2011 NFL Draft: Critiquing Mel Kiper's Top 25 Big Board
We all know him, we all get tired of hearing him gush over certain players, but we have no choice but to respect Mel Kiper Jr.
Without Mel the NFL Draft coverage would not be what it is today and I most certainly would not get the privilege to write NFL Draft articles all day (it is true, this is what I do) and without Kiper people would not care for an event that actually has no physical activity (unless of course you count a team representative sprinting to the podium because the prior team got skipped).
He is the unquestioned leader of the NFL Draft world and while it may be because ESPN is seen by way too many people in way too many ways, he's still one of the best.
Even so, he is not always right (he could argue against that) and the beauty of the NFL Draft is that we can debate players forever.
His new mock draft is up as is his new big board and here is look at how things stack up between me and Mel.
1. Patrick Peterson: CB, LSU
No argument from me here.
Patrick Peterson is easily my favorite prospect in this Draft and I believe he is a true "can't miss" prospect.
He runs like a sprinter, is the size of a safety, has ball skills like a receiver and brings added versatility as the nation's best return man.
My only question to Mel, why did it take so long to move him to No. 1?
2. Nick Fairley: DT, Auburn
The Auburn defensive tackle is the most disruptive player in the nation.
He's a tremendous athlete for his size, plays with a mean streak and can change the momentum of a game in a single play.
I love him as a player but I am not all there on considering him the No. 2 overall prospect.
The character issues and work ethic questions bother me too much.
3. Marcell Dareus: DT, Alabama
Dareus is an awesome athlete and really wowed at the Combine.
His lateral agility, top-end speed and overall athleticism are tremendous and he has the versatility to play inside or outside in certain schemes.
Kiper's right on this one for sure.
Dareus has the potential to be a star and he'll be a high selection on Draft day.
4. Von Miller: OLB, Texas A&M
Von Miller is simply a solid all-around prospect that has been at the top of this class since the season ended.
He is a dynamic sack artist off the edge but is also very capable in coverage and seems to be ready to begin his life as an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Miller has blazing speed for the position and has the chance to be drafted very high; he is a top five prospect.
5. Da'Quan Bowers: DE, Clemson
The Clemson defensive end led the nation in sacks, has a good combination of size, speed and power and fits the best in a 4-3 in my mind.
Still has to work out and teams will be interested to see how he moves after the injury.
He is a top 10 prospect with the potential to go No. 1 overall so sitting at Kiper's No. 5 spot is a pretty solid grade.
6. A.J. Green: WR, Georgia
An average Combine workout has brought A.J. Green back down to earth a little bit (Julio Jones dominant performance did not help too much either) but he is still one of the top prospects in this Draft.
His size and speed are good but his playmaking ability is incredible and he runs great routes for a younger player.
He is a top-five prospect (on my board) that should last no longer that No. 6 overall on Draft day.
Not too much to get after Mel for in these first six players.
7. Robert Quinn: DE/OLB, UNC
This is an interesting one.
Robert Quinn has not played football in over a year; he's very young and has a lot of raw talent about his game.
He can be a dynamic pass rusher off the edge and was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
Many expected him to blow up the Combine and he turned in good (but not great) numbers overall.
He's got a ton of upside and I like him overall, but I think No. 7 is a bit high when there are quality, proven players below him.
8. Blaine Gabbert: QB, Missouri
The Missouri quarterback's final take from me (and pretty much everyone else) will not be made until he throws on the 17th of March.
He's got a lot of positive things to his game, is above-average athlete and Kiper commended his choice on the Combine by saying he was "smart not to throw in Indy."
He may be right about that but I have always loved to see a player that wants to compete, especially at quarterback.
I do not see what makes Gabbert special and think he has the potential to be a good quarterback that could win games in the NFL but do not think he is elite; No. 8 is too high for me even if I think he will go in the top seven picks.
9. Prince Amukamara: CB, Nebraska
Solid all-around prospect with the potential to be a shutdown corner.
Amukamara ran much faster than I expected to see him run in Indianapolis and that was the only question I had about his game.
He covers with a veteran's savvy, is willing in the run game and can effectively take away a team's best receiver.
Kiper's right about him and said he's "ready to start at corner" and that is true.
10. Cam Newton: QB, Auburn
I have Cam higher than this based on potential alone and am not willing to let Gabbert rank ahead of him.
Cam's physical tools are unmatched, he is continuing to improve as this draft season goes along and his tape alone speaks volumes of his ability on the field.
There are a lot of teams that use more shotgun sets than in years past and Cam will find a way to make a difference on the field.
If he truly dedicates himself to the NFL game than he will be a star and right now I would have to rank him higher than Gabbert.
11. J.J. Watt: DE, Wisconsin
Watt is a tremendous player that burst onto the scene this year but Mel has been a lot higher on him than most.
He's got a tremendous motor for his size, has great athleticism and provides teams with the versatility to play him on the inside or the outside.
He's a smart player that has a lot going for him but I cannot rank him ahead of players like Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram or Julio Jones.
No. 11 is a bit too high Mel, but we know that you like to jump on certain players.
12. Mark Ingram: RB, Alabama
Ingram is simply a complete running back that will do everything asked of him.
