Behind strong performances from Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, the Auburn Tigers walked away from Glendale, Arizona on Monday with the BCS Championship. Next year, however, they’ll lose both stars, as each has reportedly declared for the 2011 NFL Draft ahead of Saturday’s deadline for early entry. Though each played a starring role in Auburn’s championship, their draft stocks couldn’t be more different.
Cam Newton is the toughest draft pick to nail down. Depending on where you look, he’s either a top-five pick, or somewhere outside the top-10. Nobody can figure out how to project him, with only one year of experience to work with. With Andrew Luck opting to stay at Stanford, the quarterback class took a step back, with none of the four top-flight quarterbacks distancing themselves from the pack yet. If Newton can perform at individual workouts ahead of the draft, and wow scouts with his physical ability, he could be that top quarterback. But with all the unknowns surrounding him, it’s nearly impossible to predict where he’ll go.
Nick Fairley, on the other hand, is almost assuredly a top-three pick. Fairley dominated the BCS Championship, leaving a lasting impression on all those that watched. There's almost no chance he falls out of the top-five, and it's possible he jumps into the mix for the No. 1 overall pick. Fairley is simple too good at the defensive tackle spot, for teams to pass on him when April rolls around. In that regard, it’s easy to predict where he’ll end up.
Which of the two Auburn stars will have the most success in the NFL? The experts seem to believe it’s Fairley, judging by where his draft stock is compared to Newton’s. But if Newton pans out at the next level, his upside is through the roof and he could turn out to be the better player five or 10 years down the line.