We had the chance to catch up with ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper last week and here were a few of the takeaways as we shift draft preparations into a higher gear:
More intel on safety spot: Kiper sees Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as the first safety likely off the board within the top half of the first round, with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor projected closer to the end of the first round. Kiper noted Pryor didn’t test particularly well in workouts. The next tier includes Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois and Terrence Brooks of Florida State, while Washington State’s Deone Bucannon is a bit of a rare breed as a bigger prospect at 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds. There has been some media-based chatter in New England about the Patriots adding a bigger safety, but it doesn’t seem like Kiper is on board with the thought. “The intimidator isn’t necessarily needed any more,” he said. “The big hitter, you don’t need that. The days of that big, intimidating safety are just about over.”
Carr highlights polarization on QB views: When asked about this year’s quarterback class, Kiper pointed to Fresno State’s Derek Carr as an example of wide-ranging opinions from various teams. According to Kiper, some teams view Carr as being on the same tier as Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, while others see him more in the eight to 10 range at the position and closer to a fifth-round talent. “There is a lot of polarization on a lot of these quarterbacks,” he said. Kiper adds that some view Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois as the best quarterback in this year’s draft. “This is incredible. There are about a dozen quarterbacks that could be starters, and out of those dozen, there are some that argue that all 12 will never be a successful starter. This is a crazy year for quarterbacks. A lot of them. A lot of quantity. How much quality is debatable.” Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage, who we’d project is of interest to the Patriots, is viewed in the range of the third or fourth round by Kiper.
Getting a feel on the top cornerbacks: Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard are viewed as the top two cornerbacks in the draft. "It’s kind of a split around the league as to who the top corner is,” according to Kiper. Gilbert’s versatility might give him a slight edge. Kiper sees a line of demarcation to the third player at the position, but this is viewed as a deep position in the draft and a good year for those with a need.