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2011 BCS National Championship: Cam Newton, Nick Fairley On Display For Auburn

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement. writes up two top NFL draft prospects for the Auburn Tigers in Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Auburn faces off against Oregon Monday night at 8:30 (ESPN).

With the departure of Andrew Luck from the draft pool, the first round looks more uncertain than it did a week ago, and the performances of Newton and Fairley could help shape it. Most mock drafts now have Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers or Georgia’s A.J. Green in the top spot, but Newton and Fairley should come only a little thereafter, as both generally rank in the No.-5-to-No.-15 range.

Fairley is a huge defensive tackle who not only wreaks havoc on quarterbacks but has a reputation for playing the game aggressively, to the point that a lot of observers think he’s dirty. Here’s Oregon defensive coordinator Mark Helfrich on Fairley:

“He’s tough. He’s physical in terms of speed, strength, technique. All the things that you don’t want to see as an offensive guy, he’s got. We’re not going to sit there and single-block him all day. We are going to try to change up, as we have with most guys of his ilk. (But) we haven’t played anybody like him. We got our hands full.”

Newton, of course, is the Heisman Trophy winner, but his draft prospects are a little less clear. He has the tools to be an NFL quarterback, but his style at Auburn has been different enough from a pro style to raise questions about how he might make the transition. Mocking The Draft on Newton:

As a pure quarterback, though, Newton is mostly unproven. He plays in a run-option spread and seems to want to pull the ball down too fast. His physical skills – arm strength, athleticism – are unquestionable. But as a passer, Newton still has room to grow. If he enters the NFL Draft in 2011, a team might be more wiling to take a chance on a more proven commodity like Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.