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Monday, December 17, 2007
If he goes pro, where's the best fit for McFadden?

By Mel Kiper
ESPN.com

Question: Which seniors have improved their draft rating most since the start of season?

Kiper: There are quite a few players who significantly improved their draft grade in 2007, but these eight players made the most progress.

• Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
He's versatile enough to play in either a three-four or four-three defense. He's learned from the best defensive line coach in all of football, John Blake, and that's just part of the reason why Balmer could be a first-round pick after starting the season as a third- or fourth-rounder.

• Fred Davis, TE, USC
In a very crowded position, Davis might be the best tight end in the senior class. He was the Trojans' No. 1 option in the passing game most of the season, and should be no worse than a second-round pick.

• Robert Felton, OG, Arkansas
What I like about Felton is that he's versatile, proving he can play anywhere along the offensive line. A late-round pick entering this season, Felton could go as early as the third round.

• Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware
He's gone from showing the potential to play in the NFL to one day being a starter. You can make the argument he has the strongest arm of any college quarterback this year. A late-round pick entering the season, Flacco shouldn't last beyond the second round.

• Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
He has great speed (4.3 seconds in the 40), is compact (5-10½, 200) and is harder to bring down than one might think.
Chris Johnson
Forget that he played in Conference USA, a combination of speed and strength should make RB Chris Johnson a Day 1 pick in next year's draft.
Not only is he a great running back, but is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield and can also help in the kicking game. He could be a second-round pick after coming into 2007 as a possible fifth-rounder.

• Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
We knew he was going to be a great returnman in the kicking game; what we didn't know was how excellent his cover skills are. He will help a team right away in a nickel package and eventually battle for a starting position. He was projected as a fourth-rounder at the beginning of the season and now he could go anywhere from late in the first round to the middle of the second.

• Josh Morgan, WR, Virginia Tech
Overshadowed somewhat by his teammate Eddie Royal, Morgan has good size (6-1½, 215) and he really came on late in the season. He has good speed and would be a perfect No. 2 receiver at the next level. Morgan could go as high as the second round after starting the year as a fifth- or sixth-round grade.

• Hilee Taylor, DE, North Carolina
He plays well standing up and would be an ideal OLB in a three-four defense. There were several times where Taylor jumped out at you on film more than his teammate Balmer. Taylor, a fifth- or sixth-round pick at the start of the season should be no worse than a third-rounder.

Question: Assuming he comes out, which team would be the best fit for running back Darren McFadden?

Kiper: Right now you really only need to look at the teams with the four worst records in the NFL -- Dolphins, Falcons, Rams and Jets.

Miami (1-13) has Ronnie Brown, who will be coming back from a knee injury. (Brown was drafted by GM Randy Mueller, so will he take another featured running back that high?) Miami has bigger needs, like at defensive tackle.

Atlanta (3-11) makes sense because Warrick Dunn is in the latter stages of his career. Jerious Norwood has excellent speed but he isn't a featured running back. However, the Falcons also are in need of a quarterback, so would they take Matt Ryan instead of McFadden?

St. Louis (3-11) won't take McFadden since the Rams already have Steven Jackson.

The Jets (3-11) have Thomas Jones, who is solid but not spectacular. Having two running back is a good thing, just ask the Minnesota Vikings. However, the Jets do have bigger needs in the front seven on defense.

Question: What are the draft needs of the teams in the AFC East?

Kiper: The Buffalo Bills needs a No. 2 wide receiver opposite Lee Evans. The Bills drafted DT John McCargo in 2006, but he hasn't exactly been a disruptive force and they are still looking for production along the interior of the defensive line. They could use a difference-maker at outside linebacker, a pass-catching tight end and a cornerback opposite Terrence McGee.

Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey would look great in a Miami Dolphins uniform. They need someone who can help stop the run and get in backfield, and Dorsey can do both. He will command double teams and has an atttitude like Ray Lewis that elevates the level of everyone around him. DE Jason Taylor is still playing at a high level, but Miami could use another pass-rushing threat opposite Taylor. Miami used the No. 9 pick last year on Ted Ginn, and he has helped in the return game. But will he develop into featured wide receiver? He better, because the Dolphins don't have one. An offensive lineman, cornerback and linebacker help are other areas of need for the Dolphins.

The New England Patriots need to get younger at linebacker. If he comes out, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis would be a great pick. New England could also be looking at a cornerback if Asante Samuel does not return. While it's not a huge need area, if Michigan's Jake Long is available, then he should be a serious consideration. The Patriots could also lose Dante Stallworth and Kelly Washington after the season, so depth at wide receiver could be a need as well as at running back.

The New York Jets' top priority is a defensive end opposite Shaun Ellis and the perfect player to pick would be Chris Long -- who played in a three-four defense at Virginia. In a three-four scheme, the outside linebacker is the key and the Jets don't have anyone right now who can get double-digit sacks and wreak havoc from that position. Nick Mangold is great at center but the Jets could use some interior help at guard. Laveranues Coles is a hard worker, but they really don't have any other wide receivers who can stretch the field consistently and change score on one play.

Also, is Kellen Clemens the future at QB? You can say the same thing about the Bills and Dolphins when it comes to the quarterback position. New York, Miami and Buffalo think they have their quarterbacks of the future, but you won't know for sure until they have a couple of seasons of experience.

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