Who are some senior DE's to keep an eye on for this upcoming draft?
Marcus Smith, Louisville; Michael Sam, Missouri; Kareem Martin, UNC; Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas; Chris Smith, Arkansas.
The top 3-4 DE is Ed Stinson, Alabama.
First Darrell Green, now Santana Moss. Is RGII on the verge of losing control of the locker room and his job in Washington? Does Robert need to look in the mirror and engage in some serious introspection before it's too late? The shine has definitely dimmed on his star.
No. No. First of all, this has really been a year where you almost have to give RG III a mulligan. He didn't play in any preseason games coming off a serious knee injury. I don't think he should have played until Week 3 or 4. They should have eased him into some games. They should have started Kirk Cousins. They had a bye in Week 5. That would have been the perfect opportunity to bring in him. Instead of being 1-3, they could have been 3-1, if they had handled it differently. They get RG III ready during that bye week, after getting him some experience in those first few weeks. RG III is tremendously intelligent. He has great character. He loves to compete, sometimes to his detriment. He thinks he's Superman out there sometimes. But he doesn't have to prove anything to anybody.
As far as his comments, he did take responsibility. It's up to him to smooth things over with his teammates. If he's 100 percent next year, I think he can revert back to his rookie form. But I give him a mulligan this year. But why do you draft Kirk Cousins if you're not going to play him in this situation this year? Doesn't make sense.
Do the Bengals have any chance at all now?
Oh, definitely. No question they have a chance. They are the best team in the division. They're in a bye week this week. They are coming off a win against Cleveland due to Browns mistakes on special teams and poor QB play. The Bengals offense didn't do much. Dalton really needs to play better. They have San Diego, Indy, Pittsburgh. So three tough games out of the bye week. If they're a quality team, they have to win two of three. If they don't win two of three, then a red flag goes up. Andy Dalton needs to play better in bad conditions. He didn't play well in the windy weather. The Bengals have sustained a ton of injuries on defense. Vincent Rey has done a great job filling in for Maualuga.
It is a shame Stephen Morris is not having the kind of year everyone thought he would. Does he get drafted at this point?
He's had injuries. Been banged up. That's been the problem with him, the injury factor. You don't see the pure passing skills that you know he has. They've also had a new look WR corps. Yes, his stock has dropped. He's still my fifth highest rated senior QB. When he gets to the workouts, they'll see his size and arm strength. I think he's an early Day 3 guy.
How can you not list Matt Elam on your top Rookies list? He is really starting to play well.
He's gotten better. I wasn't that impressed with him in the early portion of the season. That's a grade based on not only how they've performed now, but the whole year. It's not just one or two games, but the body of work. I thought he was less than stellar early in the year. But he's getting acclimated and a feel for the NFL. But that list is the elite of the elite. There is no one on that list that isn't playing great football.
Which player that was not in top 10 on your draft board in April draft has played like a top 10 player?
Good question. Kiko Alonzo, ILB, Buffalo. I think he's the best rookie overall this year, so far. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers. When Aaron Rodgers was out there, he looked like a top 10 guy. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans.
Who would your Heisman Vote go for right now?
Right now, it would go to Jameis Winston. But the off field question clouds that a little bit. We know very little. We have very little information. We'll have to see what happens with him. He'd be the pick now, but if something happens more off the field, there has been no charge and you're innocent until proven guilty. If something does happen, then I'd probably go with Manziel or Bryce Petty. Petty would be contingent on how he does the next few games. He doesn't have his top receiver or his LT. He's in Stillwater against a defense that has two outstanding CBs. This is the toughest test of the year for that Baylor offense.
If Carlos Hyde, RB, OSU hadn't been suspended for the first few games, he'd be right in the Heisman mix. He's had a great year, averaging almost 8 yards per carry.
If you're the Jets, are you getting close to the point where you give up on Stephen Hill after this season, or does he still have that potential that made him a 2nd rd pick last year?
I wouldn't say give up. You knew he was a developmental WR when he was coming out of Georgia Tech. Everyone doesn't develop at the same pace. You have to coach him up. You have to improve. It's far too early to give up.
After Ha Ha, safety class looks weak... what safeties do you like in the later rounds (4-7)?
First of all, the safety crop has some intriguing guys from the senior class. Exum can play CB, safety. He's coming off the injured list. Darwin Cook, WVU; Jimmie Ward, NIU. Those are some seniors. Deone Bucannon, Washington State.
What's your draft grade on Mizzou's James Franklin?
It's a shame he got hurt with the shoulder injury. That took away an opportunity to improve. He's made some strides this year. When he got hurt in the game against Georgia, he missed the Florida game, South Carolina game. Now he's coming back.
