The winner of the Auburn-Missouri matchup may need some help from the BCS system to get a chance to play for the National Championship, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get to enjoy a terrific game. This contest features several top draft prospects. The most intriguing matchup will be how Auburn’s Greg Robinson holds up against Missouri’s Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Jon Dove breaks down the top prospects in this game.
Greg Robinson/T/ Auburn: Greg Robinson has used this season to put himself on the map and has a legitimate chance to move into the early part of the first round. He features a rare combination of size and athleticism. Robinson is the type of player who’ll consistently generate a push off the line of scrimmage. The most attractive part of Robinson’s game is his versatility—especially in the run game. He’s not just a road-grader who relies on his size and strength, as he also has the quickness off the ball to cross the face of the defender and seal. This makes him a fit for either a zone or power blocking scheme. My main concern surrounding Robinson is his lack of experience protecting the quarterback. Auburn is a run heavy team and when they do pass it’s rarely in a conventional fashion. Robinson shows the quickness, balance and bend needed to hold up in pass protection. However, this is still part of his game that’s very raw. 1st Round
Michael Sam/DE/Missouri : Michael Sam may lack the ideal measurements NFL evaluators look for in a defensive end, but there’s no denying the impact he has on the game. He has proven to be a disruptive force who consistently wreaks havoc in the offensive backfield. Sam features a good initial burst, high motor and change of direction ability. He’s able to hold up against the run because of his commitment to keeping his pads down and hand usage. However, I have concerns about his arm length. There is also a question on what position will give Sam the best chance to make the most of his talents. At this point, defensive end in a 4-3 system seems like the best fit. 2nd Round
Kony Ealy/DE/Missouri: Unlike his teammate Sam, Kony Ealy has the size and length most look for in a defensive end prospect. He uses his long arms to create space and work his way into the backfield. He has the quickness and overall athleticism to attack the edge. Ealy’s ability to set the edge against the run is an underrated part of his game. While he’s not a dominant run defender, he does enough to force runners back into the middle of the field. The biggest issue for Ealy right now is his lack of consistency. He flashes the ability to be an elite pass rusher, but has yet to play at that level on a week-to-week basis. A positive is that his up and down play isn’t tied to effort. Ealy may just need more time and coaching to reach his full potential. 2nd Round
Tre Mason/RB/Auburn : Tre Mason has been one of my favorite running back prospects dating back to last season. He has a compact build and the burst needed to break off long runs. Mason is a versatile runner capable of working the edges and picking up yards between the tackles. I absolutely love how he finishes each run with power. Mason reminds me of a more explosive version of Ray Rice. To reach that level, he needs to improve his ability to contribute in the passing game. 2nd Round
E.J. Gaines/CB/Missouri: Admittedly, I need to do more work on E.J. Gaines but so far I like what I’ve seen. He’s a long cornerback prospect who might even be able to make the move to safety. Missouri likes to match Gaines up with bigger targets where he shows a willingness to get physical. Gaines has the fluidity to flip his hips in man coverage, but I have some questions about his ability to exceed in a zone system. He doesn’t show great click-and-close ability which is sort of surprising because he does a good job keeping his pads down in his backpedal. Overall, this is someone with upside but a prospect I need to spend more time evaluating. 3rd Round
Dee Ford/DE-OLB/Auburn: Dee Ford has proven to be a top-notch college pass rusher, but he lacks the elite burst needed to dominate at the next level. He relies on his hand usage, effort and snap awareness to generate pressure. His willingness to use proper technique is why he has a chance to have some impact at the next level. Because of his lack of size, Ford is looking at a move to linebacker in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the length or bulk needed to hold up against the run from the defensive end position. This necessary transition causes more of an issue because I have questions on whether or not he’s athletic enough to make this move. 5th Round