When Kiper posts something, it is always worth a deeper look from draftniks far and wide. What's interesting is to see how close your own mock draft is to Mel's.
With 32 picks slotted in the first round, Kiper and I had the same player slotted on six picks. Furthermore, on five additional picks, we had a team drafting the same position, but different players.
Jump ahead to see who Kiper's predicting, who I'm predicting and where the differences come from.
Kiper's Pick: Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
My Pick: Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
If you can find a mock draft that doesn't begin like this, please link to it in the comments.
Andrew Luck is the consensus No. 1 player in the 2012 draft class and a slam dunk to be the first pick in the draft.
Kiper's Pick: Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
My Pick: Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)
Mel and I differ here not only in who the Rams will draft, but at what number the pick will happen. Kiper isn't yet predicting trades—a smart move if you can get away with it—while my own mock draft does predict the Rams and Washington Redskins swapping picks.
The Rams need a wide receiver; this much is painfully obvious. As Mel pointed out in his own write-up, this pick should be in play for trades before and during the draft.
The big discussion is my pick of Jeffery over Blackmon. I've conceded before that Blackmon will most likely be the first receiver drafted, but on my board, he shouldn't be. Jeffery is a bigger threat down the field, more dangerous in the red zone and a more complete wide receiver in my book.
Blackmon is a fine player, but not worthy of the second-overall pick.
Kiper's Pick: Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
My Pick: Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
It's hard to argue with this one, and again, this is a pick that most mock drafts around the web will be predicting.
Kalil would be an instant starter at left tackle, kicking Charlie Johnson out of a starting role he should have never been in. Kiper and I are in agreement on this one.
Kiper's Pick: Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
My Pick: Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
In my most recent mock draft, the Cleveland Browns would not have a shot at Griffin, as he's off the board at pick No. 2. Without predicting trades, this is the first logical landing spot for the Heisman Trophy winner.
Quarterback isn't a huge need for Cleveland, at least from my film study. The smarter move is to build the talent levels at the skill positions while giving Colt McCoy a full offseason to acclimate to the West Coast offense. If he struggles in 2012, you move on with a Matt Barkley in 2013.
What's one more year out of the playoffs if this plan doesn't work? And at that, you add the best running back prospect since LaDainian Tomlinson.
Kiper's Pick: Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
My Pick: Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
If the Buccaneers had to choose between Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne, I agree the pick would be Richardson. However, Richardson wasn't available in my mock draft, making the choice easy for Tampa Bay.
Claiborne is a lock-down cornerback, ready to start from day one in the NFL. You'll see that Mel and I are very close on a few picks early in the round, and this is one of them.
Kiper's Pick: Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
My Pick: Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
See what I mean about our picks being very close?
In the Bleacher Report mock draft, Griffin went to the Redskins via a trade up with the St. Louis Rams, with Morris Claiborne going one slot prior to Tampa Bay.
Kiper didn't predict trades, so I like this pick for Washington. DeAngelo Hall has long been overrated, and this pick would allow the Redskins to replace Carlos Rogers in the secondary and start to wean themselves off of Hall as their No. 1 cornerback.
The value is smart, but the Redskins' biggest need is at quarterback. A failure to address that need here or through free agency would be catastrophic.
Kiper's Pick: Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
My Pick: Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
Kiper leads off his breakdown of this pick by saying "if the Jaguars don't get help at wide receiver in free agency, they could look for help here, but they're also desperate for pass rush help."
I agree, but it's impossible to assume they will find help at wide receiver through free agency. With Blackmon, Kiper's No. 1 rated wide receiver and my No. 2, on the board, it makes sense for the Jaguars to grab the best player available who can also fill their biggest need.
Coples is a player Kiper has loved all season, but I'm not seeing it. I've waxed poetic many times in this space about the deficincies of Coples' play. He lacks motor, work ethic and strength to shed blockers. I can't put a player with those red flags in my Top 10, even if there is a very good chance he's drafted there.
Kiper's Pick: Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
My Pick: Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
You know, that Mel Kiper is a smart guy.
