Transcript: ESPN Media Conference Call with NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.


Transcript: ESPN Media Conference Call with NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Transcript: ESPN Media Conference Call with NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.


On a media conference call yesterday, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. answered questions about the 2013 NFL Draft. The audio replay and transcript:


Q.  Give me your thoughts on some of the top small college guys. 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  What I’ll do is I’ll just go through that and we’ll give you the guys that have the draftable opportunities.  The quarterbacks, obviously there aren’t any there that isn’t from obviously players that you’re looking at.  The Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet, obviously some great games, the Syracuse game, the Army game.  He’s got a chance to be in that fourth round discussion.  I think Michael Hill from Missouri Western had a good All Star Game.  He’s a guy certainly late rounder priority free agent.  Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein is a fullback who I saw and gave at least a late round priority free agent grade to.


From the wide receiver class, Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee to Tennessee Tech, Grand Valley State’s Charles Johnson, wide receiver.  Alan Bonner from Jacksonville State, Tyrone Goard from Eastern Kentucky, Jasper Collins, Mount Union.  Those are some of the guys there, Ryan Spadola, Lehigh.  A lot of receiving entities.


Tight end wise, there’s a couple down the road that nobody is really draftable.  The Arkansas Pine Bluff tackle Terron Armstead, you know all about him.  Luke Marquardt, the tackle from Azusa Pacific, Terren Jones from Alabama State, Mark Jackson from Glenville State.  You also have Gaines from Tennessee State, so a lot of offensive tackles.


Guard wise, Ryan Jensen from Colorado State Pueblo, Earl Watford, guard from James Madison, just to name a few there.


Defensive players, let’s go real quick there, Armonty Bryant from East Central Oklahoma, the defensive end, the Montori Hughes was at Tennessee then at UT Martin, defensive tackle; Brandon Williams, defensive tackle, Missouri Southern.  A couple there.


At linebacker wise, you have Brandon Thurmond from Arkansas Pine Bluff; you also have Florida A & M linebacker Brandon Hepburn.


Cornerback, a lot of those B.W. Webb, William & Mary; Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana; B.J. Scott, South Alabama formerly of Alabama.


Safety wise, J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern; Jakar Hamilton, South Carolina State; Kejuan Riley, Alabama State, guys like that.


So there you go.  Anybody I missed?


Q.  No, you’re in good shape there, and thanks for that.  Now, the other thing I wanted to ask, who do you see the Eagles zoning in on and who are some of the guys that are available to them at the No. 4 pick? 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, it’s going to be the Geno Smith discussion.  Obviously a new coach, do you bring in your new quarterback with the new coach and go that route when you’re in a division with Romo and Eli and RG3?  Do you go the offensive line route?  You’ve got some outstanding left tackles.  Joeckel if he goes No. 1 is out of the loop, but then obviously Eric Fisher from Central Michigan and Lane Johnson from Oklahoma, you want the cornerback Dee Milliner from Alabama, you could go there.  Then you can look quarterback second round, whether it’s an E.J. Manuel, you hear his name for the Eagles in the early second round some.  You hear Matt Barkley to Jacksonville in the early second round.  I keep hearing Ryan Nassib to Buffalo for obvious reasons; his old coach Doug Marrone is the head coach at Buffalo with the Bills.


So the Eagles, it depends on the first round pick.  That dictates what they do in round 2.  You take Geno Smith, you’re not taking an E.J. Manuel.  You take Geno Smith, then you’re probably looking at maybe a Watson, the offensive tackle from Florida State in the second round.  Third round maybe a corner like B.W. Webb from William & Mary.  So that’s some of the ways the Eagles could go.


Q.  I know it’s kind of a down year for them but what you saw out of Nebraska’s draft class so far this year and in particular Rex Burkhead was kind of hurt by the injury his senior year but just kind of wondering what your opinion was on Nebraska’s whole class and him in particular?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, less than stellar.  Obviously Burkhead is a late round pick; Stafford’s stock has fallen through the process at safety; Martin, who could be an outstanding special teams guy and either a combo defensive end outside linebacker; Eric Martin has got a chance to be, I think, a late round pick.  But that’s really, I mean, you don’t really see a lot outside of that.


I think the most intriguing guys, like I said, because of the fact that special teams is so critical, especially early in a player’s career, I would think if you look at it from that standpoint, then Eric Martin could be a guy that I think may end up being a guy who contributes the most in terms of the National Football League once he’s in the league and once his career unfolds.  I think Eric Martin is an interesting guy.


Q.  What’s your evaluation of Tavon Austin?  He’s a Baltimore kid.  Do you think he needs to land with a team that will have to get creative to get the most out of his unique skill set?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, he’s a phenomenal player.  I saw him in high school here at Dunbar in Baltimore, and he was outstanding.  He was a man among boys.  He’s just tremendously electrifying, great quickness.  He doesn’t break tackles, he’s only 5’8½”, 5’9″, and yet try to get a handle on him to tackle him, so the first thing you have to do is corral him.  He’s great kid, very businesslike in his approach, serious about his business.  You know, you think about the slot receivers, guys like Welker and Amendola and Davone Bess, they all went undrafted.  This kid is going to be drafted in the top 16.  I think the furthest I could see him getting down to, well, the furthest I could see him is 23 to Minnesota, 16 to St. Louis is where I have him going.  You could see him in the mix for Carolina, Tampa.  A lot of teams could be in the mix for him, but I think St. Louis will be a good fit at 16.  Amendola is now in New England, it’ll be a great fit with Bradford there to help him out.  You’ve got another pick at 22, you could address the safety spot there, help out the defense.


So I think Tavon is going to have a heck of a career.  I think he’s just an electrifying, dynamic player.  You could say he’s overdrafted because this draft doesn’t have elite guys in the top 10, but in this NFL, in the era we’re in in the NFL, his skill set transitions and translates tremendously well.  Now, 20 years ago it might have been a different ballgame, and the three guys that are dominating obviously are putting up big numbers at the slot receiver position went undrafted, but that certainly doesn’t affect Tavon Austin.  He’s a guaranteed first round draft choice and probably no later than pick 16.


