Analyzing The Detroit Lions’ Acquisitions From the University Of Auburn.
This is the seventh article in a 12-part series that will examine which colleges have been the best at producing Detroit Lions in the 21st century. Today will be a look at Lions players from the University of Auburn.
Greg Robinson was a two-year starter for Auburn. In his freshman season in 2011, he started 11 games at left tackle. The next season, he would start every game, again all at the left tackle position, and was selected to the first team All-SEC team for his excellent play. Robinson was an ultra-athletic college prospect: at the NFL scouting Combine, he stood at 6’5″ and weighed 332 pounds. He ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash and had a broad jump of 113 inches, both were the best of any offensive linemen in the 2014 draft. He was seen as more of a run blocker coming out of college that had potential to develop into an elite pass blocker, but even then almost all draft experts acknowledged that Robinson was very raw.
Robinson was selected with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Rams. In the time since then, he has been extremely disappointing and is considered a massive draft bust. He spent time at left guard in his rookie year before moving to the left tackle position and has played there since 2015. Evidence of his bad play is this article from PFF which states that Robinson was ranked 71st out of 78 eligible tackles.
After Taylor Decker suffered a shoulder injury last June, the Lions seemed to have very few options at left tackle. They decided to take a risk and traded a sixth round draft pick to the Rams for Greg Robinson. At this point, Robinson is the favorite to start the season at left tackle for the Detroit Lions. Because he hasn’t played yet for Detroit, there is no telling how good he will be or if he was worth the trade.
Gabe Wright played four seasons for Auburn, mostly as a rotational defensive tackle. His best season was as a junior when he made 28 tackles, 8.5 of which were for a loss, and three sacks. He finished his four-year collegiate career with 83 tackles, 20.5 for a loss and six sacks. On the merit of his play in college, the Detroit Lions drafted him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft.
In the trade to acquire the right to draft Wright, the Lions gave up a 2016 third round draft pick for a 2015 fourth round pick. The Lions were willing to give up such a hefty price for Gabe Wright because they had lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to free agency early in that same offseason and were desperate for a defensive tackle to replace them.
Gabe Wright’s career as a Detroit Lion was one of the most disappointing in recent memory. In Wright’s rookie year, he would appear in just seven games, starting only one of them. He only recorded six tackles in that time. The following preseason, he was unable to earn a spot on the roster and was cut. He would then sign with the Cleveland Browns for the 2016 season, where he played five games and made four tackles.
Earlier this summer, Wright signed with the Philadelphia Eagles where he will likely have an uphill battle to make the final roster.
Nick Fairley only played for two years at Auburn – but was a huge part in helping them to win a national championship. He served as a rotational player in his first year before experiencing a huge breakout in his second season. He recorded 60 tackles, 24 of which were for a loss, and 11.5 sacks along with making an interception. This monster sophomore campaign led to him being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Injuries were a big factor in Fairley’s rookie year, as he appeared in only 10 games and made just one sack. In the following offseason, Nick Fairley was arrested twice, leading to concerns about his character.
Fairley served as a rotational player in 2012 but made more of an impact as he appeared in 13 games and made 5.5 sacks. His best season as a Detroit Lion was in 2013 when he started 15 games and recorded 35 tackles and six sacks.
Nick Fairley served as a backup for the Rams in 2015 and went on to sign with the Saints in 2016. In 2016, he had a career renaissance with the Saints. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career and set career highs with 45 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Earlier this off-season, there was news that Nick Fairley has a heart condition that could force him to retire from football. Fairley is currently seeking other medical opinions, but at this point, his NFL future does not look good.
Over the last decade, Auburn has not been kind to Detroit Lions fans. Greg Robinson was a big bust (albeit, we haven’t seen how he will play for the Lions yet) and the Lions gave up a third round pick for less than a season of a rotational player in Gabe Wright. Nick Fairley was a decent player for Detroit, but his time with the Lions is usually looked back upon as better than it was. Fairley’s 2012 and 2013 seasons are the only things salvaging the name of the University of Auburn for Detroit Lions fans.