He is my early favorite for offensive rookie of the year regardless of where he goes because of his all-around production and I have him as my No. 10 player overall.
Cannot blame Mel on this one, he's a consensus top 10-15 player and Mel grades him in that range.
Mark Ingram is going to be a stud.
13. Julio Jones: WR, Alabama
I certainly cannot argue with Julio's placement at this point but his durability is a bit of a concern and Mel noted that as well.
When he is healthy he is a beast and can take over a game when he gets going.
He put up a tremendous workout in Indianapolis (better than I anticipated and that is saying something) and I expect he grabbed the attention of any team thinking receiver in the slightest.
Jones is without question a top 15 talent.
14. Cameron Jordan: DE, California
This defensive end prospect just continues to impress teams every time they get a chance to look at him.
He was virtually unblockable at the Senior Bowl, he showed impressive athleticism at the Combine and, even if it was just field drills at his Pro Day, he had teams and scouts drooling once again.
He's long, athletic and can shift inside on passing downs in addition to coming off the edge.
I do not think he will be an insanely dynamic sack artist and I think that is what is holding him out of the top 10; I would rate him higher than Watt though.
15. Muhammad Wilkerson: DT, Temple
This one is a bit surprising to me.
A lot of people are high on Muhammad Wilkerson but this is very, very high.
Proven defensive standouts like Ryan Kerrigan and Adrian Clayborn sit on the board still and while Wilkerson is a very talented kid, I cannot put him in front of either player.
Mel said, "thought he could be top-10 pick next year, getting close for 2011."
He's an impressive, scheme-versatile prospect best suited as a 3-4 defensive end, but he's not a top 15 player on my board.
16. Corey Liuget: DT, Illinois
Another lesser-known name that both Mel (and Todd McShay) are very, very high on.
Liuget tested well every time we have gotten a chance to see him, has the ability to play both the run and the pass and is a disruptive force on the inside.
He's a bit shorter than I'd like (6'2") but he does play with good leverage and he could find a home in the first round. I am not sold on him being a better player than a number of the guys ranked below him on Mel's board though.
17. Aldon Smith: DE/OLB, Missouri
This is another interesting kid.
Smith is an extremely raw, but athletic pass rushing force that will make his living off the edge.
He does not completely wow me though and a lot of his stock is heavily leaning towards potential rather than substance.
Too many times do players of this type not completely work out and while I do think he will go in the first round the No. 17 prospect is a bit too high for me.
18. Tyron Smith: OT, USC
This is a very solid rank for Tyron Smith in my opinion.
He has the potential to be the only elite offensive tackle in this class but still needs time. He put on weight from end of the season to the Combine and looks very good physically.
Smith spent time on the right side of the line in college but will be tried as a left tackle almost immediately.
I think he could get drafted higher than this but it is a very fair grade for him overall.
19. Jimmy Smith: CB, Colorado
Tons and tons of potential, rare size/speed combination, but far too many red flags for me to grade him in the first round.
The talent is there but questions marks surrounding him off the field as well as work ethic on the field are troublesome.
If a team is confident enough in its coaching staff and/or veteran leadership I have no problem with them taking a shot on him but I would not grade him in the first round.
20. Ryan Kerrigan: DE/OLB, Purdue
Kerrigan is a hard working, relentless pass rusher that surprised me with his overall athleticism in Indianapolis.
Placing him at No. 20 grabs no argument from me because he will have to find a permanent position.
He may be too light to anchor in a 4-3 but he should be able to make an impact regardless and whatever team takes him will be very happy.
21. Nate Solder: OT, Colorado
Nate Solder is such an intriguing prospect but he has as much bust potential as he does boom.
He could develop into a franchise tackle or he could be moved around the line.
He has an impressive frame and moves really well but he has not dominated the way I'd like and if I was to move Solder at all it would be down no lower than 25.
22. Anthony Castonzo: OT, Boston College
In contrast to Solder, Castonzo is a "what you see is what you get type guy."
He's an extremely polished technician, has the versatility to shift around the line and has solid athleticism overall.
Castonzo plays like a lineman and knows what he is doing at the position; he's the safest of the tackles in my book.
23. Gabe Carimi: OT, Wisconsin
Fantastic production out of big school, Carimi also showed me better athleticism than I expected in Indianapolis.
He truly has the ability to play almost any position, was very consistent and although he may never be a franchise left tackle he will certainly be a very effective lineman for a long time.
No. 23 is a fair ranking for a kid who can make the whole line better.
24. Adrian Clayborn: DE, Iowa
Early season top 10 prospect that did not completely play up to potential in the beginning of the season.
Clayborn will not fall too far, though, as his toughness, versatility, speed and disruptiveness are hard to come by.
May not be a dynamic sack artist but he wears down lineman and keeps it coming all game long.
Mel's got a good beat on him and No. 24 is a solid ranking.
25. Stephen Paea: DT, Oregon State
The Combine's new bench press record holder is more than just a strong man, he can play football too.
I am a fan of Stephen Paea and think he has the potential to make a solid impact in the NFL as a rock on the interior of someone's line.
He plays with tremendous strength (obviously), uses his leverage to his advantage and is one of two run-stuffing tackles that could go in the first round.
No. 25 is a bit high for me at the moment but there is sound argument for him being a first round player.