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Sept 17, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Tiger Walk during Auburn vs Penn State Mandatory Credit: Zach Bland / AU Athletics

Sept 17, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Tiger Walk during Auburn vs Penn State Mandatory Credit: Zach Bland / AU Athletics

An Auburn fan's guide to the 2023 NFL Draft

Today is the start of one of the best weeks in football for college and professional fans alike. This week, the 2023 NFL Draft will take place in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, April 27th and will conclude on Sunday, April 30th. Hundreds of former college athletes from all across the country are hoping to hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell call their name out on draft night. These hopefuls include 13 former Auburn Tigers. 

On the defensive side EDGES Derick Hall and Eku Leota, defensive ends Colby Wooden and Marcus Bragg, linebacker Owen Pappoe, defensive tackle Marquis Burks and defensive lineman Morris Joseph Jr. have all declared for the draft.

The six other tigers eager to get that phone call include running back Tank Bigsby, Tight End John Samuel Shenker, Wide Receiver Shedrick Jackson, Offensive Linemen Brandon Council and Kilian Zierer, as well as Kicker Anders Carlson.

If you need a refresher on these former players, below is a quick breakdown of each Auburn Tiger who has declared for the draft to prepare you for draft night. 

Derick Hall:

Auburn’s former team captain, Derick Hall is known all around Auburn for not only his skills on the field but for being a true Auburn man. It is no shock that he is projected as early as the first round in some mock drafts. 

Hall was Auburn’s starting EDGE for the past three seasons. The former 4-star recruit recorded 146 total tackles, 19.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception across his four years at Auburn.  

Some of his accolades include coaches 1st team All-SEC in 2022, coaches 2nd team All-SEC in 2021, the Rotary Lombardi Award mid-season watch list, Jason Witten Man of the Year semifinalist, recipient of the national Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award, and invites to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the 2023 NFL Combine. 

The Gulfport, Mississippi native has been vocal about how much Auburn means to him and the opportunity to represent the Tigers on draft night.

“I’ll forever be indebted to this place," said Hall. "My mom dropped me off here as a 17-year-old boy and I just turned 22 leaving out on Pro Day. This place has been great for me and my family. We’re looking forward to coming back every opportunity we get.” 

The senior is projected to be drafted in the first or second round among many mock drafts. In one of NFL Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein’s mock drafts he has Hall going 31st overall in the first round to the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Other mock drafts include the 6’3” 254 lbs EDGE heading to Tampa Bay alongside former Auburn Tigers Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and K.J. Britt with the 50th overall pick (Jordan Reid, ESPN) or Detroit (Matt Miller, ESPN) with the 55th selection in the second round.

Tank Bigsby:

This next guy is no stranger. Tank Bigsby has been Auburn’s star running back for the past three seasons. 

Bigsby rushed for 2,903 yards throughout his time at Auburn, which ranks as the 7th most in program history. The junior scored 25 touchdowns as well as had 13 100-yard games. His freshman year he earned SEC Freshman of the Year and 2nd team All-SEC. The former 4-star recruit is also 2nd among Auburn freshman rushers with 834 yards.

The Atlanta, Georgia native is projected to be drafted somewhere between the third and fifth round. Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports even has him as the first tiger off the board with the 66th overall pick in the third round going to the Arizona Cardinals. ESPN’s Jordan Reid has Bigsby going to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 88th pick, and CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso has him heading to Tampa Bay with the 99th pick filling the Buccaneers’ hole in the roster for running backs. 

No matter where he gets drafted, Bigsby is just excited to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “We work so hard all our lives to get here. It means everything to me to get this opportunity, and I’m going to take advantage of it every chance I get.” 

Owen Pappoe:

Next up we have “The Freak.” Auburn’s starting linebacker for all four years garnered media attention after the 2023 NFL Combine, where he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker at 4.39 seconds and the most bench press reps with 29. At Auburn’s Pro Day, he stated, “After the Combine, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from different teams, a whole bunch of meetings.” 

Even with his junior season cut short due to injury, Pappoe recorded 257 tackles, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions as a two-year captain for the Tigers. He is only the 4th Auburn player in history to be voted team captain for 2 consecutive seasons. 

