Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

August 29, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Mel Kiper

Mel Kiper
  (1:00 PM)

Welcome back! It's great to have college football and the NFL back front and center. We'll roll all the way until the draft. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the Gulf Coast.

Sean W (NC)

Is Cam Newton a good comparison to what Logan Thomas can be?

Mel Kiper
  (1:02 PM)

Physically, yes. He has imposing size. He has the arm strength that will get everyone's attention. In terms of the running skills, Newton was an oustanding runner. Thomas gives you mobility. Remember he came there as a TE. He's an athlete, but no one is in the league with Newton. Thomas is the closest thing I've seen like him in a while, but Cam is ahead of him. Thomas improved his accuracy and footwork in the spring. I won't put him in the same league overall, but Thomas starts the season No. 4 on my Big Board.

Thomas (dallas)

Your thoughts on Tyrann Mathieu and where would he go in the draft if it werent for all the off the field issues?

Mel Kiper
  (1:03 PM)

I thought he'd be a second round pick. Even with the issues, you have to see how this all plays out. When does he get back on the field? With whom? He doesn't have ideal size and he's not a great cover corner. He's just a big play guy. He made plays with run support and in returns. He was a second round pick and now, maybe the third round? Had he played this year in I-AA and played as well as you'd think, then maybe late 2, early to mid 3.

John (NY)

Mel its never too early to begin talking about next years draft...who are you pre college season's top 5 picks?

Mel Kiper
  (1:04 PM)

The top 5 are Matt Barkley, QB, USC; No. 2 Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; No. 3 Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU; No. 4 Logan Thomas, QB, VT; No. 5 Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU.

Turner (Boise, ID)

Has Russell Wilson exceeded your expectations? Did you see that his skills beyond his height could carry him to being a starting QB this early in his career?

Mel Kiper
  (1:07 PM)

First of all, there was never any underestimating of his character and smarts. Eveyone always said he was a 15 on a scalre 1-10 of his character. I said all along if he were 6-2 or taller, he would have been a top 10 pick. He had a spectacular preseason. He exceeded even their expectations. This is a team that brought in Matt Flynn. But that's the preseason. When the bell rings and you have to go against sophisticated defenses. Can he take the preseason against vanilla defenses and bring it into the regular season? You're going to see looks you've never seen. So far, everything looks like it should be OK. He'll prove a lot of people wrong if he plays well as a starter.

Bill (NV)

Can Laudry Jones will be as good as sam bradford and do you think he should of came out last year?

Mel Kiper
  (1:08 PM)

No. He'll never be what Bradford was. He's just trying to get back into the first round mix. You hope that he can improve his footwork. Get the ball out quicker. There's some things he struggled with. He also needs some help from his WRs. Kenny Stills and the others need to improve their consistency.

Jim (Memphis)

Who are the top draft prospects we should watch for Alabama-Michigan?

Mel Kiper
  (1:10 PM)

The main guys you start out with Alabama. Chance Warmack, OG, the best pure guard in recent years. He'll have a David DeCastro type grade this year. Steve Hutchinson. Other guys from Alabama: Michael Williams, TE; Barrett Jones, C; DJ Fluker, OT; Jesse Williams, DT; Robert Lester, S; Eddie Lacy, RB; CJ Mosley, ILB.

Mel Kiper
  (1:11 PM)

For Michigan, the main guy I'll be looking at is Taylor Lewan, OT. And Denard Robinson, who will project to WR in the NFL. All eyes will be on him.

Mel Kiper
  (1:12 PM)

Oh yeah, also from Michigan. He really needs to step it up. Will Campbell, DT, senior. Jordan Kovacs, senior, free safety; Kenny Demens, MLB; JT Floyd, CB, senior; Craig Roh, DE, senior are also some others.

Jake (Pittsburgh )

Terrelle Pryor was suspended for the preseason last year which could explain why he didn't get much playing time during the season. Have played this preseason and doing fairly well, do you think he'll get playing time this year? What do you see in his future in the nfl?

Mel Kiper
  (1:13 PM)

The pure passing skills are something he still needs to improve and develop. Can he be enough of a pure passer to make it in the NFL? We know he can run. He did show some flashes during the preseason. He still has a ways to go.

