackle and right and left guard. Young has a very bright future, and losing him would be a blow to the Tigers.

    What are the odds Williams and Coates come back to Auburn next season? Not good.

    What are the odds McKinzy, Frost and Young come back? Much better. Until recently, we hadn’t heard much about the latter trio considering making the jump.

    That said, all three are talented enough to do so and are likely to play in the NFL once their Auburn days are done. If the talent evaluations project them high enough, it could be sooner rather than later.

    Next: What Will Muschamp Brings to Auburn

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