Mel Kiper is the NFL Draft. His hair is the logo. His voice is the soundtrack. He was the first bootlegger for every NFL junkie’s fix.
(For Mel Kiper's 2011 NFL Mock Draft Click Here)
Mel doesn’t like to mock until January, when the regular season is finished and the top of the draft keeps shifting. He does keep fans entertained with his Big Board hosted at ESPN, though.
This season, Mel’s big board has seen the most change from quarterbacks and defensive linemen. Cam Newton has taken the baton from Jake Locker as the best athletic QB, and he rewarded DTs and DEs who’ve made plays this year.
If you’re interested in my 2011 NFL Mock Draft, read the link, and be sure to follow Mel (@MelKiperESPN) and me (@JohnLorge) on Twitter.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
If you don't know about Luck, Kiper sums it up pretty nicely: "poise, a big arm and smarts". He is everything you look for in a QB prospect and there are a handful of QB-hungry teams that would love to get their hands on him.
2. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Coming out of high school, Bowers was a super-blue-chip prospect and he finds himself in that seat once again. His size, speed and motor make him the prototypical hand-in-the-ground defensive end.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Scouts have been raving about how well Green does the finer things. His routes and body control make it easier on the QB and he has elite size.
4. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson caught the spotlight with his punt returns, but he is battle tested. Throughout his college career, he's faced NFL talent in the SEC at both the WR and QB positions.
5. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
Some see the gap between Amukamara and Peterson further apart than Kiper has it. Prince's stats are down this year due to the respect he's earned for his cover skills.
6. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley is a big man who gets into the backfield. Due to the impact a penetrating DT can have, Kiper's nemesis Todd McShay thinks Fairley will go second overall at this time.
7. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Kiper places big value on QBs in his rankings, which is why he has three in his top 10. Of those QBs, Mallett is a pocket passer on steroids. His bowl game and pre-draft workouts will secure him a spot in the top 10 on draft day.
8. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Some have major problems with Kiper putting Newton in the top 10 but I like it. Even though he only has one year as a starter, he is a driven winner and a much better passer than he's getting credit for. Huge size helps too.
9. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Playing on a big stage since his HS days, Jones has rarely disappointed. He's big, but can do work underneath and is very difficult to bring down.
10. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
Dareus has been steady all season on Kiper's Big Board. He is "solid", but in the top half of the first round, teams are looking for more. A big plus is his ability to fit into multiple fronts.
11. Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Scouts like Kiper have been relatively easy on Quinn despite him missing the entire season. He needs to stand out at the combine to prove the past year hasn't been wasted.
12. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Kerrigan is one of the lesser known names, but he is very deserving of his spot on Mel's Big Board. The Boilermaker has been ultra-productive and he is a good fit on the edge in any front.
13. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
3-4 teams might see Miller and Kerrigan as interchangeable, but Von doesn't project as strongly for 4-3 teams, which is why he is one spot lower. He is a great college football pass rusher, though, and production matters.
14. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
He got the love at the awards banquets, but Blackmon isn't getting the respect he deserves on Kiper's big board. Although he gives up a few inches to Green and Jones, his production trumps theirs and he can be an impact rookie like Anquan Boldin or Hakeem Nicks.
15. Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
When production, talent and size combine at the linebacker position, you have Akeem Ayers. The massive UCLA backer is a very similar OLB prospect to Brian Cushing.
16. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
Kiper is right in ranking Nevis where he has him. Being undersized looks like it will hurt him in the draft, but if you watch the film, you see big time play.
17. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Kiper has four tackles slammed in five spots; clearly, he isn't sure whom he likes the most yet. Solder has the size and smarts teams look for.
18. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Castonzo has been off-and-on throughout his career, which is why he is hard to project, but when he's on his game, he's a top 25 talent.
19. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
At the start of the year, Kiper had Clayborn in his top 10, but a lack of production has resulted in a big drop. He's still a top-tier prospect, though, and Iowa guys have a high success rate in the NFL.
20. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Kiper doesn't give Sherrod rave reviews, but he is a good athlete and SEC success goes a long way in the NFL Draft.
21. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi looks like he has the highest ceiling of all the tackle prospects, which is why it's surprising Kiper has him as his fourth guy. Great run blocker.
22. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Injuries and a split backfield have resulted in a lackluster Heisman tour for Ingram. Teams may be worried he's coming into the league banged up, but his explosive running style is hard to ignore.
23. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
It's a surprise Locker is still on the Big Board with the way he's played this year, but there are still plenty of teams interested in him as a first round talent.
24. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
Teams tested Moore in 2009, which resulted in them being deathly afraid in 2010. He's the highest rated safety and may get drafted much higher than this ranking.
25. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
Jenkins is the newest addition to Kiper's Big Board. He likes that Jenkins comes from a good system and has everything a corner needs physically.