NFC East: Mel Kiper Jr.
-Phillip Thomas, S, fourth round: Mel thinks he should have been drafted in the second or third round, and given the Redskins' other options, that he could possibly start right away.
-Chris Thompson, RB, fifth round: Though Redskins starter Alfred Morris was second in the league in rush yards last year, Mel thinks Mike Shanahan has a plan up his sleeve for this big-play threat to get touches as a rookie.
-Brandon Jenkins, OLB, fifth round: Could "crack the rotation as a pass rusher."
-Joseph Randle, RB, fifth round: Mel calls him the second-most talented running back on the Cowboys' roster after injury-prone starter DeMarco Murray. If that's not a recipe for touches...
-Earl Wolff, S, fifth round: With Kenny Phillips' knee a question mark and Patrick Chung still not established as an NFL starter, opportunity could exist at safety in Philadelphia.
Smith is a passer first -- his running stats bear that as much as his passing numbers -- a guy with some outstanding skills as a passer but also weaknesses that need to be ironed out. A year on the bench, digesting the nuances of Kelly's offense, is a perfect transition for him. If Smith lands on a team that's set on having him start right away, he could be in trouble. But if he lands in a place where the organization has patience and the coach is content to mold Smith's talents, he could be a good one. Philly could be that place, but that doesn't need to be with the No. 4 pick.
Yeah, I mean, if Smith doesn't go in the first round and he's there for the Eagles at No. 35, that becomes a pretty sweet value pick -- especially given Mel's point that they wouldn't need to start him right away. E.J. Manuel is also hanging around as an option that seems to fit the Kelly profile if Smith isn't there by 35, and Kelly's set on taking that type of quarterback.
My only word of caution on all of this is, once again, that we shouldn't all be assuming we know what Kelly's offense is going to look like and what kind of quarterback he'll seek to run it. I think the point of the Eagles hiring Kelly was not that they liked the system he ran but that they viewed him as an intelligent, nimble football mind who can think up a variety of ways to win with a variety of different players. If I'm wrong, and Kelly's just another college coach trying to shoehorn his types of players into his types of schemes, then I predict his tenure will be a short one. But if I'm right, it's a mistake to assume the only quarterbacks in this draft who make sense for the Eagles are the speedy, super-athletic ones.
Well, yeah, he has them taking Robert Griffin III in the first round and they don't have a second round pick because they traded it to get Robert Griffin III. So, not a lot of mystery there.
Mel's still giving the Cowboys Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 14 overall. In the second round, he has them taking an offensive lineman. That's really all I can tell you at this point.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State is the pick at No. 15, according to Mel. The Eagles have two second-round picks, and our guru says they will be a linebacker and a tight end, in that order. No names, folks. Either buy the Insider or guess.
New York Giants
Mel's giving them Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, even with Mike Adams still on the board. In the second round, he has the Giants taking a running back to replace Brandon Jacobs.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper did a conference call with reporters last week and we figured we would take a snippet from the call and apply it to the Giants draft concerns.
In his latest mock draft, Kiper has the Giants addressing the offensive line with the 19th pick in the first round.
But what does he think about the linebackers in the draft? In addition to offensive line, the Giants also have a need for an athletic linebacker. Keith Bulluck will be a free agent and the Giants need to add more depth to a group that features Michael Boley and Jonathan Goff.
Based on where the Giants draft in the first round, UCLA’s outside linebacker Akeem Ayers appears to be the one linebacker most prognosticators predict will be available.
There are some outside linebackers that Kiper says teams can find after the first round.
“Bruce Carter from North Carolina, I didn’t like some of things I saw on film on him, of course had the injury late, I thought he slipped back a bit,” Kiper said. “Lawrence Wilson from Connecticut, I like as fourth or fifth-round pick. Mason Foster as maybe a third-round pick out of Washington, Ross Homan out of Ohio State as maybe a third-round pick.”
“There are some of those traditional 4-3 outside linebackers that you can look at as third or fourth-round guys,” Kiper continued. “Opinions on these guys are going to vary.”
Kiper says teams are really going to have to do serious homework to find an outside linebacker that can help in the middle rounds.
“There’s not a ton,” Kiper said. “You got to do some very, very astute scouting to find an outside linebacker in that third, fourth and fifth round to come in and be a factor for you right away.”
As for inside linebackers, Kiper says there aren’t a lot in this draft to choose from.
“In terms of the linebacker position, it is not a good year necessarily for inside (linebacker),” Kiper said. “Outside there are always going to be combo guys. There’s not a lot but there are some guys, if you catch lightning in a bottle you might find the right player in the inside position. It is not a lot of talent at that position.”
Here's the link. In other news, we're rolling out our blogger mock draft this morning. I'm told that Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have already made several changes to their boards after having a peek at our final product.
Mel Kiper Jr., a frequent contributor to this blog, was asked a few minutes ago to name the "safest player on the board." His initial answer was "nobody," explaining that he never thinks anyone is completely safe.
"[Wake Forest OLB] Aaron Curry would probably fit into that category," Kiper eventually said. "He's not going to be a bust. And he may be a boom. I've had him on top of the Big Board since Oct. 5."
Todd McShay currently has Curry going to the Chiefs at No. 3. He thinks new GM Scott Pioli will fall in love with Curry's versatility.
In other news, Kiper said he didn't think there was a "super elite" quarterback in this draft. If he were drafting for the Lions or Chiefs, he'd try to trade for Matt Cassel before selecting either Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford. But he thinks the Patriots will hold onto Cassel for one more season as a "hefty insurance policy."
Who's the player who has the most to lose at the combine? That would be Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, according to Kiper. If he runs a solid 40, there's a great chance he's the first defensive back taken. If he runs a mediocre time, there's a good chance he moves to safety. No pressure at all.