Conference Call Replay with ESPN NFL Draft Expert Mel Kiper Jr.

Conference Call Replay with ESPN NFL Draft Expert Mel Kiper Jr.

ESPN conducted a media conference call Wednesday, March 25 with NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. Select comments from the conference call:

On the similarities between Falcons quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Georgia’s Matthew Stafford …
“There is no similarity with Ryan because Ryan played his senior year. If Matthew Stafford would have played his senior year then there would be no concerns. I think he would have lit it up. A.J. Green is a developing star as a wide receiver. He was a true freshman last year and he’s ready to be one of the great receivers in college football. The offensive line which was so young last year with freshmen and unproven players is now a cohesive group. Granted (Knowshon) Moreno left, but there’s some quality backs in the program. Had he stayed another year, he would have been off the charts. I think that’s where you say, where could he be? That’s going to be his year. You have to coach him and treat him like he’s a senior in college. You’re not going to have a guy like Matt Ryan, even a Joe Flacco who stayed for his senior year. You’re not going to have a veteran coming in. You’re going to have a guy who is still a junior. … You have to treat him differently. If you draft him, the first year, if you want to get him later in the season, don’t expect a lot. If you think he needs to play through his mistakes, fine, but you have to coach him.

“With the talent he has, he’ll be a sponge. He’ll pick everything up. He’ll work hard at it. His arm strength is in the rare category, rare arm strength. We always talk about above average arms, great arms. A lot of guys have good arms, but elite arms are rare and this kid has it.

“So you ask why people are all over the place. They have to determine if he’s worthy of being the No.1 pick in the draft. How NFL ready is he? How much time do we have to spend with him? Do we want to commit all these dollars? They don’t treat quarterbacks like they did back in the 1980’s where you have three to four years to develop them. They want them to play right away. In Matthew Stafford’s case that’s not realistic. In Mark Sanchez’s case it’s not realistic.”

On the Patriots’ draft options with six top 100 picks …
“You’re talking about a draft that has some middle-round guys and late-round guys that will be very good players in this league. You should be able to get some depth in certain positions. Linebackers that they want to get younger, whether it’s Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Larry English…a lot of 3-4 type guys. Defensive backfield, not any first round guaranteed stars at the cornerback spot …I like a D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt as a third-round pick. … He’s a very underrated kid and there are several others that fall in that category. You’re going to get good players that fall for the reason that they don’t have good measurables. Some of the guys with good measurables are busts. The Patriots are going to do extremely well with those picks.”

On why teams do not need to draft a center early …
“Tough overachieving, hard-working centers make it far in this league. If you look in the NFL right now, a lot of these guys were not highly regarded coming out of college and now they’re starting. That’s why there’s an argument, definite argument, to not draft a center early because you don’t have to. Now there’s going to be three going in the second round – Eric Wood, Max Unger and Alex Mack are all going to go and they’re all outstanding players. But, you can create centers that are more than solid in the NFL.”

Post Combine and Pro Days: Players who have rocketed and plunged …
“Normally individual workouts make it for you. They allow you to make a statement and do the best you can. That’s why an Aaron Maybin recovers after not running great at the Combine and had a great year at Penn State. He was up, down a bit and now he’s back up. I didn’t change much for him…he’s been consistent all the way through because he’s a heck of a football player.

“I think when you look at Michael Crabtree, having the injury unfortunately pushed him down a little bit. If you look at some of the corners, Malcolm Jenkins not running under a 4.5 affected him to the point where – is he going to be a safety, is he going to be a corner? Not going in the top 10 as expected to go had he run better. There is a lot of mixed opinion on some players. Everett Brown, not real big, not real super fast … but had some multiple sack games and some people think he’s an early first round pick and I don’t. Some people are higher on Eugene Monroe. Some people think he’s the best left tackle in the draft. I don’t. I think he’s a good player but not a great player.

“Some guys that have risen certainly, where they are right now versus where they have been … I think people are now more enamored with Percy Harvin despite having the ankle late in the year. People are seeing how explosive and versatile he is. Another is Hakeem Nicks at North Carolina, a high grade. At the combine he’s 212 pounds. At the individual workout he was 226 pounds. I know he had a hamstring injury and you’ve got to rest that and could be why he may have gained weight, but that was a red flag for some teams. Robert Ayers from Tennessee moved way up in about the 20th pick to Detroit. Clay Matthews helped himself in this process, the linebacker from USC.”

On Stafford at No. 1 and if the Lions take him who do they take at No. 20 …
“At 20 you could go defensive end…I don’t think offensive tackle is going to fall that way, but they could take a Michael Oher, a left tackle out of Ole Miss. …They have options and they have a lot of needs. The picks really address these concerns. As far as Stafford going No.1, I’m not making the choice. All I say is for the Detroit Lions, if you don’t take Stafford, who do you take? And if you don’t take Stafford and you take someone else, who’s going to be your quarterback? You’ve got Culpepper and you’ve got Stanton. Are you going to forget about quarterback this year? There’s no guarantee that (Josh) Freeman is going to be there at 20. There’s no other quarterback to think about until the fifth round. So for me, it’s Stafford. And if you don’t pick Stafford and he goes to Seattle and starts lighting it up, you didn’t take him. You pass him and he’s going to go somewhere else.”

Risk vs. Reward: How do Division I-AA players stack up …
“I think some teams are fearful of I-AA players or non I-A players. There is a risk because of the level of competition for obvious reasons. They’re not coming in ever working against players equal to their ability, and everybody in the NFL is the best in the world playing this game. It is a transition and difficult for some players.”

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