Summary: Auburn made it to the National Championship Game because of prolific offense that put up big point totals on a weekly basis. Mason was a big part of that as the Tigers' featured back. All season, he ran over defenders in Auburn's zone-read offense as he rolled over SEC defenses on a weekly basis.
In 2012, Mason was one of the few bright spots in the Tigers' dismal season. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry on his way to 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns. The sophomore had only seven receptions for 86 yards. With Auburn bringing back Gus Malzahn after 2012, Mason benefitted as the featured runner in his junior year.
Throughout the 2013 season, Mason ripped off a number of huge games. He destroyed Texas A&M (27-178), Alabama (29-164-1) and Missouri (46-304-4). His performance in the last two games propelled Auburn into the National Championship. Against Florida State, Mason ran for 195 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. He also added a 42-yard touchdown reception. Mason averaged 5.7 yards per carry for 1,816 yards with 23 touchdowns for the season. He also had 12 receptions for 163 yards, too.
For the NFL, Mason looks like a back who is capable of leading an offense's ground attack. He has a body type similar to Ray Rice and a running style that is similar to LeSean McCoy. Mason runs with great balance and vision, plus is very quick. He hits the hole with speed and gets to the second level in an instant. Mason is a very shifty runner who jukes defenders and is tough to get a hold of. He isn't the biggest of backs, but he is compactly built and can pick up yards after contact.
Mason will have to develop his receiving skills for the NFL. He has the ability to be a good receiver, but Auburn didn't throw the ball a lot, so Mason enters the next level without a lot of experience catching passes. He will have to be groomed in pass blocking as well to be a three-down back in the NFL. Mason could end up being a starter and every-down running back once he develops that aspect of his game.
Like all running backs, injuries and durability are always a challenge. Mason being undersized doesn't help. In the 2014 NFL Draft, he looks like a second- or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Ray Rice/LeSean McCoy. Mason has a similar build to Rice (5-8, 218) and a running style like McCoy's. All three of these backs have the strength to run through tackles and pick up yards after contact. They also have enough quickness to get to the second level. Rice could have a little more power than Mason, but Mason is faster and shiftier like McCoy. Rice and McCoy went in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and Mason could be a second-round pick this May.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New York Giants, Cleveland, San Diego, Oakland, Miami, New York Jets, Atlanta
There are a lot of teams that are going to target running backs on the second day or in the mid-rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
In the AFC South, Mason has a few landing spots. The Jaguars could use a feature runner for their offense if Maurice Jones-Drew leaves Jacksonville. The Titans could move on from Chris Johnson, and Mason would be a nice replacement in Tennessee as a back with some speed. The Texans could use a running back behind Arian Foster; Ben Tate is entering free agency and probably won't re-sign with Houston. Foster has had injuries in his career, so it looks very likely that Houston will be drafting a running back. Mason could fit the Texans at the top of Round 3.
In the AFC West, San Diego needs an alternative to Ryan Mathews. Ronnie Brown doesn't offer much as a backup and Mathews is very injury-prone. Mason would be a good fit for the Chargers' offense. Oakland may move on from Darren McFadden, and the Raiders could use a back capable of carrying their offense.
The Giants have Andre Brown entering free agency, while David Wilson is coming back from a dangerous neck injury. Adding another runner makes sense for New York. Mason would be a nice fit in the Giants' offense.
Staying in the Big Apple, the Jets could use a featured runner for their offense. Elsewhere in the AFC East, Miami is still searching for a stable running back. Mason could be brought in to compete with the Dolphins' holdovers.
The Browns needs a starting running back. If Cleveland decides to address other positions in the first two rounds, the organization could use one of its second-day picks on Mason. The Browns could get a nice value by targeting a back like Mason in Round 2 or 3.
Atlanta made a short-term signing with Steven Jackson, but the Falcons need a starter for the long haul. Mason could be a nice fit in Atlanta.