ESPN conducted a media conference call on Wednesday, Feb. 17, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. He provided all the latest information on NFL Draft prospects in advance of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine.
Kiper has served as an expert analyst for ESPN's annual NFL Draft coverage since 1984, providing in-depth scouting information on the nation's most talented collegiate football players. His breadth of knowledge is unmatched and his pre-draft predictions are frequently the most accurate in the business, often as high as 80 percent correct in his first-round selections.
Select comments from the conference call:
On projected No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 Draft Prospects DT Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska, DT Gerald McCoy from Oklahoma, and CB Eric Berry from Tennessee
“McCoy gives you a little bit more versatility because he can be a 3-4 end and a 4-3-1 gap penetrator. Suh is a guy that is strong, powerful, an outstanding bull rusher. I think he is a better pass-rusher in general than people give him credit for."
"McCoy is a little bit more sudden, a little bit more explosive. But I think when you look at the productivity of Suh and the instincts and the ability to be a complete defensive tackle without being an elite pass rusher, Suh is. McCoy was also very productive at Oklahoma."
"I have them one and two on the board and would not argue with either one going first overall…To take one over the other, Billy Devaney at St. Louis is going to have a tough call here because they’ve drafted a lot of defensive lineman over the years and they have to go back to that position probably this year because you’ve got to take the best player"
"They’re different but they’re both outstanding prospects…You look at Suh and the productivity the last two years tells you all about this kid. He’s a warrior. I still give Suh the slightest of edges. I have McCoy at No. 2 on the Big Board overall as well, so its not like they’re just projected to go No.1 and No. 2, they’ve been the No. 1 and No. 2 player with Eric Berry the safety from Tennessee at No. 3. who's been steady and solid since early October."
"Fourth has been a little fluid but the three of Suh, McCoy and Berry have been etched in stone and will be etched in stone all the way until Draft Day for me.”
On quarterback prospects in this years Draft…
“The quarterback class is not very good in terms of depth or lack of…I think teams now resolve that if you’re not going to be good enough to start or perceived that way early on we’ll just not even draft you. At least that’s the way it was last year."
"I think Clausen and Bradford are the only two first-rounder’s. Then you have a few second rounder’s with LeFevour from Central Michigan and Colt McCoy from Texas."
"McCoy could drop to the third round coming off the injury sustained in the game against Alabama. Tim Tebow maybe a second or third round. After that you’re getting into some territory with late-round type guys.”
On top-ranked quarterback Draft prospect Sam Bradford of Oklahoma …
“To me the accuracy is what jumps out at you. The problem is that it was when he was playing pitch and catch two years ago with all day to throw and some very good receivers to throw too."
"This past year you wanted to see him under duress and he got hurt. I think the issue that I have with Sam Bradford is that we haven’t seen him in an NFL-like setting where he’s getting pressured and he’s got to throw into small windows. We have not seen that at Oklahoma. We did in a couple games and they lost those games—to Florida and Texas two years ago."
"Throwing on the run, he’s very good at throwing on the run, whether it is left or right…and certainly very smart. Needs to put on a little bit of weight in terms of the tall, angular frame he is, but his accuracy was precise.”
On top-ranked quarterback Draft prospect Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame…
“I think Clausen is gaining a lot of strength because people are looking back at how he played with the two torn ligaments in his toe and the flu before one game and nobody knew it"
"Jimmy’s tough and has dealt with adversity. He didn’t have great players around him either. People forget Michael Floyd was hurt a lot and (Kyle) Rudolph was hurt late, a tight-end. The offensive line struggled, defense was terrible, and so he had to match points."
"With Jimmy Clausen’s competitiveness and his leadership, players raved about him…Jimmy Clausen is going to be heavy in the discussion with Bradford and I think one of those two go to the Redskins.”
On Florida Gators’ Tim Tebow and pluses and minuses of attending the NFL Combine…
“I went on record and said that it was a mistake for him to go to the Senior Bowl…I would not have gone to the Senior Bowl. I would not throw at the Combine…I would wait for an individual work out."
"After that Cincinnati Bearcat game, nobody would have seen me throw until the individual work out where I’m throwing to (Aaron) Hernandez and (Riley) Cooper in my environment and with my guys. That’s it, that’s the only time you’re going to see me throw. And at the Combine, you go there, you’re interviewed and you go through medical. If you want to run, fine, but throwing, no. I would never have set foot in Mobile, Ala., if I were Tim Tebow."
"Other people took exception to that. No, you don’t have to go. Suh didn’t go. A lot of other guys didn’t go. To me, that put that elongated delivery and fact that he had to take snaps under center on full display for everyone to see, everybody watching and scrutinizing and brought to light all the negatives…Why highlight the negatives?"
"In an individual work out you feel a lot more comfortable because you’re not in that surrounding. You have your own guys, its your environment, you’re not as nervous as you would be at the Combine or Senior Bowl practice…To me that would be the best chance to negate some of the concerns"
"Is somebody going to draft him as a quarterback? Yeah I think they will, but I think maybe the second or third round. It would very much surprise me if he went in the first round now.”
On Clemson Tigers running back C.J. Spiller…
“Spiller to me is the all-purpose dynamo that a Reggie Bush was, that a Felix Jones was. He’s that kind of cross between Reggie Bush and Felix Jones and speed wise he could be in the 4.3’s."
"He gives you so many dimensions and so much versatility as a runner, receiver, and return man, not just a kick-off returner but a punt returner. To me he can do all those things and give you that all-purpose yardage and be a great decoy too when he’s in the game just like Reggie Bush is at New Orleans
"He’ll take guys with him…that’s what happens when you have a guy with that kind of speed and explosiveness.”
On Texas safety Earl Thomas…
“The size factor and how he’ll hold up in the NFL is something that may push him into the late first, early second round from where I had him…He’s got tremendous ball skills, a good tackler, a big game guy."
"In the spotlight games he was at his best.…This is a guy that if you can get him in the early to mid-second round, I think you’re getting yourself one heck of a player.”
On University of Michigan ’s punter Zoltan Mesko and cornerback Donovan Warren…
“(Mesko) has a shot. He’s the highest rated punter, but that’s a seventh or sixth round at best. I would say that he goes undrafted, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went late to a team desperate for a punter. I would say it’s more of a year where no punter will end up getting drafted this year.”
In terms of Donovan Warren, I look at Warren and say that he probably should have stayed (for his senior year of eligibility). Then he would have been right up there"
"All the elite juniors left. He would have been right there with the top corners in the Draft and if he even looked back at some of the young kids moving up to that class, he still would have been right up there at the top."
"That’s debatable, but right now you’re looking at the third or fourth round as opposed to going back and being certainly one of the top two or three corners going into next year."
"He’s a physical corner, no question about that. He likes going head to head on an island with the best receivers in the country, never had an issue with that. His anticipation is good. He’s a gambler though and gave up some big plays. He gambled a little too much for my liking. He took some chances that were unwarranted and gave up some big plays.”