Mel, can we get your perspective on the Gronk controversial flag pick-up? Should it have been a penalty?
I picked the Patriots to win that game. My co-host Dari picked Carolina. But I can't disagree with the call. Brady could not step up and plant his feet and have his mechanics working. He stopped when he was stepping up and he couldn't plant to throw. I credit Edwards for getting in Brady's face. The pass came up 5 yards short of his target. It was low. Had it been in the area of Gronkowski and high, it would have been a penalty. Brady took responsibility and said it was a poor throw.
Do the struggles this year of Kaepernick and RGIII hurt Mariota's chances of being the number one pick?
I think people are looking at it now and saying that after a year, we've figured out a read option. I've thought this: you don't draft a QB to run the read option. You draft him if he can throw the ball accurately. The gimmicks and fads come and go. They used to draft guys to run the Wildcat. You don't draft guys to be read option QBs, you draft them to pass the ball. So, maybe in that regard, it will have an impact, but I don't look at these guys as read option QBs. It's just an accent piece.
Can you make any sense of the Ponder, Freeman, Cassell kerfuffle?
They're trying to figure out and find out if they have the QB on their roster going forward. That's what they're going to try and do over the next 6 weeks. We know it's not Cassell. It's either Freeman or Ponder. It's a fluid situation at QB for Minnesota.
We have Wisconsin and FSU this weekend with Scott Tolzien and Christian Ponder going against each other. Minnesota has to figure out who is the right guy by the end of the year.
Mel, can you help me understand the cowboys? strange team!
I've said all along. They're a .500 team of late. I've always said that Dallas is overrated every year. They have that star on their helmet. I love everything the Cowboys stand for. You have to respect the team and organization. But they've been overrated the last number of years. You can pencil them in for 8-8 every year and be close. They have to beat the Giants this week or else the Giants will be right back in this race. If the Giants win, the Cowboys and Giants will be tied at 5-6. This is a game Dallas has to win. But they have problems. They've had some key injuries and they don't have the quality depth to afford those injuries.
Mel, MVP has to be Peyton Manning right? Who would you put 2nd and 3rd?
Andrew Luck for what he's done without Reggie Wayne and the OL issues. Russell Wilson, definitely is in the mix. Peyton, obviously. Drew Brees. Tom Brady, with everything the Patriots have had to overcome. Cam Newton, for carrying the team.
Those are some of the guys, from the QB standpoint.
Matt McGloin threw 3 TDs last week and earned himself a second start. What's your long-term view on him?
I think he's an overachiever. He's very smart. Understands his role and limitations. Is the arm strength and overall skill set enough to be an effective starter? That's the question. Same question for Case Keenum. They'll both have to beat the odds and prove the doubters wrong. I still don't think so.
Raiders will probably be picking somewhere between 8-12, what direction do you think they go with so many holes on their roster?
Getting their OL healthy will be huge. Maybe for the Dallas game on Thanksgiving. That would be big. They have to get another WR. Darren McFadden will probably move on. I like what Moore has shown as a young LB. The defense needs more help. So the defense overall and definitely another WR. They need to figure out if Terrelle Pryor is the guy or not.
What areas do you think the Chargers need to improve on to become a playoff contender again in the AFC?
They need to do a better job on the road. They have had some close wins that were almost losses. You need to play better on the road or else you'll be playing in the playoffs on the road.
Do you think the Bears should re-sign Cutler to a longer deal, or let him go and try to draft or develop a younger QB?
That's the question the organization has to answer. I've never been a huge Cutler backer. It depends on what you have to pay. I've thought he was a good QB, not a great QB. They've done some things. They made adjustments to the OL, major changes to the OL have helped Cutler. They have Marshall, Jeffrey. He has talent around him.
Is Eric Ebron going to have a grade higher or lower than Tyler Eifert?
Higher. He'll have a higher grade. He's explosive athletically. He's working on eliminating the drops. Much more consistent catching the ball this year than last year. He has the fear factor in being able to beat you deep. His blocking is not bad. He's No. 12 on the Big Board. I think he could be a top 15 pick.
I know losing Julio Jones and having an unhealthy Roddy White all season is hard to overcome, but are you still surprised by the terrible play of Matt Ryan? Do we need to change his nickname from Matty Ice to Matty Slushy Water?
When you take those pieces away, that impacts the QB. I didn't expect this bad. They have a 2-8 record. They may only win 3 or 4 wins this year. I definitely didn't expect them to be 3-13. But Ryan has been impacted by the injuries. This is a year where you just have to give them a mulligan.