Q.  My question is about the read option.  Do you see that being addressed in this draft, maybe not so much offensively but possibly defensively where guys might be a little bit overvalued to be able to combat so many teams now running that offense?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, is it something that’s going to pass?  Is it going to be defensed after people now are looking at it, they have a whole off season now.  You saw what happened with the wildcat; wildcat had a lot of success, now it’s kind of gone by the boards.  The read option is something that’s working now, will continue working.  Your quarterbacks are getting beat up; look at what happened to RG3.  Kaepernick was smart about how he operated running the football, I thought.  He saved his body in a lot of games from a lot of big hits, but can that continue?  Sometimes you’ve got to be in the right spot.  If you’re in the middle of the field or you’re not on the perimeter, then all of a sudden you’re going to take some hits so you get caught up in the moment.  You could very easily get hit hard and it could end your season.  It could affect your career.


So I don’t know about the longevity of quarterbacks who are going to run this type of offense on a regular basis, the staying power.  That’s the question.  And I don’t think teams are going to draft any differently than they did.  It’s a pass happy league.  Now you have a running dynamic in this league, so now you’re backing off, you’re playing the pass, now you have a run dynamic.  So now you’re talking about stacking the box.  You can’t do both.  You can’t stack the box and play the pass.


So for right now it’s kind of taken the NFL a little by surprise.  Will they adapt and adjust?  Sure they will, and can these quarterbacks stay in one piece and stay healthy is a big question moving forward.  It can help an E.J. Manuel a little bit from Florida State who’s got the skill set to be a read option quarterback obviously, could help him.  Instead of being a fourth round pick, maybe be a second round pick.


Some other guys that are late that have some components that might help them maybe get into the priority free agent category, get at least invited to camp.  So that’s the way I stand right now.  I’m still not thinking that you’re going to impact your defensive draft and certainly in terms of the offensive situation, keeping a quarterback out there for a full season is important, and you saw what happened with RG3 at the end of the year and that certainly impacted the way he goes into this season.


Q.  I want to run this scenario by you.  The Browns at 6 do not take Dee Milliner for whatever reason because they have that glaring hole at corner, they don’t have a second round pick.  They really need a starting corner and a starting free safety.  Who are some guys you think third, fourth, fifth round even who might be guys who you project as day one starters at corner or free safety? 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Sure, that’s a good question.  I think in terms of a Milliner I think he will be there at 6 anyway.  He’s going to be gone.  So I think you look at 5 to Detroit, 4 to Philly, 3 to Oakland, Milliner could go anywhere in that mix, so I don’t think he goes to Jacksonville.  I think they take the defensive end, be it Ansah or Jordan, but Cleveland is in a tough spot.  I think some of these guys, these former Ravens, like Kruger, former Ravens have not done well when they’ve moved on to other teams, but as far as the cornerback spot, third, fourth, fifth round guys, it’s a lot of depth there.  B.W. Webb from William & Mary could be a guy, Darius Slay from Mississippi State, Dwayne Gratz from Connecticut, Johnny Adams from Michigan State could be a possibility, Tyrann Mathieu from LSU would be in that third round mix, David Amerson from NC State, Steve Williams from Cal.  Those are some guys there in terms of the safety position.


Third, fourth, fifth round guys there, I could see a Duke Williams from Nevada, Bacarri Rambo from Georgia, Don Jones from Arkansas State, Earl Wolff from NC State, Phillip Thomas from Fresno State could be guys; Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma, Cooper Taylor from Richmond is another one in that mix, Rontez Miles from Cal PA, so those are some of the safeties, but I think there’s going to be a decent group of corners that’ll be in that third or fourth round mix that could certainly impact the Cleveland Browns and any other team looking for a corner.


Q.  I’m writing a little about the Chargers and left tackles.  They have the 11th pick, and let’s lay out a scenario where the top three tackles aren’t there.  In the second round, if they wanted to get one, how good are the guys there?  Are those readymade starters?  And in the first round, if the tackles aren’t there, would the Utah defensive tackle be a guy that’s an impact guy on a 3 4?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  And to your question about the scenario that could get him off the board before the Chargers pick would be a scenario of Luke Joeckel going No. 1 to Kansas City; Detroit taking Eric Fisher, the tackle from Central Michigan; then Arizona at 7 taking Lane Johnson.  That’s a scenario that gets the three tackles off the board.


If you go a different route, you say Joeckel goes 1 to Kansas City, Fisher drops down to Arizona at 7 because Detroit takes cornerback Dee Milliner if he’s there, then you could see Lane Johnson dropping to 11.


Now, that means he could be there, but also somebody else is going to trade ahead of them.  These are three left tackles that are all bunched together, three left tackles that you’re splitting hairs trying to separate.  They’re pretty much equal.  In a normal draft, they’d be between 7 and 15.  In this draft, they get pushed up.  And Lane Johnson has made a lot of strides since that Senior Bowl week where he was dominant, plus he can play left tackle or right tackle.


Yeah, if you want Johnson, you’re going to have to move up a little bit.  If you’re lucky and fortunate maybe he’s there at 11.  If he’s not, the only left tackle in the second round mix would be Terron Armstead from Arkansas Pine Bluff.  That would be it.


There’s nobody else, that’s not a good left tackle group after the top three.  D.J. Fluker is a right tackle, Menelik Watson is a right tackle, Reid Fragel is a right tackle.  You get in some guys in the third, fourth round, it could be intriguing, like Xavier Nixon from Florida, is a possibility there, but good luck after that.


So if you need a left tackle, the only three that are guaranteed are those.  And then Armstead is an interesting guy at Arkansas Pine Bluff for the second round.


Q.  Do you see any name that no one talks about right now… Let’s say running back.  And then like only maybe two or three that you say, you know what, they’re going to be undrafted, but they’re going to be big next year. 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, that’s a good question.  In terms of running backs, I’d say every year — I’ve been saying it for 35 years — you can find running backs at any point in the draft.  I would never draft a running back in the first round.  And when you see what Bernard Pierce did, you see what Robert Turbin did, you see what Ballard did at Indianapolis, obviously what Alfred Morris did with the Redskins, it’s another statement as to why and a validation as to why that philosophy has worked over the years.


It’s the one position as well where you can be as good as a rookie as you’ll ever be at any point down the road in your career, even if you come out as a junior.


Now, as far as late round running backs that could be in that mix, all these backs could drop.  I want to see where Christine Michael from Texas A&M ends up.  I want to see where Marcus Lattimore ends up in South Carolina considering his injury path with the two knee injuries.  Miguel Maysonet from Stony Brook, does he get into that sixth round mix?  You go back to the Syracuse and Army game, he looked like a second or third round pick.