All kidding aside, this is the pick the Carolina Panthers have to make. They swung and missed—or maybe bunted is more appropriate—with two defensive tackles drafted in the third round last year. Neither player has the ability or potential of Brockers.
Kiper's Pick: Riley Reiff (OT-Iowa)
My Pick: Nick Perry (DE-USC)
Kiper astutely points out that the Miami Dolphins will be adding a quarterback, with the early favorite being Green Bay back-up Matt Flynn following Joe Philbin to South Beach.
The big question mark in Miami is what to do next. The team could add Reiff to start at right tackle, keeping Vernon Carey at guard. They could also add a pure pass-rushing defensive end to help aid their transition to the 4-3 defense.
In order of importance to building a winning football team, I will take a defensive end over a right tackle every time. Perry is the most talented pass rusher in this class, and teamed with Cameron Wake, the Dolphins would have a fearsome duo at defensive end.
Kiper's Pick: Courtney Upshaw (LB-Alabama)
My Pick: Melvin Ingram (DE-South Carolina)
Hard to argue with a pick I projected just over one week ago.
Ingram and Upshaw are almost interchangeable at this point, but with Buffalo moving to a base 4-3 defense, Ingram makes more sense. He's better in line than Upshaw, who is better standing up in space.
Kiper likens Upshaw in a 4-3 to what Von Miller did in Denver this season as a projected 3-4 outside linebacker who was asked to stay closer to home in an outside technique. I don't see that upside with Upshaw, who lacks the athletic ability and strength that made Miller so great.
Kiper's Pick: Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
My Pick: Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Oddly enough, I had Seattle drafting a defensive end for most of the season before going with a "best player available" strategy this week.
Kiper's pick makes a lot of sense. Ingram would step in at left defensive end, where Seattle likes more of an athletic pass-rusher. Playing opposite Red Bryant (if re-signed), Ingram would see one-on-one situations coming at the quarterback.
Kiper's Pick: Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
My Pick: David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
It's a bit surprising to see DeCastro, a player I rank in the Top 5 overall, falling down this far on both boards. That's the nature of the draft, though, as teams try to fill needs with early picks.
Kuechly is a player who I rank significantly lower than most. He's an early third-rounder on my latest big board, while Kiper has him as the top inside linebacker.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, who run a 3-4, this pick is questionable. If any linebacker would be a fit here, it is Dont'a Hightower, who has experience in the 3-4 scheme from his days at Alabama.
Kiper's Pick: Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
My Pick: Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
As Kiper points out, the Arizona Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman before the fifth round since 2007. It shows on the field.
We are in consensus here, as Martin is the athletic left tackle the Cardinals need to protect Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Kiper's Pick: Mark Barron (SS, Alabama)
My Pick: Courtney Upshaw (LB, Alabama)
Mr. Mel and I are in agreement on which school this selection should come from, but not the player.
Mark Barron is talented, but not mid-first-round talented on my board. A sports hernia that will keep him limited this offseason doesn't help matters.
There's no doubting the Dallas Cowboys need help in the secondary, but this is a pick they could make in the second round. Reaching for a safety and ignoring outside linebacker is a head-scratcher.
That said, news did come out after the B/R mock was published that Dallas is considering applying the franchise tag to Anthony Spencer. That would be a move met with criticism and one that wasn't expected when we published.
Kiper's Pick: Fletcher Cox (DT-Mississippi State)
My Pick: Zach Brown (LB-North Carolina)
Here's what Kiper had to say about this pick:
"No team was softer up the middle than Philly in 2011, and while linebacker is a bigger need, it wouldn't be a very good value here if the board lines up like this."
I have to disagree.
North Carolina's Zach Brown is the type of athlete Andy Reid has fallen over backward for in previous years. He's fast, agile and can help in coverage. Brown isn't elite against the run, but there is room to improve, and he has the work ethic to do it.
Cox, on the other hand, is a solid player, but not someone I have given a first-round grade to.
Kiper's Pick: Cordy Glenn (OG, Georgia)
My Pick: Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
The New York Jets have many needs before they will be back in the land of playoff contenders. It's hard to argue with the selection of a guard, as they need a presence there badly, but the bigger area of concern is at outside linebacker.