The big loss was at home to the Jets. After that game they were 1-4 going into the bye week. That was a loss that showed how their season was going to go.
Hey Mel. You mentioned Brandon Scherff as seeing the nastiest run blocker as you have ever seen. How is this pass protection and how will that run blocking ability outweigh his pass blocking?
He's a good pass blocker. He's not elite, but he's pretty good. He'll have a hiccup every now and then. He's a former QB, kicker and punter in high school. He's a good pass blocker, not great. But he'll get better. He's got an option to stay or come out. But right now, he's No. 21 on the Big Board.
Who do you think will win the Iron Bowl?
I'm not going to make a call on that until the Saturday of the game. On the Dari & Mel show on ESPN Radio. We're also simulcast on ESPNU from 9a-10a ET. Everyone looks at that game and says that Alabama can shut down that Auburn run game. But this is a top notch run game. Greg Robinson is a third year sophomore LT who is elite. He's big time. There will be a lot of great matchups in that game. But I'll reserve my pick until that day.
Back to Ryan, Tom Brady also had all his experienced pieces out (Gronk, Amendola, Vereen) and still managed to win games. Does Ryan deserve more of the blame for this awful season?
I have to tell you. The credit goes to the Patriots with Brady and Belichick together. The offense has had injuries, but what about the defense? Mayo and Wilfork and Talib? They are 7-3 and two of those losses, they could have easily won. The Jets game had that iffy call at the end. The Carolina game came down to the end. And in the Bengals game, they had the weather change at the end when they're trying to make the winning score. So, they haven't been blown out in any game. I give Belichick credit for his defense. Josh McDaniels for the offense. Tom Brady has kept them together. They should be a minimum of 11-5.
That just speaks to the greatness of Belichick and Brady. Being just a "very good" doesn't overcome things. Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are good, but maybe only "great" ones can overcome that adversity. I don't throw great around very much. Everyone says everything is great. I save great for "elite" things. Not everything has to be great.
How do you see the NFC North playoff race ending up? Could you see a scenario where the Lions, Bears and possibly the Packers all get in?
I think the Lions will win the division. The Packers have to get Rodgers back or else they're in trouble. I'm not sold on the Bears because their defense can't stop the run.
Hi Mel - are Dee Milliner's struggles just part of adjusting to the NFL or have you seen anything that makes you think he was rated too high?
First of all, he's a rookie. He's still adapting and learning. He was only a starter for one year at Alabama. He wasn't considered to be a shut down guy. He was a guy we thought would be a very good corner. In this past draft, a lot of guys got pushed up because there weren't star guys at the top. Eric Fisher went No. 1. Some drafts are just stronger at the top than others. It wasn't an elite draft at the top. From that draft, the best players are: Kiko Alonzo, 2nd round; Sheldon Richardson, 13th pick overall; Star Lotulelei, 4th overall; Eddie Lacy, 61st pick; Kenny Vaccaro, 15th pick; Gio Bernard, 37th pick; Jordan Reed, 85th pick; Tyrann Mathieu, 69th pick; Alec Ogletree, 30th overall; Eric Reed, 18th overall. Nobody went in the top 10. Of the top 10 rookies in the NFL right now, no one went that early.
Do you think Ed Orgeron will get the HC job at USC?
He's making a case. He's making it hard for Pat Haden, the AD, to not retain him as coach. He has the fans excited. He has the players excited to play. He loved USC growing up. He loves the history. You never see a different uniform or helmet when USC plays. I'm sick of watching a game and not knowing who is playing because everyone is changing uniforms and helmets. One road uniform and one home uniform and one helmet. That's it. I applaud those teams that stay with who they are and sticks to their tradition. USC had to beat Colorado, obviously. Then there is the crosstown rivalry with UCLA. Mora has done a great job at UCLA this year. If Pat Haden doesn't hire Ed Orgeron, then he has to retain him on the staff. Unless they have a bad loss somewhere down the road, I would think Oregeron will make it tough.
Will the top 2 QBs in the draft next season be able to start day 1?
That's almost what the environment is now. You have to be able to. Are the QBs ready to start right away? Maybe one year they get a chance to sit and learn. The majority have to be ready to start Year 1 and definitely by Year 2. That's why the experience for these college QBs helps. Mettenberger, Bridgewater, Murray. Mariota has just two years, Manziel, two years. Bryce Petty has only been a starter for one year. Experience helps you in the transition and maximizing your ability in the NFL.
I enjoyed it. This is only the next to last big, big week of college football. Dec. 7 is the conference championships. It's amazing how fast this season has gone by.