AFC North: 2014 Mel Kiper Mock 3.0

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Steelers

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
As much of a shortage as the Pittsburgh Steelers have at defensive end, there probably isn’t a player at that position who is worthy of the 15th overall pick.

And the Steelers’ need at cornerback is just as acute, which is why they would be thrilled if they had a chance to take Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Gilbert going to the Steelers in his third mock draft, and the speedy Gilbert would contribute immediately while also shoring up the position from a long-term standpoint if he is as good as advertised.

He and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard are considered the top two cornerbacks in the draft, and Kiper said on Thursday that both “could be in play” for the Steelers.

“Gilbert’s a guy to me that ability-wise deserves to be that high,” Kiper said Thursday during a conference call. “In run support [he’s] not going to be a big factor, but a lot of these corners aren’t. Darqueze Dennard, he’s great [in] run support. He’s as aggressive a tackler as you’ll ever find. I love the way he plays against the run, but this is a pass league.

“If you could take Dennard’s aggressiveness and put it with Gilbert you’d have a top-five pick. Both are real good players and both are going to go, I think, in the mid-first-round area. Some like Dennard, some like Gilbert. I give a slight edge to Gilbert, but like them both.”

The Steelers could still go in a number of different ways with their first-round pick, and free agency, which is still in its infancy, has already dropped a couple of pieces into the draft puzzle.

The signing of Mike Mitchell all but rules out the Steelers taking a safety with their first-round pick. Another signing outside of Pittsburgh could also impact the Steelers’ draft.

The Lions lured Golden Tate away from Seattle, signing the wide receiver to a five-year contract on Wednesday -- and perhaps making it more likely that Detroit addresses its secondary with the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Kiper has the Lions taking Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans in his latest mock draft, but the Tate signing could allow Detroit to target a player such as Gilbert in the first round.

Kiper said he thinks Evans would still make a lot of sense for the Lions even with the signing of Tate.

“He’s solidly in the top-10 area,” Kiper said.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bengals

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
To this point, signs have mostly pointed to the Cincinnati Bengals drafting a cornerback in the first-round of this year's NFL draft.

ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. ignored them in his latest mock draft Insider that was unveiled earlier Thursday. Instead of taking a cornerback like he suggested in his first two mocks, Kiper now has the Bengals taking outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

An Ohio State product, Shazier would certainly be welcomed by Bengals fans in southwest Ohio. Fellow Buckeyes Mike Nugent and Dane Sanzenbacher (currently a tendered restricted free agent) are already on the roster.

One of the many underclassmen in this year's draft, Shazier left Ohio State after his junior season. While helping lead his program to the Big Ten championship game, he had 133 tackles and 6.0 sacks in his final year. As a "Will" linebacker, he fits one of the Bengals' many needs. Vontaze Burfict currently starts at the "Will" position and figures to do so for a long time, but an injury at the position on the depth chart put Cincinnati in a bind when it came to numbers for its nickel defense.

Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury in the preseason forced the Bengals to get creative with their rotations on pass-specific downs. They even flirted at one point with moving safety Taylor Mays into the nickel linebacker spot to give the position a bigger, athletic body in order to help cover tight ends, running backs and extra receivers.

Shazier's coverage ability, particularly his physical style of play in coverage, has been noted as a strength. His speed and range are also positives. ESPN's draft team currently ranks him the third-best outside linebacker on the boards.

While the cornerback need still exists, if Shazier is still around at pick No. 24, he wouldn't be a bad selection for the Bengals.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Browns

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft 3.0 Insider again goes quarterback-receiver for the Cleveland Browns, but the quarterback he has the Browns picking fourth overall is intriguing.

According to Kiper's most recent mock, all three of the top passers -- Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel -- are there for the Browns when the fourth selection rolls around.

And the quarterback picked by Kiper is ... Bortles, the tall, strong-armed, humble guy from South Florida. This would have been a (to quote Kobe Bryant) Bikram yoga stretch a year ago, but at this point it makes sense. Bortles has the size that teams love in quarterbacks these days and the arm strength. The Browns might have to give him a year or two to grow, but his attitude and his skills are plenty appealing.

With the second first-round pick, the 26th overall, Kiper has the Browns taking big target Kelvin Benjamin out of Florida State. Again, it makes sense, though it's believed the Steelers also are interested in Benjamin. Benjamin is not the fastest, but at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds he's a big target and would be a solid pickup.

Kiper's picks are logical and sensible, and it would be tough to argue with them.

But he's not making me back off my choice. I stand steady and strong with Clemson's Sammy Watkins at the fourth spot, and Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde at some point. The Browns can figure out the rest.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Ravens

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Baltimore Ravens taking a wide receiver. The position isn't a surprise, but the name might be.

Kiper has Oregon State's Brandin Cooks going to the Ravens at No. 17. Overlooked because of his size (5-foot-9), Cooks generated a lot of buzz last month when he ran the second-fastest 40 of the weekend at 4.33 seconds and was equally as impressive in the on-field drills.

This solidified Cooks as a first-round prospect along with the likes of Mike Evans, Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin, all of whom have been linked to the Ravens at some point.

I'm not sold on the Ravens going with Cooks. If they sign a wide receiver like Steve Smith in free agency, the Ravens don't want two targets for Joe Flacco under 6-foot.

The Ravens still need to take a young receiver in the first couple of rounds, no matter what they do in free agency. But Cooks seems to be a risky prospect who could join Travis Taylor and Mark Clayton as disappointing first-round wide receivers.