Kerwynn Williams from Utah State, Montel Harris formerly of BC, then of Temple.  Mike James from Miami of Florida.  Cierre Wood from Notre Dame.  George Winn from Cincinnati I think is very underrated.


I think there’s a ton of backs that you could say could fall into that category of being that sixth round steal.  There’s a lot of them.


As far as other players that could be late round guys that end up having a chance, I think Alan Bonner, a wide receiver from Jacksonville State is a very interesting player.  Matt Furstenburg, a tight end out of Maryland.  I like him.


As far as guards, I like Earl Watford from James Madison.  I think Lavar Edwards, defensive end from LSU, is very underrated going into this process.


Defensive tackle wise, I think Brandon Moore from Texas is a little underrated going in.  Coming out early as a junior, Steve Beauharnais inside linebacker out of Rutgers.


Travis Johnson, a 3 4 outside linebacker out of San Jose State.  Phillip Steward, an outside linebacker out of Houston.  Those will be some of the guys I think that would fall into that category as late round possibilities that can play in this league for a long time.


Q.  It would probably be more pertinent to ask you about your thoughts on Michigan and the Final Four this week, but I’ve got to ask you about Denard and has anything in your opinion changed about him.  And also, after Pro Day, has your opinion of the stock of Michigan players in general changed? 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, I mean, that’s a good question with Denard because I still don’t know where he’s going to play.  I’ve asked teams, I’ve tried to watch him and figure it out.  I don’t know if he’s a receiving entity, if he’s a running entity, if he’s a defensive entity at corner, a return guy.  Trying to allow him to carve a niche or find the best position where he can carve a niche is going to be a challenge.  It’s not defined right now.  You say where does he go, third, fourth round?  I could see somebody taking him late Day 2, early Day 3.


I think the most interesting player of all the Michigan prospects, and obviously you’re talking about a lot of guys who are late round or priority free agents, is, to me — and I’ve said this throughout his career is Will Campbell.  We’ve talked about him in the past.  I think 6’5″, 312, the flash kind of ability he shows on occasion that he can ever be consistent, be coached up, be motivated.  Will Campbell has the talent to be a late round pick priority free agent that helps your football team.


And at that point what have you lost if he falls by the wayside and doesn’t develop, then it’s a late round pick or you sign him as a free agent.  Probably a sixth, seventh round pick.  I think his potential upside, he’s an intriguing guy.


Jordan Kovacs is another guy who’s going to make a team.  He’s a Jim Leonhard type player, safety who just throws his body around.  He’s played in a lot of games, but you wonder if he’ll be able to hold up physically with his style of play at only 5’11”, 200, 205.  But he’s a kid who’s going to make a team who will contribute just like a Jim Leonard did who people overlooked coming out of Wisconsin.


Q.  Covering the Redskins here and looking at their glaring need at free safety, how do you see the free safeties stacking up early in the draft and with a specific eye on the Redskins looking at No. 51? 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Any cornerback, too.  I tried to think free safety corner, and I gave them Blidi Wreh Wilson from Connecticut in the second round.  And then actually thought linebacker in the third, just because you can’t force things, with Jonathan Bostic from Florida.


You’re going to have to try to find some safety help at some point.  It’s a deep safety crop.  I think it’s not as great as some people made it out to be the way it has all shaken down late and as we move into April now.  Some of these guys, Tony Jefferson, obviously, hasn’t achieved a high grade.  I thought he could possibly when he came out early from Oklahoma.


There’s an elite group that are all going to go high.  You’re going to have a run on safeties in the second round.  If Jonathan Cyprien is not a first round pick out of Florida International, he will be a second.  Matt Elam, if he’s not a 1, he’ll be a 2 out of Florida.  Shamarko Thomas out of Syracuse will be a 2.  J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern.  Shawn Williams from Georgia could be a 3.  D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina probably a 2.  Eric Reid, LSU, probably more of a 3.  Duke Williams is an interesting guy out of Nevada.  I think Don Jones from Arkansas State is an underrated fifth to seventh round pick.  Same thing with Ray Polk from Colorado.  Rontez Miles from Cal PA has moved into that fifth round mix.  Zeke Motta would have been a third round pick had he run better.  He didn’t.  Now he’s a late round or priority free agent out of Notre Dame.  Melvin White is a versatile kid out of Louisiana Lafayette.


There’s a lot of guys.  It just depends on when you want to pull the trigger on a safety, whether you want to do it in second round, and you’re going to have to if you want one of those guys I mentioned because they’re going to be gobbled up quick.  Or do you want to go corner?  Is it a better corner or safety on the board when the Redskins are up with that 51st pick overall.


Q.  Now that maybe the dust has settled and we’ve had the Pro Day, can we kind of look at Manti Te’o, and where do you see him falling or landing and what’s the prognosis for the kind of career he could have?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  He should have a very good career.  Whether it’ll be great or not obviously is debatable.  But he’ll have a good career.  Where he’s going to end up I think is right now going to end up being in Chicago.  I thought about this, I did the projection last night late and I just looked at all the angles, and I just think Chicago is where it’s going to fall.


I tried to get him down to Minnesota because it makes so much makes sense, the Vikings at 23, the Vikings pick again at 25, they desperately need a middle linebacker.  They have a big hole at that position.  It would be perfect for what they do there.  Rick Spielman, his brother Chris Spielman, same thing, great production, got great 40.  Chris Spielman had a heck of a career in the NFL.


Te’o can have that type of career.  His 40 time improved from 4.82 to anywhere between 4.69 and 4.74 when he ran that second 40, which was faster than the first 40 he ran at the Pro Day.


But I think Chicago at 20.  If not, the latest I think he falls is to Minnesota at 23.  It’ll be interesting to see if a team like Minnesota, knowing that Chicago could have an interest, the Giants could have an interest at 19, tries to move up a little bit to get Te’o, especially ahead of a team in their own division with Chicago having the same need area.


So that’s an interesting dynamic when you get two teams in the same division and you’ve got the same player, Te’o, fitting both spots tremendously well.


Q.  I’ve got kind of a long winded question about the Dolphins in the draft.  We’ve seen them do some unconventional things.  They’ve traded down to get Jared Odrick, they traded up to get Daniel Thomas, they took Mike Pouncey in the first round, they took Tannehill in the first round.  If they were to do something a little unconventional this year, what would it be?  Would it be drafting Tavon Austin considering they have Mike Wallace?  Would it be getting Jonathan Cooper at guard, maybe Kenny Vaccaro at safety?  What do you see them doing kind of out of the box but still realistic in the first round?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  It’s interesting you said about unconventional.  The one unconventional move that they made was when they had Matt Ryan, they took Jake Long and ended up with Chad Henne in the second round, so they thought they could get the left tackle, then get the quarterback, and it ends up being Long and Henne, neither of whom are with the team now and Matt Ryan is a franchise quarterback.  That would have allowed them to move on with Ryan, they would have never had to address the quarterback position like they did last year with Tannehill.