At 6’0” and 225 lbs, the former 5-star recruit scored a high of 89 for his athleticism score at the Combine, placing just in 2nd in his position. His other achievements across his time on the plains include Preseason All-SEC 1st team in 2021, All-SEC 3rd team in 2022, Butkus Award semifinalist, and invites to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.  

The former captain says the draft is a dream come true, “I’m finally walking in my dreams and living them. All we can do now is wait for the draft and see what happens.”

He is projected to be drafted around the third or fourth round. NFL Draft Analyst Chad Reuter has the linebacker going to the Seattle Seahawks with the 83rd pick while ESPN’s Jordan Reid has him going 87th overall to the Minnesota Vikings in the third round.

Colby Wooden:

“Extremely competitive with excellent work ethic.” That is what the NFL Combine tracker lists as defensive end Colby Wooden’s top strength.  This was shown throughout Wooden’s four years at Auburn. A three-year starter for the Tigers, he never missed a game as a starter and played every position on the defensive line, showing his versatility and work ethic. 

The Georgia native recorded 152 total tackles, 17 sacks, and three forced fumbles in his time on the Plains. One of those forced fumbles is the iconic moment when Wooden told his teammates prior he was going to strip sack Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman, and he did. This strip sack forced fumble was the moment that sealed the win.

The former 4-star recruit is excited to be apart of the 2023 NFL Draft and to celebrate with his family, including his younger brother, Auburn safety Caleb Wooden. “Its going to be exciting and emotional in the Wooden household come draft day.”

Wooden has earned accolades including SEC All-freshman team in 2020, Preseason All-SEC 3rd team in 2021, 3rd team All-SEC in 2022, team defensive lineman of the year in 2022 and an invite to the 2023 NFL Combine.

The defensive end is projected to be drafted between rounds three and five of the draft. He has been predicted to head to the Buffalo Bills with the 71st pick (Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports) or the Minnesota Vikings with the 87th pick (Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, ESPN).

Eku Leota:

“KUUU!” If you have been to Jordan-Hare this season, you have for sure heard the chant. That is the nickname for Auburn EDGE, Eku Leota. 

Having transferred from Northwestern after two years, Leota also spent two years at Auburn.  He recorded 65 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles throughout his collegiate career. 

Despite a season-ending pectoral injury early on in 2022, the senior still earned invites to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Before Auburn, Leota earned 3rd-team All-Big Ten honors at Northwestern in 2020. 

The former 3-star recruit is projected to possibly be drafted late in the final round. CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards has the Asheville, North Carolina native being chosen 251st by the Los Angeles Rams.

Proud of his Samoan culture, Leota looks to become one of the many NFL players of Polynesian descent. He even refers to his Auburn family as his “aiga.” “That’s the word I use when I’m around my brothers here at Auburn, big family. It’s very big in the Samoan culture as well. Family is the Number 1 thing.” It is known that the Samoan Islands have produced the highest number of NFL players, could Eku be one of them?

Anders Carlson:

Auburn’s next prospect is no stranger to the NFL. In fact, it is in his blood. The Tigers’ starting kicker for the past five seasons, Anders Carlson, is also looking to be drafted. He looks to follow his brother, Daniel Carlson’s footsteps into the league. 

Although his last two seasons were cut short due to a torn ACL in 2021 and a shoulder injury In 2022, the Colorado native still managed to make 79 field goals and score 410 points. He is second in both categories, only behind his brother. 

The No. 1 kicker in the 2017 class, Carlson was a NFF Campbell Trophy finalist, a Bobby Bowden Award finalist, a member of the SEC community service team, All-SEC first team in 2020, Preseason All-SEC second team in both 2019 and 2021, and had an invite to the NFL Combine. He also was the first 3 time Academic All-American in program history.

Carlson is projected to be a priority undrafted free agent.

Shedrick Jackson:

Speaking of famous relatives, this next Auburn Tiger also has some NFL genes. Former Auburn Wide Receiver Shedrick Jackson is the nephew of the legendary Bo Jackson and he too has the dream of being in the league. 