The Jets pass-rush was a major reason for their fall from AFC Championship contenders to out of the playoffs in 2011. With the NCAA's leading sack master from the 2011 season available, the Jets need to grab the player who can make the bigger impact.
Kiper's Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
My Pick: Cordy Glenn (OG, Georgia)
The Cincinnati Bengals could easily draft a cornerback with their first of two choices in the opening round, but I'm not sold on Kirkpatrick.
The big Alabama cornerback has the hips and feet of a safety in my book, and at 6'2", he has the frame to play the position as well.
Glenn, on the other hand, would replace Bobbie Williams at right guard and help pave the way for the running back the Bengals pick up through free agency or the draft.
Kiper's Pick: Michael Floyd (WR-Notre Dame)
My Pick: Riley Reiff (OT-Iowa)
Expect more than a few San Diego fans to tell us both we are wrong here.
Wide receiver could be a need for the Chargers if they aren't able to re-sign Vincent Jackson. Floyd would be a good pick-up for them, but he doesn't fill the pressing need along the offensive line.
Marcus McNeill is on the verge of being cut if he doesn't retire. Jared Gaither is a free agent. Jeromey Clary is horrible. The Chargers could use a wide receiver, but they need an offensive tackle.
Kiper's Pick: Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
My Pick: Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
From experience, I can tell you that fans of the Chicago Bears will not be happy campers reading Mel Kiper's mock draft.
I had previously slated Adams to the Bears, and it's a very good possibility, but offensive coordinator Mike Tice loves J'Marcus Webb on the left side. With 2011 first-rounder Gabe Carimi locking down, the right-side tackle becomes less of a need.
The biggest hole in the Chicago offense comes at wide receiver, and that's where Michael Floyd comes in to play. Floyd has the potential to be a Pro Bowl wide receiver in the right system.
Kiper's Pick: Whitney Mercilus (DE-Illinois)
My Pick: Quinton Coples (DE-North Carolina)
As mentioned before, Coples is a player I'm afraid to draft higher than this. His motor and work ethic could be serious problems once he's in the NFL.
Kiper and I agree that the Titans need a defensive end. Free agency may change this need, but until a signing is made, the Titans will be heavily projected to select a defensive end with this choice.
Kiper's Pick: David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
My Pick: Lamar Miller (RB, Miami, FL)
With 21 picks revealed, the similarities are rampant in terms of which players have been drafted. So far, 17 of 21 players from Mel's draft have been selected in my own, with Luke Kuechly, Mark Barron, Fletcher Cox and Dre Kirkpatrick the only exceptions.
The Bengals use their second pick in the ESPN mock draft on an offensive guard, the same position I had them selecting with their first choice in the round. That logic is hard to argue with, especially if David DeCastro is available.
Lamar Miller makes sense if the Bengals address their need at guard with pick No. 17. He's explosive, can help as a receiver and has the overall skills to become one of the top running backs in the NFL.
Kiper's Pick: Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
My Pick: Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Among the most logical, write-it-in-ink picks of the first round. I've personally predicted this selection so many times that I catch myself typing "Cleveland Browns" instead of "Baylor" after Wright's name.
Kiper's Pick: Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
My Pick: Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)
The needs of the Detroit Lions will change dramatically through free agency. If the team re-signs defensive end Cliff Avril, they can begin focusing elsewhere through the draft. You could say offensive tackle and cornerback are big needs in the Motor City.
If Jenkins is available here, the Lions should jump. Immediately. He's a top-15 player on my board and mock draft.
Adams was the best player of value and need at the No. 23 pick in my own mock. Jeff Backus is nearing the end of his brilliant career, and the left tackle spot will need an infusion of youth.
Kiper's Pick: Dontari Poe (NT, Memphis)
My Pick: Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
It's hard to criticize the pick of Dontari Poe when it is one I've projected many times. The Steelers have a few needs along the interior of each line. The team could do much worse than selecting Poe here.
The decision to select Osemele in the B/R draft was because Mike Martin, who received a similar grade as Poe in my own scouting reports, would be available in the second round. When looking at offensive guards, there is not a player expected to be available in the late second round who can have Osemele's impact.
