Mel Kiper on the draft

Posted on February 20, 2008 
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Hey everyone … back from some well-earned time off. ESPN conducted a pre-NFL Combine media conference call Monday with NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. Here are a few of his comments.

On the decision facing Bill Parcells and the Miami Dolphins with the No. 1 overall pick …
“He has a decision to make initially about John Beck, and if they don’t feel like John Beck’s the right guy moving forward with, then you look at Matt Ryan. I think Matt Ryan is the kind of quarterback that would fit what Bill wants. … You look at what Drew Bledsoe had coming out and you see some similarities there. I think the first question is, if John Beck’s not their guy, the first pick overall – where do you go? Had they drafted Brady Quinn last year — the previous organization — instead of Ted Ginn, then they wouldn’t be drafting Matt Ryan. Brady Quinn would’ve been their guy moving forward. But, the fact that they went Ted Ginn and then John Beck obviously puts them in a position that instead of utilizing that pick for another position, now they’re pretty much forced to take Matt Ryan.”

On the elite players in this year’s draft …
“If (John) Beck’s not the guy, (Miami) has to take Matt Ryan, but there are guys with equally as good a grade. Glenn Dorsey, (Darren) McFadden, Chris Long, Sedrick Ellis, Jake Long all have grades right in there with Matt Ryan. There are six guys that are a cut above the rest and those are the six.”

On what it will take the Falcons to move into the No. 1 spot …
“Atlanta is going to have to give up pretty much everything they’ve got to get Matt Ryan. He means as much to Miami as he does to Atlanta.”

On LSU’s Glenn Dorsey …
“When Dorsey is at full strength, he is a dominator. What I like about Dorsey is that he gives you that Ray Lewis mentality. He is so energized and football is all that matters. Everybody around him becomes better when he’s on the field. You saw him play through injuries when very few would have been out there playing. He went out there when most guys would have been in street clothes watching on the field. Dorsey is special in that sense – in his approach and attitude.”

On Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones …
“McFadden, I like his skill level. I like his talent. I like how he did against elite teams. I like his versatility. The question I have is that he had some fumbling issues this year. Ball security is critical in the NFL. That’s something he’s going to have to work on and something that showed up this year. He’s not the violent, aggressive runner that Adrian Peterson is, but not many running backs are. He’s not a tackle-breaker like Peterson – well, that’s not his forte. When you look at his all-around capabilities, he’s certainly worthy of being a top-five pick.”

“Felix Jones, same thing. He gives you the game-breaking capability. He’s not a guy who will carry the ball 25 times a game. Teams that want a feature back will not look at Felix Jones. They’ll look at McFadden or Mike Hart. He’s not a feature back. For Felix Jones, I think Tampa Bay would be a possibility because there he would be a compliment to what they have.”

On picking a running back high in the draft …
“I would not move up to get a running back unless it was a case where you saw a guy drop significantly. Adrian Peterson was either the first, second or third guy on everybody’s board and he dropped down to seven. He dropped down to five and nobody did anything. He dropped down to six and nobody traded up to get him. He fell right to Minnesota who had a debate. When you see a Peterson drop to seven to trade up for a running back … you can find a running back in the fourth round as good as in the first. You can pick and choose other positions, but consistently in the NFL you can do that at running back.“

On Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long …
“He became a complete player this year. He was a great run-blocker, destructive run-blocker, a better run-blocker than Joe Thomas of Wisconsin was last year. The consensus opinion this year was, ‘Will he be the pass-blocker he needs to be to become a quality left-tackle in this league?’ He proved this year to be that. With his ability and aggressiveness, the team that would want him the most is Kansas City.”

On potential NFL starting quarterbacks in this year’s draft …
“There are at least 12 quarterbacks that are going to have the chance to be starting quarterbacks at some point in their careers. Josh Johnson (University of San Diego) is one of them. He’s got to fill out a little bit, but he’s got talent. I think he’s the kind of guy in the fourth or fifth round you take a look at.”