Mike (cali)

Any claiborne or patrick peterson type corners playing this year in college football?

Mel Kiper
  (1:15 PM)

David Amerson, CB, NC State would be a guy to look at that could be in that category. Another guy I'll watch closely Justin Gilbert, after playing against Justin Blackmon in practice last year. Tharold Simon, LSU. They all have outstanding size. They're big, athletic CBs and they could rise dramatically. The top two senior CBs are Johnthan Banks and Terry Hawthorne. The others are juniors.

Mike (Baltimore)

Is there a surprise playoff team this year?

Mel Kiper
  (1:16 PM)

In the AFC...Buffalo would fall into that catetory. KC is another that could be a possibility. In the NFC....Seattle, Chicago, Carolina.

Eric (Chicago)

Mel, does Michigan get steamrolled against 'Bama?

Mel Kiper
  (1:18 PM)

Alabama's defense took a lot of hits. The one dynamic performer that Michigan has is Denard Robinson. If he can have one of those performances, where every play he could change the scoreboard. What's questionable is his passing skills. He's right around that 6-foot mark. He lacks the ideal height in the pocket. So his passing skills are to be desired. There are a lot of true freshmen that will be on the field for Michigan. They have an OL that will be questionable going into the year. DL is a little bit of a concern. Robinson needs to be Heisman like for Michigan to have a chance.

Rich (New Jersey)

Who are top five candidates for the Heisman Trophy this year?

Mel Kiper
  (1:20 PM)

You have to look at the top guys of the top teams. If LSU has a great year, how about Zack Mettenberger? He's a big kid with an accurate arm. FSU, EJ Manuel, he'll get some looks if they have a good year. Matt Barkley, if USC is at the top and he's leading them, he'll be in the mix. It will be interesting to see if Denard Robinson has a hot start against Alabama. If he orchestrates an upset, he'll change peoples' minds. Keep in mind, no one thought RGIII would win the Heisman going into last year. What about Geno Smith of WVU? They have a high powered offense.

Kathy (ny)

i have a question about left tackle. Any Elite left tackles in this draft, i see the highest rated left tackle on scouts inc is only 17th overall player

Mel Kiper
  (1:21 PM)

I have the highest rated LT at No. 12. Luke Joeckel. Taylor Lewan is at No. 14. Those are the two best LTs.

Mel Kiper
  (1:21 PM)

There is potentially some good depth at LT after those two.

Mike (NY)

Is there any NFL talent that is left on PSU's depleted roster?

Mel Kiper
  (1:23 PM)

There are a couple. The main guy is Gerald Hodges. He has a chance to be a heckuva NFL LB. He has a chance to be a first round caliber player, at worst a second rounder. He has sideline to sideline speed. He can cover. Complete player. Jordan Hill, DT, senior. He's a tremendous leader, hard worker. Those are your two guys that will be early rounders. They have a senior center, Matt Stankiewitch. Michael Mauti, senior, OLB, coming off an injury.

Scott (Northglenn, CO)

Who's the next big thing at the TE position?

Mel Kiper
  (1:25 PM)

The main guy is from the junior class. Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame. Toilolo from Stanford is another junior. The seniors, Joseph Fauria from UCLA. Keep an eye on two Big Ten TEs Fiedorowicz, Iowa and Dion Sims, Michigan State.

William (long island)

How high are you on Matt Barkley and is he as good as andrew luck?

Mel Kiper
  (1:26 PM)

No. Does he have the potential to be the No. 1 pick? Yes. Will his grade be like Luck's? No. Luck was the best QB I've graded since John Elway. Let's hope Barkley is 6-2. Luck is a once every 20-30 year QB.

Don (Chicago)

How do you feel Manti Te'o will fare in the NFL and where is he projected to go in the draft as of now?

Mel Kiper
  (1:27 PM)

I think he'll have a good career in the NFL. They're expecting him to be a leader on that defense. He makes everyone around him better. He has tremendous galvanizing ability on the football team. He's a tough, hard nosed player. He'll probably average 15 tackles per game. Right now, he's No. 10 on my Big Board.