Kiper's Pick: Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
My Pick: Chris Polk (RB, Washington)
Here is another pick similar to ones I have made in the past. Denver definitely has a need at defensive tackle, but they did in 2011 and still passed up the position. John Fox may see this as an area where his coaching can trump the promise of an early draft pick.
Chris Polk would give the Broncos a fresh, young back to work with Tim Tebow in their option offense. He's explosive when hitting the hole, has the vision to get through tackles and the hands to flex out at receiver.
My theory is this—if you are going with Tebow, you need to go all-in and build the team around him. Polk solidifies that theory.
Kiper's Pick: Jerel Worthy (DT, Michigan State)
My Pick: Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers)
Here is a pick from Kiper that I don't understand.
Jerel Worthy is a classic three-technique penetrator in a 4-3 defense. The Texans run a two-gap 3-4 scheme. Worthy would project best as a defensive end in this scheme, but even that is a stretch for his skill set.
What's more, the Texans are set at defensive end with J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. This pick seems like a massive reach in terms of projecting for the Houston defense.
Sanu, on the other hand, would step in as the Texans' No. 2 wide receiver, finally giving Andre Johnson a running mate who can draw the defense away from him.
Kiper's Pick: Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
My Pick: Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)
With the first of two picks in this round, Kiper has the Patriots selecting a pass-rushing outside linebacker prospect. I had them going this same route many times, and just this week, have them taking a linebacker with their second first-rounder.
I like Curry more every time I'm able to see him, and he could easily jump up and be a first-rounder. For my own personal board, Gilmore was the best available and fills a need at cornerback.
You could argue this one either way. New England has a need at both positions, so it's all about value of the players available and value of the positions you have a need.
Kiper's Pick: Harrison Smith (SS, Notre Dame)
My Pick: Jamell Fleming (CB, Oklahoma)
This is the first time I have seen Harrison Smith anywhere close to the first round.
Smith comes in at No. 102 overall on my big board. One of us is seeing something the other is not. Through 28 picks, this is the first one where I have no rational way to explain what Kiper is seeing or thinking with Smith as a late first-rounder.
For me, Fleming is the easy pick. He steps in immediately at cornerback and gives Green Bay the depth and youth to keep Charles Woodson in the slot and potentially move him to free safety.
Kiper's Pick: Peter Konz (C, Wisconsin)
My Pick: Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
The two contrasting picks by myself and Kiper will be flushed out at the scouting combine. If Konz shows up healthy after a late-season ankle injury and is able to workout fully, his stock can rebound a bit back into the late-first round range. Konz would fill a need here to replace Matt Birk, who may retire.
Vontaze Burfict also needs a good combine, on and off the turf, to prove he's not a complete head-case. Burfict, in this scenario, would slide in next to Ray Lewis until the future Hall of Famer is ready to retire.
Kiper's Pick: Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)
My Pick: Rueben Randle (WR, LSU)
Once again, Mr. Mel and I are seeing the same needs and value for the San Francisco 49ers.
There is a chance the team could go cornerback here, especially if they cannot re-sign Carlos Rogers, but the clear need currently is at wide receiver. That may change once free agency begins March 13.
Kiper's Pick: Kendall Reyes (DT, UConn)
My Pick: Dont'a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
Kendall Reyes is a surprise to close out the first round. He's currently a third-round prospect on my rankings. Reyes would fill a void as a 3-4 defensive end and is versatile enough to play inside in a 4-3, but this is the same position Kyle Love has filled so well down the stretch. The pick seems wasteful.
Dont'a Hightower at linebacker can play inside or outside in a number of schemes. If New England stays with a 4-3, he can easily line up opposite Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. Should they move back to their 3-4 set, Hightower can play any of the four spots, something he did at Alabama routinely.
Kiper's Pick: Dwayne Allen (TE, Clemson)
My Pick: Orson Charles (TE, Georgia)
Kiper says tight end; I say tight end. The only difference here is the player. Dwayne Allen is a better blocker, but much less athletic and dynamic as a route runner. Orson Charles fits the new breed of tight ends who can flex to the slot, run versatile routes and make plays after the catch.