Three former Auburn stars were taken in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft Friday night. Here is a look at the three future-NFL rookies:
Braden Smith – Indianapolis Colts – 37th overall pick
Auburn's Braden Smith became the first Tiger player to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Smith was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2nd round and 37th overall pick of the draft.
As a first-team All-American in his senior season, Smith quickly became the replacement for offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who was the second-overall pick in 2014, as a freshman. Helping pave the way for 1,000-yard rushers all four of his seasons on the line, Smith then became the focal point of the Auburn offensive line.
"Braden Smith is one of the best I’ve coached," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn tweeted. "The @Colts are going to love him. Congrats Braden!"
Coming out of high school, Smith was the top-rated offensive guard recruit in the country by 247Sports. The Olathe, Kansas, native played in all 13 games his freshman season, including a start against Wisconsin in an Outback Bowl loss.
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Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said that Smith was "stronger than train smoke" despite being fresh out of high school.
Some NFL analysts believe that Smith is both "underrated" and ready to start day one as a professional.
"I think Braden Smith's the most underrated of this group," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "I think if you get into the third round for Braden Smith, you've got a plug-and-play rookie."
Smith joins the Colts' first-round draft pick, Quenton Nelson, as future starters along the Colts' frontline. Nelson, an offensive guard out of Notre Dame, was the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. The Colts allowed a NFL-leading 56 sacks last season, which made the offensive line a priority in the draft. Indianapolis ranked 22nd out of 32 NFL teams in rushing last season. With Nelson and Smith aboard, the Colts will look to shift its offensive line from a liability into a strength.
Braden Smith (71) blocks Trenton Thompson (78) in the first half vs. Georgia on Nov. 11. File Photo.
Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – 43rd overall pick
One of Auburn’s all-time great backs has found his new home.
Kerryon Johnson was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 43rd overall pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was the second Auburn player to hear his name called in the draft.
"This is an extreme honor," Johnson said. "It’s a great football team and I’m ready to get in and go to work.”
Johnson was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year after carrying the Tigers to 10 wins and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.
Johnson racked up an SEC-leading 1,391 rushing yards along with leading the conference with 19 touchdowns in his final season at Auburn. He also snagged two receiving touchdowns, most notably a 55-yard catch-and-run to put the nail in Georgia’s coffin in the Tigers’ 40-17 rout of the Bulldogs.
Johnson was named First Team All-SEC during his final season on The Plains.
The Madison, Alabama, native finished his Auburn career with 2,494 yards and 34 total touchdowns in his three seasons for the Tigers.
"I’m very thankful for the spot that I went in," Johnson said. "It could be way later, it could be way earlier, who cares. I went in this spot and that’s where I was meant to go and that’s where I went. Props to those guys that got drafted just like I did. We’re all equally happy, I promise you that.”
"One of the best to come thru Auburn," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn tweeted. "The @Lions got a great one!"
The Lions ranked last in the NFL last season with just 3.4 yards per carry by their tailbacks. Johnson will join former All-Pro quarterback Matthew Stafford in the backfield as Detroit looks to build on a top-ten offense last season.
"I love this pick," CBS Sports noted on its draft tracker. "The Lions have their lead runner. He will be a big-time producer on the ground."
Kerryon Johnson (21) runs the ball in the first half vs. Alabama on Nov. 25. File Photo.
Carlton Davis – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 63rd overall
Add another to the list of Auburn players taken in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Carlton Davis was picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round with the 63rd overall pick. The former standout defensive back will look to improve/bolster a Buccaneers team that ranked last in the league in passing defense last season.
Often compared to All-Pro corner Richard Sherman for his ability to crowd and bully wideouts into the boundary, Davis declared for the draft following the completion of his junior season on The Plains.
The Miami, Florida, product emerged from high school as a physically imposing, four-star athlete. In 38 games over his three years, Davis started in 32, accumulating 138 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles.
After earning All-American honors his junior year and All-SEC accolades his junior and sophomore seasons, Davis began to garner "buzz" from NFL coaches due to his stature and physical style of play.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein scouted that given the right defensive scheme, Davis "could become a high-impact starter."
“(Scouts) love his size, his toughness, his grit, the ways he plays the position on the island,” NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said. “And so anytime you can find bigger corners that can move in transition and kind of give you the toughness and tackling that you see from him on the edge, you like that.”
The Buccaneers ranked last in the NFL last season allowing 260.6 passing yards per game. Tampa Bay also ranked ninth-worst in the NFL allowing 23.9 points per game. The Buccaneers used two of their three second round picks to select defensive backs, drafting M.J. Stewart from North Carolina with the 53rd overall pick and Davis 10 picks later. Davis will likely see playing time early in his NFL career as the Bucs look to bolster the worst pass defense in the NFL in 2018.
"You talk about long corners with the ability to play press coverage, this is your guy," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "When you draw it up, this is what it looks like. An impressive specimen."
Carlton Davis (6) celebrates after a fourth-down stop vs. Alabama on Nov. 25. File Photo.
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