“(Andre) Woodson (University of Kentucky), I think that hitch at the top of his delivery, that slow release, causes concern. He’s got ideal size. He powers the ball to any point on the field. He works hard. That delivery is going to cause concern, but he didn’t finish strong either. I started dropping his grade in November. He’s in that second or third round mix.”

“Other quarterbacks that are interesting are Caleb Hanie out of Colorado State … Joe Flacco out of Delaware is a second-round pick at worst.”

On Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco …
“He’s very confident and he has that inner-competitiveness. When you talk to him, you can sense that he competes. With his physical tools, you look at him going in the late first or worst second round. Teams that are going to be thinking quarterback — I think the Chicago Bears would be a perfect opportunity and a great spot for him. In Chicago you need someone who can cut through wind and play in those conditions. He flicks that wrist and the ball jumps off his hand. To me he’s got the best arm of any quarterback in this draft.”

On Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan …
“That Sugar Bowl showed that he’s got to put on some weight. He’s got to get a little stronger and all that, maintain that weight right around 200 pounds, not be at 185-190. That’s the big thing, and the delivery is all over the place. The arm strength is decent. He’s borderline arm strength, but he’s okay, and he doesn’t have the great arm – good enough arm. He’s a guy you would say is definitely good enough. … He competes hard and there’s an awful lot to like about Colt Brennan. In the fifth or sixth round he’ll be a nice choice for somebody, but I think the days of thinking second or third round pretty much ended at the Sugar Bowl.”

A player to watch in this year’s draft …
“Another kid that kind of gets lost in the shuffle is Chris Johnson at East Carolina. Keep an eye out for him in the second round. He can return kicks very effectively. He catches the ball downfield exceptionally well. … He moved from a fifth or sixth-rounder in the beginning of the season to second round. He’s a versatile kid with a lot of ability and someone you have to take a good hard look at.”

On Notre Dame’s 3-9 season factoring into the draft …
“I think you look at (John) Carlson, and I think it hurt a little bit because there are some other tight ends out there and that position is pretty good in this Draft. In terms of Carlson, you have to go back and look at what he could do with opportunity. The quarterback play at Notre Dame, as you know, was not very good this year. He can catch the ball and his blocking is accurate. I think at worst he’s a second round pick, definitely second round for Carlson. (Trevor) Laws is just as productive. He gives you everything he has. Here’s another guy who is high-energy and has versatility. I think he’ll be in the third round mix. (Tom) Zbikowski missed some tackles this year. His overall performance level dropped from where it had been. I think if he had come out after his junior year, he probably could have been a second or third round pick, but now I’m thinking fifth or sixth round. And for (John) Sullivan the same thing. I think a late round possibility for Sullivan also.”

On the San Diego Chargers draft needs …
“The Chargers are fortunate because they don’t have many needs. There aren’t many free agents on the team and they have a strong football team. They can feel good about the nucleus of talent they have right now. … They’re solid in all areas.”

On drafting prospects, secrets and risks …
“Coaches are the ones that talk a lot. The fear of organizations is that information is going to get out to teams. The more people know the more people will talk. I’ve had general managers say to me, ‘I wish you didn’t have this guy rated as high.’ I think the days of secrets are over. Who you like and don’t like should stay internal and that is the challenge.”

“Every player drafted is a risk. You can be praised one year and not the next. There are no guarantees.”

“I always say production over potential unless the skills aren’t within a range. If you don’t have production in college, I wouldn’t want the guy high. If you’re not productive in college, how are you going to be productive in the NFL?”

On other NFL Draft analysts and whether he checks their pre-draft rankings …
“I respect everybody’s opinion. We respect one another so much that we don’t want to see what the other has picked. I don’t want to be swayed by anyone. I’m not going to worry about what their ratings are. It’s not out of lack of respect. It is out of respect. … If they’re the same, it happens. I respect everyone that has an opinion. The way I approach it, let the chips fall where they may.”

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