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Auburn, Bama figure to have big draft presence

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2014 at 4:23 pm •  Published: May 6, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers will have a significant presence in the NFL draft for the first time since Cam Newton left.

Alabama's NFL pipeline, meanwhile, is still flowing strongly as ever.

The Tigers' Greg Robinson is projected as a Top-5 pick on Thursday while defensive end/linebacker Dee Ford is considered a likely late first-rounder. Tailback Tre Mason is expected to follow a round or two later.

It's another major turnaround for a team that played for a national championship immediately after an awful season. Auburn has had only one player drafted each of the past two years, both third-rounders, since Newton and Nick Fairley went No. 1 and No. 13 overall in 2011.

The renewed draft presence could be a boon, especially in selling the program to recruits.

"Recruits want to go places to have a chance to win championships and go to the next level," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday. "When you establish yourself as one of those teams, it does nothing but help.

"We've got a handful of guys that have an opportunity to be drafted. Some will sign (as free agents). This will be a deep group."

Nobody's outdone the Tide in the draft in recent years and Nick Saban's team could set a program record for most total picks, including projected first-rounders Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, C.J. Mosley and Cyrus Kouandjio and probable early-round pick quarterback AJ McCarron.

Alabama has at least a dozen players deemed candidates to be picked somewhere amid the seven rounds, though some could wind up free agents. The Tide's previous high was 10 draft picks in 1945.

Alabama has produced 14 first-rounders and 33 overall picks the past five years, while winning three national titles.

Part of the draft depth is because three underclassmen who aren't projected first-rounders joined Clinton-Dix and Kouandjio in leaving early.

Eleven of the 13 who previously skipped their senior seasons under Saban have been taken in the opening round.

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