KB (Dallas)

Do you think if Matt Cassell has another horrible year like normal are the KC Chiefs smart enough to go after a Matt Barkley in the draft?

Mel Kiper
  (1:28 PM)

You have to look at where you're picking. KC is a borderline playoff team. There are some that are picking KC to win the division. If that's the case, will they be looking to replace him? If they bottom out, they could look to make a move. There are other QBs in the first round, like Logan Thomas who will have an elite grade. But KC is hoping to be a playoff team this year.

charles (phila)

What round grade to you put on Geno Smith?

Mel Kiper
  (1:31 PM)

Geno right now is one of those wait and see how he plays. Their offense will have to be big time because I don't think their defense will be that good. Could he be in the second round discussion? I think so. He's adjusting to a new situation this year. You're talking about a WVU team that will have plenty of chances for national recognition. Geno knows the game. He works hard at the game. He's strong. he has the weight on. WVU has some marquee games. At Texas on Oct. 6. I think that's one of the best games of the year. Texas has a great secondary. WVU hosts TCU on Nov. 3. Oklahoma on Nov. 17 at home.

Brett (Kansas City)

What do you think about San Fran this year? With the tough schedule, me me me offensive weapons, and a defense in which noone was injured last year, what expectations do you have in year 2 of the harbough era?

Mel Kiper
  (1:33 PM)

They added a couple of pieces via the draft that I think will help. With their defensive personnel, they'll be a major threat in that division. I think it will get down to SF and Seattle in that division. They're the main threat to the 49ers. When Alex Smith needed to make the plays last year in the playoffs and he did. He responded in that game. There is no reason to believe they can't win the division again. Oct. 18 will be a great game with Seattle and San Francisco.

Eric (Chicago)

This Gerald Hodges fellow from PSU has Chicago Bears heir to Brian Urlacher written all over it...No?

Mel Kiper
  (1:34 PM)

I don't know about Urlacher. He's a complete player as an OLB. That's what you gravitate to as a scout. In this league if you can't cover as a LB, it's hard to give you a high grade. He can really move, cover the field. He has it all. I think he'll hear his name called early. He's not an Urlacher type player, he's an outside guy. In a 4-3 scheme, that's probably where he best fits right now.

Mel Kiper
  (1:35 PM)

True 4-3 OLBs are hard to find. You can always find the combo guys and pass rushers for the 3-4 are easy to find. You don't want to go too crazy. We all remember the Aaron Curry situation from a few years ago.

Bert (St. Paul, MN)

Who are the top 5 RB prospects for the NFL?

Mel Kiper
  (1:37 PM)

Marcus Lattimore, junior is the best RB. He could be the first one off the board. After him, Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State. I really like him. He almost made the Big Board that came out today. He was phenomenal in the second half last year. He can bowl you over or run away from you. He'll block. A common demoninator is these guys are coming off injury: Christine Michael, Knile Davis, Monte Ball, Joseph Randle.

Jeff (Charleston)

Dee Milliner from Alabama.... potential first rounder? Dre Kirkpatrick similarities? what will evaluators be looking for from him this year to improve or prove he can do?

Mel Kiper
  (1:39 PM)

When you look at Kirkpatrick, he had the athleticism and awesome physical talent. With Milliner, you don't get the elite physical skills. What you get is someone who knows how to play the game. He doesn't have the great raw talent. He's a smart football player. He's technically sound. As a junior CB, he'll be right in the mix. I have him as No. 6 in the group. That's a strong group. Four of the top 5 are in my top 25.

Adrian (Miami, FL)

Mel, any Hurricane players that could be studs in the NFL in the next few years?

Mel Kiper
  (1:41 PM)

The most intriguing guy is Seantrel Henderson, junior RT. He was originally going to go to USC and went to Miami. Asante Cleveland, TE, junior. Mike James, RB, On defense, the top guy is senior OLB, Ramon Buchanan. Also, Vaughn Telemaque.

Mel Kiper
  (1:41 PM)

Another guy to watch is their punter, Dalton Botts.

Jeremy (Beaugrand)

The Lions won 10 games in 2011. Do you think their win total in 2012 will be over or under ten wins?