It’s just how history would have been rewritten had they done something that was more conventional and expected, which was take Matt Ryan.  They didn’t.  So that’s a move that obviously was critical in this whole equation for the Dolphins.  We’ll have to see how Tannehill develops.  Ryan is already a franchise guy.  But a D.J. Fluker from Alabama, who’s a right tackle or guard, could be an interesting guy at 12.


I don’t think any of the players you mentioned will be Vaccaro from Texas, considering he didn’t run that well at the combine, has last momentum through the process.  Maybe three months ago or two months ago I would have said Vaccaro at 12; now I’m thinking more Vaccaro at 22 to St. Louis.  Good football player, but I don’t know if you have to have the justification of the numbers to get up into the top 15, and I don’t think he did at this stage.


But I think a Fluker from Alabama.  The guy is as good a run blocking right tackle as you’ll ever find.  Could be a guard.  Some think he could be a left tackle.  I question that.  But I think D.J. Fluker from Alabama would be interesting at 12.


Q.  The Bears have said they’re open to trading at No. 26.  If they do that, how deep is this year’s draft class at linebacker?  And I guess even offensive linemen, if they decide to do that and maybe stockpile picks? 


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I think if you decide obviously at linebacker, if you’re passing, say, on a Manti Te’o and somebody wants to jump up and get him or somebody else at that point, there’s going to be a lot of viable options.


You look at the second round, you say Kevin Minter from LSU.  Will he be there?  I don’t think so.  Jonathan Bostic, Florida, Steve Beauharnais from Rutgers are all second and third round possibilities.  Then you have Kiko Alonso from Oregon maybe in the third round mix along with Kevin Reddick from North Carolina, Jonathan Stewart from Texas A&M, A.J. Klein from Iowa State in that fourth round mix.


Yeah, at that stage, if you pass on, say, Te’o, then I think you’re looking more at hoping that Minter is there, and I don’t think Kevin Minter is getting out of the late first, early second round.  So then you’re looking at Jonathan Bostic from Florida.  So it’s a little bit of a dropoff there down from the top two or three, because Ogletree is in that mix, too, as a mid to late one.


Q.  The Panthers, everyone is seeming to mock the Panthers with a defensive tackle and certainly rightly so in the first round at No. 14.  If the Panthers do not take a defensive tackle for whatever reason, who do you think they may pick up at 14 and where do you see them going in the second round, as well?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, that’s a good question.  I think defensive tackle is such a pressing need for Rivera and company.  I think Ron looks at Sheldon Richardson would be an ideal fit; Lotulelei I have going to Tampa Bay one pick earlier if Richardson is gone.  Then you look at Sylvester Williams, I see him going to Dallas with Kiffin coming in there and that defensive scheme I think it would fit well with.

So I think there’s going to be a defensive tackle there.  Richardson, Williams I think would be two viable entities.  If you want to wait until the second round on a defensive tackle, then you’d probably be looking at a Jesse Williams from Alabama, Johnathan Hankins from Ohio State or John Jenkins from Georgia, but then if you do take the defensive tackle in the first, you could look at a safety like DJ Swearinger from South Carolina in the second round, a Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse in the second round.

So if you get the defensive tackle then the safety, I think you’d be in pretty good shape.  This is a team that obviously late in the year was red hot, winning five of your last six games, Cam is getting it done, you had seven losses by six points or less.  This is a team that was highly competitive despite their record, finished strong and has a chance to really jump up into that playoff mix.

You know they have the right quarterback, you add a defensive tackle, you add a safety, you add — down the road obviously you’d have to think about another entity maybe at a receiving end.  That’s why Tavon Austin’s name has come up in the first round.  But I think if they go away from that, they can find some guys later.  You can find those guys later, a lot of depth at wide receiver in terms of fourth to seventh rounders who can get the job done.  But I think getting a safety and a defensive tackle in the first two rounds, if they do that they’re off to the races.


Q.  Can you talk about Tyler Wilson and where you see him going, what round, and what you like about him?  He’s kind of been a little bit overshadowed here and you don’t hear much about him?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, he’s the forgotten man in this quarterback class now.  It’s amazing.  He went into the year, you thought maybe late first round, early second round, then all of a sudden kind of the wheels came off of the program.  You think about with Petrino gone and obviously a lot of changes, three receivers moved on to the NFL, you had the injury with Gragg at tight end, the offensive line issues continued.  All of a sudden then you had Davis didn’t play as well as you thought he would.  He’s obviously had a lot of injury issues at Arkansas, the running back, and then Tyler Wilson had the injury early on.  The Alabama game, which you thought was going to be a key game for him, injured.

Then you talk about he’s kind of one of those guys, small hands came up, but he’s a tough kid.  He looks down that gun barrel, he makes some very difficult throws.  He’s the kind of kid if he slides, becomes a value pick, a nice pick, and if he gets into the fourth round mix, which he could, third, fourth round mix, then there’s a kid who at one point if things would have fallen right could have been a first round pick and I don’t think anybody could have argued with it.

At the end of the day some things worked against him, a lot of things beyond his control, the small hands came into the equation, as well.  So I think he drops into the third or fourth round.


Q.  Tyler Bray threw at the combine.  How uncommon is it for a quarterback rated as an early or mid round pick to actually do the throwing at the combine?  How do you think it impacted his draft status one way or the other?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I was surprised he came out of Tennessee first of all.  I thought another year would have benefitted him.  You could say, well, he’s losing Justin Hunter, he’s losing Zach Rogers and Cordarrelle Patterson.  But they’ve got some big offensive linemen coming back there.  You can develop some receivers.  Looked like Patterson had a phenomenal year; he only had the one year coming in from the juco route.  Hunter was coming off the injury.

So it was a case where another year could have really benefitted him, but he did get his weight up, he did flash that arm strength as you talked about at the combine.  It’s not uncommon.  All these guys need to throw; they’re throwing at their pro day, they’re throwing at the combine.  Some opt to wait for their pro day in optimal conditions.