He made headlines at Auburn’s Pro Day when he ran an unofficial time of 4.25 in the 40-yard dash. After not being invited to the Combine, Jackson knew this was his chance to prove himself, “It was a great feeling to finally have all that hard work finally be put on display, I’ve been working really hard.” This is the fastest 40-yard dash in Auburn history and the third-fastest time in NFL history.

During his time at Auburn, the Alabama native had 66 career catches for 874 yards.

Jackson is projected to be an undrafted free agent.

John Samuel Shenker:

The 3rd and final team captain of the 2022 season was no other than tight end John Samuel Shenker. 

Shenker was a three-year starter for the Tigers and had 68 catches for 779 yards and 3 touchdowns across 5 seasons. He is the Auburn record holder for tight end career catches and is 2nd in Tight End receiving yardage. 

Like teammate Shedrick Jackson, the former 3-star recruit drew attention at Auburn’s Pro Day when he completed 27 bench press reps. The most any tight end got at the Combine was 23.

Shenker is predicted to be undrafted.

Brandon Council:

Auburn has two of its former offensive linemen hoping to go pro. One of them being Brandon Council.

Council was on the Plains for three years after having transferred from Akron, where he was a three-year starter. Despite needing to have knee surgery before the 2021 season, the 6-4 328 lbs lineman played all five offensive line positions at both Auburn and Akron.

The North Carolina native had nothing but praise for Auburn. “My overall experience is nothing short of amazing. It’s just the family, the atmosphere, how they welcome you back here with open arms. There’s no other place I’d rather be.”

Although first projected to be undrafted, Council has garnered some NFL interest recently. An NFL front office executive stated, “Council can play every position on the o-line which is a big plus for a day three guy. Having that versatility helps a team because they know they can plug him in if someone goes down. Also, shows his football IQ to be able to play multiple positions.”

Council has been said to have met with over 10 teams including the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Commanders and Houston Texans.

Kilian Zierer:

The Tigers’ other offensive lineman who has declared for the draft is Kilian Zierer. 

Hailing all the way from Munich, Germany, Zierer did not start playing football until he was 16 years old. He quickly fell in love with the game and first attended junior college at the College of Canyons before transferring to the Plains. He was the No. 1 JUCO prospect nationally for his position when he was recruited by Auburn.

Even though he tore his ACL before the 2020 season, the 6-7 312 lbs lineman was a starter for every game in 2022. He also was invited and played in the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl where he was able to showcase his talents to NFL scouts. 

Despite being projected to be an undrafted free agent, the European native stated that he has spoken with many teams including the Las Vegas Raiders and Atlanta Falcons. “I spoke to so many teams, I can’t begin to remember which ones I did and didn’t spend time with. I think it was more than twenty teams in the end.”

Marquis Burks:

Another former JUCO attendee, Marquis Burks is dreaming of getting that phone call. 

The Defensive Tackle played at Auburn the past three seasons after transferring from Iowa Central Community College where has was first team All- Public League Selection and was fourth in his position nationally among JUCO prospects.

The Chicago native recorded 30 career tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles during his time on the Plains.

Burks is predicted to be undrafted. 

Marcus Bragg:

Marcus Bragg is the next hopeful Auburn man. 

The Defensive End only played at Auburn for one season as a graduate transfer after attending junior colleges at Mississippi Delta Community College and Arizona Western and after spending three seasons at Western Kentucky.

His career stats in Division I include 53 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble.

The Miami, Florida native is predicted to go undrafted. 

Morris Joseph Jr: 

Last but not least, is Morris Joseph Jr. The defensive lineman has high hopes of being drafted into the NFL, just like his cousin Dak Prescott. 

After spending four years at Memphis, Joseph Jr. transferred to Auburn as a graduate transfer. In his collegiate career, he had 131 tackles, 10.5 sacks and was fourth-team All-AAC at Memphis.

However, the Texas native is also projected to be an undrafted free agent.

Well, there you have it, a history of all 13 of the Auburn players who are hoping to start their professional careers in the league. Check back here for updates when each Tiger gets drafted and/or signed.