Mel Kiper
  (1:44 PM)

You look at the division and the Bears will be a better team and Green Bay will still be good. They could be the No. 3 team in that division. I have concerns about the running game. I have concerns about the back end of their defense. You have to have some balance on offense. Any time you have Stafford and Calvin Johnson you'll put up some points. Can they win 9 or 10 games? Yeah. Philly will be in the wild card mix. Seattle will be in the mix. It will be a challenge for the Lions.

Vinnie (ATL)

Where do see a guy like John Simon in next year's draft? I think he would be a good fit in a 3-4 defense.

Mel Kiper
  (1:45 PM)

I love John Simon. I've always been a fan. He's a great player at the college level. He's got some Mike Vrabel in him. He's an incredible hard worker on the field. He's non-stop. Rugged. He'll play some DE and some OLB. Awesome strength in the weight room. This is a guy that just gives you everything he has. Ohio State will utilize him getting after the QB and going into coverage this year. He'll be going in the early rounds, no question.

John (NY)

Mel: WEEK 1 PREDICTION? NYG vs DAL?

Mel Kiper
  (1:47 PM)

Good football game. It's the first game out of the box, so don't overreact to anything. In the first half of the NFL season, it's all about treading water. The Giants were 7-7 at one point last year. See where you are Dec. 1. I wouldn't put too much stock into the result. I think the Giants will get it done. It's kind of a recurring theme with me every year that the Cowboys are overrated.

Gene (Wichita,KS)

What do you think about The Denver Broncos this year? With the tough schedule and Peyton Manning not being 100% on top of that DJ. Williams has off the field issues. do you see Denver living up to the hype ?

Mel Kiper
  (1:49 PM)

Any time you have Peyton Manning and you keep him upright, you have a shot. The schedule for that division is tough. Just going into their bye week, that's not easy. Five of their first six are brutal. New Orleans, Cincinnati and Carolina after the bye. If you had to say which team had the better schedule, San Diego gets a little more favorable schedule.

Michelle (Oklahoma)

What was your take on Alshon Jeffrey and has he shown more in the preseason than thought

Mel Kiper
  (1:50 PM)

He is a big guy with good hands. They need other weapons to emerge and Jeffrey has shown promise. What was his best weight going to be at the pro level? He's shown during his career that showed first round talent. They were able to grab him at 45. To get him at that point, it limits your risk.

Billy (FL)

Mel, rookie safety Mark Barron. Is he more of a ballhawk safety or a 10 tackles a game safety? I was surprised by the high pick, but i'm curious what kind of career he's going to have.

Mel Kiper
  (1:51 PM)

He's more of a tackles guy. The thing I said about him when he came out, he was the glue in that secondary. They won two titles with Barron being the back end. I think he's a good tackler. He goes about his business, very workmanlike. He's not Ronnie Lott, but he's a guy that I was very impressed with at Alabama.

John (NYC)

Big UVA fan, any real NFL caliber players on that roster?

Mel Kiper
  (1:54 PM)

There are definitely some. They have good recruiting there. Oday Aboushi, senior LT. They have a good lineage of producing LTs. He has a chance at the first round. Junior RT Morgan Moses has a chance to be a good player. Perry Jones, senior, RB is next. After that, Will Hill, senior, DT.

Jeff (Charleston)

Mel, the college team you are most excited to watch this year... as far as overall team, exciting players to evaluate, intriguing matchups?..... USC, Alabama, LSU, others...

Mel Kiper
  (1:58 PM)

Some teams that I will be intrigued to watch: Northwestern. They have a QB Kain Colter is a Hines Ward type player. Duke. They haven't been to a bowl game in 18 years. This is probably the best team David Cutcliffe has had. NC State with Mike Glennon and Amerson. Vanderbilt. They have some guys who will be playing the NFL. They lost some good players, but their personnel is interesting. Rutgers. New uniforms. New look. Greg Schiano is in the NFL. They have some very insteresting talent.

Mel Kiper
  (1:59 PM)

Can't wait to tee it up tomorrow night. South Carolina and Vanderbilt, what a way to start it off! It will be an interesting Saturday morning with Notre Dame and Navy at 9 a.m. ET. We'll be back next Wednesday!