But when you look at Tyler Bray, I think third round is when he gets really seriously into the discussion, fourth round.  So a second round would surprise me if he went that early.  But hey, I’ve seen big strong arm guys like Bray go earlier than I project.  I’m looking at him as a third or fourth rounder 6’6″, 232, who knows, maybe somebody takes him in the second.


Q.  Can you talk about the defensive end group and cornerback group that might be there at 30?  Carradine was in here yesterday, and Trufant looks like a corner that might be available for them at 30?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, I don’t think Trufant will be there.  I have Trufant going a little earlier at 19 to the Giants, so I don’t see Trufant being there.  I think you could look at a defensive end.  They obviously added Umenyiora.  He did some things obviously, and when you add Steven Jackson at running back, you add the defensive end and the running back, you could take an offensive lineman, that’s an issue for them.  Kyle Long would be in the discussion.

I think it’s a little early for Carradine considering he’s coming off the injury.  I have him more in the second round.  Margus Hunt from SMU would be a guy at that point, Bjoern Werner from Florida State could still be there, Corey Lemonier from Auburn is another one that could be in that mix.

So there’s a lot of defensive ends that will be there at that point.  They just have to decide are they worthy of being the 30th pick overall.

If you think about a corner other than Trufant, if Trufant is gone, which I think he will, Xavier Rhodes I have gone, the guys I think could be there, possibly DJ Hayden from Houston, Jamar Taylor from Boise State.  Those would be a couple names of guys that would be worthy of being in the late first round discussion at the cornerback spot.


Q.  Matt Scott, where do you see him going?  Has he been rising up people’s boards since the combine?  And second quick one, have you heard of any Canadian players after the CFL combine making any impact on the NFL side?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, in terms of the whole situation with quarterbacks, the one thing that you have to always keep in mind, there are very few teams — I had to do this with the three round projection yesterday.  Very few teams are going to look at a quarterback early.  The ones that need a quarterback, you know who they are, and you have to try to figure out, okay, who fits them the best and who could be in the mix.

You have a first round quarterback in Geno Smith.  I’ve said all along I think he’s 20 to 32, and everybody is kind of saying the same thing.  I said it three months ago, I thought he was a 20 to 32 guy.  I kept asking teams, is he going to go in the first, is he going to go — yeah, he’s going to go in the top ten.  Well, he’s going to go in the top ten, but everybody thinks he’s 20 to 32 so it’s been an interesting dynamic trying to evaluate where he’ll project.

Matt Barkley, obviously late first, early second; Ryan Nassib, early second; Mike Glennon, I think more third round; Landry Jones, more third round; E.J. Manuel, second round probably, at worst early third.  Then you get Tyler Bray, third or fourth round; Tyler Wilson, third or fourth round, Zac Dysert is kind of sneaking in from Miami Ohio as a third round possibility; Sean Renfree from Duke is a later round possibility; and Matt Scott is kind of in that mid round range.  He’s probably in that four to five, four to six round area, and he’s probably going to go to a team that doesn’t have as critical a need but wants to look at a young quarterback that maybe feels like, okay, let’s see if we can develop him, put him off the radar for a couple years and develop him old school way and see what happens there.

So that would be the way I think you look at that.  I don’t have anybody from the Canadian situation draftable.  Obviously there’s some guys that went to some All Star Games and their names are in the mix, a couple linemen, the defensive lineman Charles, but nobody in the draftable category from the Canadian ranks.


Q.  The Lions have a pretty big need at defensive end.  How big of a risk would that be if they took somebody at 5, and can you kind of compare and contrast Ziggy Ansah and Dion Jordan, two guys who I guess could be in the mix there?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, Ziggy is — Ezekiel Ansah is more of a defensive end now, whereas Dion Jordan is a 3 4 outside linebacker, very lean, very athletic or long, has the length, the wingspan, all of that, still developing.  Wasn’t as dominant this year as I thought he could be considering how great he finished the season two years ago.

Yeah, I think if you look at a defensive end in the second round, Bjoern Werner from Florida State could still be there.  You have to look at Tank Carradine coming off the injury.  I don’t know if they would want to go that route from Florida State.  Or they’d want to look at a Margus Hunt, could be a 3 4 end or a 4 3 end in the right situation.  I just wonder about him being a guy is a rookie can really help you as a developmental defensive end.

So if you take Dee Milliner, then you can look at Bjoern Werner.  If you take Ezekiel Ansah, then maybe you look at a cornerback in the second round and a cornerback at that point would be a Jamar Taylor from Boise State.  Maybe DJ Hayden if he’s there from Houston.  I think he could late first, but there’s a possibility DJ Hayden could be there early second.  You could go defensive end corner or go corner defensive end.  I think either way the Lions are in pretty good shape the way they’re sitting right now.


Q.  How much did Gavin Escobar help himself at his pro day and where do you see him and San Diego State’s cornerback Leon McFadden going now that we’re like a month from the draft?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, Escobar is an interesting guy.  I’ve liked him.  You look at his skill set and how it translates to the NFL, I think ideally at 6’5½”, 6’6″, 250 to 255 pounds, he runs well, he plays fast too many times, he’s got the hands, he’s got the natural receiving skills.  I think he’s in that late second, early to mid third round discussion.  The 49ers could look at him at 61.  There’s a couple teams, Tampa Bay could look at him in the third round mix.  There are some teams that could be looking at tight ends.  Seattle even in the third round.

So I’d say late second, early to mid third for Escobar.

For McFadden, teams need corners, and there’s going to be a major run on corners in that second, third round area.  That’s where McFadden is being viewed to be a possibility.  I’d say at the worst fourth round.  So I’ll say third or fourth round for McFadden, late second or third round for Escobar.


Q.  In your top five list at Utah State Kerwynn Williams and Will Davis, I was wondering where you thought they might go in the draft and also whether maybe Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin’s performances for the Seahawks last year helped them?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, it gets people in.  Anytime you have players that are going to be looked at, it gets the scouts in and to those games and to those venues and the pro days and all that.  So yeah, certainly the more players you have that are viable each year, the better off you are, and I think obviously they had a team that did a good job.  I mean, this was a good football team.

To me you look at Utah State with Kerwynn Williams, 5’8″ but electrifying runner, speed, can get outside.  I think he’s a good accent piece, good situational running back.  I think we’re going to be talking about him on day three as a guy who gets selected and has an impact early in his career on the National Football League.

