Carnell Williams or Ronnie Brown? Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams?
That's the question many NFL teams sitting at the top of the draft are asking themselves as the two Auburn running backs battle (along with Cedric Benson of Texas) to be the first runner taken in the 2005 draft.
But there's another Auburn player creeping up the draft boards with his own designs at being the top pick at his position.
"I want to be the first cornerback taken, no doubt," said Carlos Rogers, who anchored a Tigers defense that led the nation in scoring defense. "Hopefully it will be in the top 10. But I just want to be the first corner taken and I'm trying to do everything and take advantage of every opportunity I can to try and be that."
It won't be an easy task with Miami's Antrel Rolle and West Virginia's Adam "Pac Man" Jones also ranking high on several boards, but Rogers certainly has the credentials to merit an early call on draft day. As a senior, Rogers won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, and was a consensus All-American.
But Rogers almost didn't stick around to pick up the accolades as he strongly considered entering the draft after his junior season. The potential the Tigers showed and the desire to raise his draft stock kept Rogers in college, however, and both decisions paid off in big ways. The Tigers completed a perfect 13-0 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl and Rogers rose from a mid-round pick to a surefire first-round selection.
It wasn't with superb stats that Rogers became a hot name on draft lists--he had just two interceptions and ranked fifth on the Auburn defense with 47 tackles his senior season. But those numbers are a sign of respect as teams stayed away from Rogers' side of the field, throwing his way on only 65 of 329 pass attempts during the regular season and completing only 20 percent of those.
So, after a season of seeing little action come his way, how will Rogers react when NFL teams see a rookie lined up in man coverage and he becomes a prime target?
"I'm looking forward to that challenge. I'll have to prove that I'm a good player and not just an easy first down," Rogers said.
To do that, Rogers will rely on the skills, speed and size he showed at Auburn and put on display at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Measuring at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Rogers compares his game to Charles Woodson and Chris McAllister, physical corners who are not afraid to help in run support. Rogers also possesses the speed needed to play the position, clocking a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
But while showing all the measurables NFL teams desire, Rogers knows he can't rely solely on his athletic ability and plans to work on his technique constantly to be a force at the next level.
"In college you can get away with little flaws here and there and the receivers aren't as good and your speed can catch up with them," Rogers said. "But I think I just need to stay better on my technique on every play and not get sloppy with that."
And with cornerbacks in high demand this offseason in free agency and the draft, Rogers should have no problems finding a team willing to let him learn on the job, whether he's the first corner taken or not.
As for the Williams-Brown running back debate, Rogers has his own take on his former teammates.
"I think both guys will bring something special to the team they go to," he said.