Will Davis I wasn’t as high on as some other people in this industry were.  I thought he was beaten some, I thought his coverage skills were just okay, not great.  I didn’t give him as high a grade as some do.

I projected him right now to be more of a later round guy, a day three guy, fifth, sixth round player, some think a little earlier than that.  I think he’s the kind of player that could come off the board a little quicker than what I think.  So maybe fourth round, fifth round for Will Davis.

I thought he’d end up a little higher, but when I watched him, and I watched him in three games and then the Senior Bowl week wasn’t great, I think more — I’m grading him out to be a day three guy.


Q.  Just wondering, for the Browns, maybe a mid round pass rusher, maybe a developmental type of guy you think they could probably target there, and then also as you were evaluating a guy like Jabaal Sheard coming out in the draft a couple years ago, did you ever see him or project him into a 3 4 as an outside pass rusher?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  You could.  That’s where he’s going to be asked to play is with Kruger on the other side, so that’s the question.  Do you take a Dion Jordan knowing that Sheard is a question mark or do you roll the dice with Sheard, he was an early round pick, he’s shown flashes, the kid’s got some ability, or do you look at a guy that can maybe be like I say an insurance policy in those middle rounds.  And the guys that you’d think about at that particular juncture of the draft that would be those combo guys and that’s what you’re looking for because obviously you want some pass rush ability there.  I mentioned his name earlier, Travis Johnson from San Jose state.  I think there’s another guy, Chase Thomas from Stanford, he’s dropped because he doesn’t have the great speed, but he’s a good football player.

Sean Porter was interesting when he was in that scheme a couple years ago, played well, getting after the quarterback, fell back a little this past year.

Ty Powell from Harding, small college guy, would be a nice day three pick.  I think he’ll be talking about him.  Steven Means from Buffalo; Travis Long, Washington State.  All those guys I think would be players that you can get day three that could fit this scheme and maybe help this football team and at least give you some insurance in case Sheard doesn’t make that transition to a 3 4 outside linebacker spot.


Q.  We’ve talked forever about the explosion of the draft and now the seemingly limitless expansion of coverage and analysis.  I guess as one of the pioneers, how do you wrap your brain around and explain the dynamics of what is essentially a 48 hour event creating such a demand for not only year round coverage but also an opening for the subculture of draft analysts and experts that are out there?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  It’s phenomenal.  To see it the way it was when I started in 1978, the 1978 football season was my first year covering the draft, and to see it grow to this point, obviously I thought it could.  I wouldn’t have gotten into this business if I didn’t think it had a chance to be successful and create this industry, as you said, which is huge.  And think about what ESPN does with the draft and all the other entities that are covering this and the coverage on the internet and then the talk from August until April about the draft.

To see it grow from where it was is something I thought could happen.  You say, well, why did you think that when you were 18 years old.  I thought that because it was the only way to improve your football team.  The NFL has always been the king of all sports.  The only way — there was very few trades, free agency didn’t exist.  The only way your team changed its makeup from a year to a year and improved was the draft, and it was 17 rounds back in the day, then it was 12 rounds, then it became eight, then seven, and it’s seven right now as we speak.  It’s the only vehicle to improve your team, and people weren’t able to see a lot of these players in the ’70s and ’80s.  The only thing about that, you couldn’t see players.  Nobody watched players.

I had to go to two games every Saturday in person, call schools, try to get tape, try to get film.  I’ve got a big satellite dish on the roof because I wanted to see as many football games as I could.  So you had to work hard; you had to do a lot of research to find out just tackles and sack numbers.  I had to call every school.  The internet didn’t exist.  I had to call every school to get basic statistics on a player.  You know how time consuming that was?

So yeah, you’ve got to work hard — I worked 20 hour days back in those years to get that book done, and I came out with that book in mid March, early to mid March I was coming out with that final book.  To see it grow to this point is tremendously satisfying for me because it’s shown that back at age 18 I at least had the vision and the foresight to get into something that down the road became as huge as this is.


Q.  I wanted to get some thoughts from you on the four kids from UConn that went to the combine, Wilson, Gratz, Trevardo Williams and Sio Moore.  Just your thoughts, too, about how UConn is kind of coming up in the draft, too, these past few years.


MEL KIPER, JR.:  They’ve done a great job.  I think — I remember sitting with Randy Edsall when he was developing this program.  He sat up at ESPN Radio studios with myself and Dave Revson back in the day when we were doing College Gameday from 11:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night.  And Randy would just sit in the studios during an off week and talk about the program and where it was headed, and you think about where it is now and what he left behind, it’s just — and you see these players in these early rounds and what they’re able to do, you’re talking about Blidi Wreh Wilson is a late first, early second possibility, early to mid second round possibility if he doesn’t go in the late first.  You’re talking about Sio Moore in solidly in that second round suggestion; Dwayne Gratz in that third or fourth round discussion, Trevardo Williams in the third or fourth round discussion.  And as a pass rusher Trevardo Williams would fit with 3 4 teams very ideally for as strong as he is and as quick as he is off the edge.  Gratz and Blidi Wreh Wilson, you think about Senior Bowl week and what they’ve been able to do, so you’re talking about four guys could be all off the board by the time we finish day three, which is pretty amazing, considering where this program was when it started and where it is now.  I mean, they got from point A to point whatever pretty quickly.


Q.  Could you give us a little more breakdown on the strengths and weaknesses of Ryan Nassib and just is it too logical to think that he’s going to be a Bills target?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  No, I don’t think it is because familiarity reins supreme in this process.  Every year you see what happens when players, when personnel people leave to go somewhere else or coaches leave to go — they bring their own guys with them.  You see that.  I mean, it’s automatic.  When Scott Pioli left New England to go to Kansas City, he brought Matt Cassel with him.  Dennis Dixon was at Oregon, now he’s up in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly.  That’s just the way this league is.  Surround yourself with guys that you know and you coach.  Rex Ryan when he went to the Jets brought some Baltimore Ravens with him.  That’s just the way it is in this league.

So to say that Doug Marrone is not going to end up with Ryan Nassib early in the second round, I think it’s a strong possibility.  That’s who I’m projecting to go to Buffalo for obvious reasons.  You talk about his skill set; he’s 6’2″, up around 230 pounds, he can hang in there, he can take a hit.  His accuracy I’d like to see it be more precise with some throws and allow his receivers to do more after the catch, a little erratic with that at times and inconsistent with that, put a little more pressure on your line at times, but if you protect him he can do some things throwing the football.  He’s got a nice arm.  I like the way the ball comes out of his hand.  Is he being a little overdrafted if he goes in the early second?  Probably, but his coach knows him better than anybody.  Normally I would think — you’d look at Nassib more as a third round pick.  I think he’ll get pushed up because of the way this draft is.  But certainly he’s got a chance.  He’s going to get an opportunity to be a starting quarterback.  Whether he’s going to be a big time starting quarterback is going to be very debatable.  Can he be decent to solid, I think he can.


Q.  What do you like about Wilson to the Redskins in the second round, and the second question is when you look around the league, what teams are really good at developing their rookies?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, what I like about Wilson is I like the fact that in this league you’ve got to be able to cover, and certainly Wilson, Blidi Wreh Wilson, can do that.  He has obviously the height you want.  He’s over six feet.  You think about the length, you think about the ability that he showed at Connecticut to match up in coverage and do a good job.  His tackling is so so at times, a little sloppy as a tackler, he’s got to shore that up.  But he’s worthy of being a second round draft choice.

In terms of teams developing players right away, I think you look at the teams on the back end, the Baltimore Ravens why are they picking 32?  They won a Super Bowl.  Well, why did that happen?  It happened because of a lot of rookies last year, and they’ve always done a great job with undrafted free agents.  A key guy for them was an undrafted free agent kicker, Justin Tucker out of Texas.  Without Justin Tucker they’d be picking 22, 21, 20, 19, instead of 32.  So an undrafted free agent kicker makes their year as successful as it was or helps them make their year as successful as it was.

In terms of developing players from the draft, you go down the line.  I think back in the day Indianapolis did, and I think they’re starting to do that more with Ryan Grigson now, Bill Polian to Ryan Grigson.  They’ve always done a good job developing their players.

I think about the New York Giants, when Ernie Accorsi to Jerry Reese, the job they’ve done in terms of just continuity.  That’s what they believe in and they’re able to do that.  The Steelers historically have always done a good job in that regard.  So that’s just some of the handful of teams that I thought over the years have been consistent in that regard.


Q.  With the Jets, what do you see as the realistic possibilities for them at 9, and how hard is it to predict them knowing John Idzik basically has no wild card there?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  You’re right, a couple things going on.  You think about with Rex and Idzik together and then you think about, yeah, the needs which they have as many needs as any team in the National Football League, so many question marks, so many areas they could go.


But with Rex the pass rusher is necessary.  Barkevious Mingo from LSU could still be there.  Then you think about helping out Mark Sanchez, if you look at a Zach Ertz, a tight end from Stanford at some point.  They’ve taken some hits, they’ve got a lot of holes, they’ve got a ton of areas of need.  You worry about filling needs, just take the best player.  If you’ve got so many need areas, you can take the best player on the board and don’t force anything.

I think for the first round pick, though, the pass rusher — if Mingo is there at 9, he’s worthy of being the ninth pick overall.


Q.  The Chargers have pick 11 right now.  They have a pretty clear need at left tackle, and obviously Lane Johnson is the one that would probably closely projected to still be on the board at that point, but there’s a lot of teams that need a left tackle.  What do you think the likelihood is that Lane Johnson is there at pick 11 and do you see them as a team that might move up for a guy like that or maybe address a need and stay pat?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I projected him to San Diego.  I can obviously see and I gave that scenario early on maybe he’s gone to Arizona at 7.  There’s a chance, and somebody else could move up to get him.  There’s some teams picking shortly thereafter from where San Diego is that could lose a left tackle like Lane Johnson that may be aggressive and move up to get him.

There’s talk about Cleveland maybe moving out of 6, so there’s going to be teams looking to move out of that spot, and if you want to move in, that’s the guy to move in to get, especially if Joeckel and Fisher jump off the board.  Obviously if Joeckel goes 1 and Fisher say goes 5, I think teams are going to jump up to get Johnson.  So they may not be able to stand pat at 11 and get him.

If they don’t, the only second round left tackle is Armstead from Arkansas Pine Bluff.  If you get Johnson, then you can address linebacker, a versatile kid like Arthur Brown maybe from Kansas State with a 45th pick, then maybe in the third round go back to the offensive line, maybe to a Larry Warford from Kentucky at that particular point.  So that’s some of the options.  But I’d say it’s 50/50 on Johnson being there at pick No. 11.


Q.  Just a couple of the UC prospects, where do you see Travis Kelce, going and what do you like about George Winn?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I think George’s running style.  I like the fact that he improved in other key areas, on the receiving and blocking and all the things you need to do.  I like the way he runs hard, I think he plays a lot faster and he’s quicker when he times.  You think about what George Winn is physically, moving forward, I think he can hold up in this league.  At 5’10½” he’s almost 220 pounds, plays a lot faster than that 4.69 40.  I think he’s got a chance certainly to be a guy that can help a football team.

Tompkins is a wide receiver who’s got a chance to be in the late round mix; Giordano certainly, the defensive end has got a chance as a late rounder priority free agent.  And Kelce in a tight end group really you look at and it’s developed some depth, a little bit better than I think you would have thought on paper.

Dion Sims from Michigan State is an underrated guy; Vance McDonald from Rice has moved up; Gavin Escobar is a nice player; Jordan Reed slid down a bit, but he can help a team catching the football with his athleticism.  And you have Travis Kelce with his size and his ability.  What I like about him, he’s got pretty good run after the catch ability.  This is a kid when he snags that ball and gets in the open field with his size and his athleticism can do some damage.

I think Kelce in the fourth round mix is very viable.


Q.  Quick question for you on the coverage linebackers in this draft.  Obviously with the NFL becoming a more and more passing league each year, it seems like the need for those guys grows.  Who are some of the guys, not just the first round talent but some of the coverage linebackers you’ve identified as the top tier for that in this year’s class?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I think that’s a good question because that’s what you need, and certainly if you look at guys like I think an Arthur Brown with his instincts and his just feel for the game, Khaseem Greene at Rutgers is another kid kind of in that Lavonte David type of mold that can do a good job.  Zaviar Gooden from Missouri can fly around the field, one of the fastest outside linebackers in this draft; Jelani Jenkins from Florida is another kid.  Sean Porter from A & M, I think, showed the ability to get after the quarterback and play in reverse at Texas A & M, playing in two different schemes during his career.

So those are some of the cover guys that I think can help you.  Taylor Reed from SMU is another one who’s a late rounder priority free agent.


Q.  I just wanted to talk about Cowboys real quick.  No. 18, do you see Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper as being the best option with Vaccaro being a plan B, and if they do go Warmack or Cooper at 18 what do you think is the best option in round 2?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, I don’t think Warmack and Cooper necessarily will be there.  I think Cooper could go in the top 10, Warmack could go in the top 11, top 10.  They’re all going very high.  I think those two guards, I think if one of them is there, it would be great to see Warmack or Cooper.  I think probably more Warmack.  That’s debatable.  To see them drop all the way down to 18, if they don’t, Vaccaro could be there.  Vaccaro has slipped down, I think, into the 20s, but he would be a possibility.  I bet Sylvester Williams from North Carolina, you need a defensive tackle to fit that Monte Kiffin scheme.  Then you look at the second round possibilities, a Justin Pugh.  They’ve got to help the interior of this offensive line; if you don’t get Warmack or Cooper, Justin Pugh from Syracuse who’s a left tackle can be a guard, can be a center.  They have to improve the interior of the offensive line, Dallas does, and Pugh would be a very nice addition at that point.


Q.  Just curious, you mentioned Trufant for the Giants at 19, and you switched off of Te’o in that spot on your previous model.  Just curious what your thoughts are there and going forward into the second and third round, in that case do you see guys available both offensive line and probably defensive end that are glaring needs for the Giants, as well?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Yeah, the pass rush was a staple of this team.  It was their signature on defense, and they didn’t have it last year.  Linebacking is being restructured.  They’ve got to get cornerbacks to go    they’ve got to stay healthy at corner which they haven’t been able to do.  This is a team, they’ve got to figure out the offensive line.  Nicks has to stay healthy.  Wilson has got to keep improving and not fumble.  He got better, but he’s got to eliminate those fumbling issues.

They added the tight end which was nice, coming with Myers.  To me, you think about Trufant.  If you got Trufant or Te’o in the first, then you could go either Sio Moore, who could be a middle linebacker in their scheme, or an outside backer, but he’s got great versatility, Sio Moore from Connecticut.  Or you could take a corner, whether it be Robert Alford from Southeastern Louisiana, whether it be a Jamar Taylor from Boise State.  And then they could look in the third round for a defensive end like Alex Okafor from Texas would be a guy at that point, Sam Montgomery, LSU.

You could look at that point, guys that could get after the quarterback.  A guy that is very underrated is Lavar Edwards from LSU.  He should not take a backseat to anybody that’s going in that third, fourth round discussion.  Lavar Edwards is a very underrated player out of LSU, played in the shadow of Mingo and Montgomery.  Those would be some defensive ends for the third round.

So if you’ve got the middle linebacker or linebacker overall or corner in the first two rounds, then you could look at a defensive end in the third.


Q.  I’m just wondering about Eddie Lacy.  He’s got a big workout here coming up with NFL scouts.  I’m wondering how important it is for him to perform well ultimately to determine where he ends up in the draft, and how beneficial was Jesse Williams’ pro day performance a couple weeks ago?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  Well, in terms of where I have him slotted now, it’s not just about workouts, it’s about how they played, and all these teams have an idea where these kids deserve to go, and they’ll be tweaked a little bit based on the numbers that come in from these workouts.  Some care about it more, some don’t.  It’s about production on the field.  I was talking to some personnel people yesterday, and they said it’s amazing how some really good football players are getting hit hard because of the process.  They didn’t run as well as they should have, there’s a red flag here, a red flag there, but you go back to the tape and it’s what you do this for, it’s why you watch these games and watch these players.  You’ve got to kind of balance it out and not act like one thing is the most critical part of it.

Eddie Lacy played like a first round pick all year.  He’s got a lot of ability.  I wouldn’t take a running back in the first round, but he’s going to go I think in the late first, early second.  I think Green Bay could be a possibility at 26.  There’s a lot of teams in the second round that could look at a running back, Cincinnati got a pick from Oakland at 37.  They could look running back, obviously.  St. Louis could look running back in the second round.

So if he doesn’t go in the first, I think he goes in the early second.  I’m talking about Eddie Lacy, the running back from Alabama.


Q.  This is an unusual draft for the Steelers in that they have glaring needs at a lot of positions, running back, cornerback, wide receiver.  What do you think their biggest need is and who’s the one player that they can’t afford to pass up if he’s there at 17?


MEL KIPER, JR.:  That’s a great question because that’s the way I think about the Steelers at 17.  It may be that guy that is interesting and it doesn’t necessarily fill a glaring need.  Those needs can skew the whole process.  They can screw you up.  Don’t worry about a need all the time.  There’s a need on this team that developed late with Heath Miller’s injury, and when Heath Miller got hurt late, that’s carrying over to the season, and that’s a key guy for Ben Roethlisberger, and you need two tight ends in this league.  Look at all the options that teams have with two tight ends, how viable and problematic for a defense having two very good tight ends are and is.

So I think you look at Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame.  He’s a guy that’s come out of this process with no red flags, he’s separated from Zach Ertz, the Stanford tight end as being the No. 1 guy at that position.  He’s worthy of being a top 17 pick, and if he’s there for the Steelers, he helps that offense.  He helps Big Ben a lot.  They’ve got to shore up the offensive line.  We know running back at some point in the second round, you could be looking at a Montee Ball from Wisconsin who would be a good Steeler back because he’s so tough, runs hard inside, will block, will catch.  He’s kind of a Steeler type of player.

If not, a Cornelius Washington, an outside linebacker out of Georgia would make sense helping out that linebacking corps in the pass rush, and think they’ve got to think about maybe even a wide receiver in the third round, a kid like Markus Wheaton from Oregon State would be a nice addition there.  But I don’t think you have to force things, and the interesting guy will be a little bit of a curve ball would be Tyler Eifert just because of Heath Miller coming off the injury and how important and critical that tight end position has been to that football team.  If you get Eifert, and Miller comes back, you’re in great shape; you’ve got two.  If he doesn’t go there, he’s got to go somewhere in that mid first round range because he’s just doggone good and tight ends are too valuable in this league right now.


FastScripts by ASAP Sports (please excuse any typos).


*Please note this is only a partial transcript. The audio replay provides a complete record of the call.






Allie Stoneberg

I advance ESPN’s communications and publicity efforts for NFL studio programming, Monday Night Football, the NFL Draft and our coverage of the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. I enjoy meeting journalists in person at games and events and delight in showing them around our Bristol, Conn., campus.
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