Mel Kiper's 2012 Draft Big Board: What He Got Wrong
Like most draft fans, I grew up watching ESPN on Saturday and Sunday and enjoying the insight and analysis of Mel Kiper, Jr. Now that I fill the same role as Mel at Bleacher Report, it's time to point out some glaring oversights in his recent big board.
Anyone could tell you they disagree with Kiper, but I'll tell you why he's wrong. Bringing 10 years experience in coaching, scouting and draft analysis, I'm ready to go toe-to-toe with Mel Kiper, Jr.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
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Mel's Rank: No. 24 overall
Matt's Rank: No. 5 overall
I wish I could tell you what Mel Kiper sees wrong with Robert Griffin III, but I can't figure it out myself. I can tell you that in the 10 years I have been writing about or scouting the draft, I've noticed a trend among Kiper's rankings.
During September, October, November and even December, Kiper's rankings are conservative to a fault. While Mel does a great job come April, in November, he's slow to recognize up-and-comers like Robert Griffin III.
A junior at Baylor, RGIII has dominated the college football landscape this season. He's showing the accuracy and downfield passing ability of an early first-round draft pick. Throw in his sprinter speed and ability to throw on the move, and you have a better version of Cam Newton.
Griffin isn't high on most boards, but he's soaring on mine. Wait and see what happens if/when Griffin declares his intentions for the 2012 draft. He'll be a hot name, and you can say you read it here first.
Jerel Worthy, Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
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Mel's Rank: No. 22 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 39 Overall
Jerel Worthy is undoubtedly a talented athlete, but this is another case of Mel Kiper's rankings being oudated.
Worthy has always carried question marks on my rankings due to his lack of production and the fact that when watching him on film, you notice that he takes plays off. For a three-technique defensive tackle who is tasked with splitting the gap, you cannot afford to take a risk on a player who doesn't give all-out effort. Ask Albert Haynesworth about it.
I don't question Worthy's talent, but like so many college athletes, he hasn't put it altogether on the field. As of today, I have Worthy ranked No. 39 overall, but he's dropped each week.
Just a junior at Michigan State, there is still time for Worthy to improve before he enters the draft.
Alfonzo Dennard, Cornerback, Nebraska
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Mel's Rank: No. 20 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 35 Overall
Another player ranking, another outdated scouting report.
Mel gives lip-service to the fact that Alfonzo Dennard is short and has a great vertical, both true, but he fails to mention that Dennard missed the first three games of the season with a leg injury and then struggled to stop the passing game of the Wisconsin Badgers.
That Wisconsin game alone moved Dennard off my Top 32 players. Dennard has long struggled to keep up with quicker receivers; in this particular game, it showed that he'll be nothing more than a slot cornerback in the NFL if he can't correct major technique issues.
Dennard is too flat footed in his stance and in his drops. He'll rock back on his heels, which slows him down when making transitions in the route. Run a hard dig on Dennard, and you'll be open all day.
Dennard has the raw ability to be a first round pick, but based on production, size and his injury, his stock should be going down, not holding steady.
Devon Still, Defensive Tackle, Penn State
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Mel's Rank: No. 18 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 33 Overall
Devon Still ranks as my No. 3 overall defensive tackle this season. He has ideal size to make the move to a 3-4 defensive end position, much like J.J. Watt from the 2011 NFL draft class.
Unlike Watt, Still doesn't have the burst or athletic ability of a top draft choice. While No. 18 overall isn't entering the elite category, it's far too high for a player of Still's athletic ability and production. Throw in an ankle injury last season and a 40-yard dash time above five seconds, and there are some concerns here.
Kiper is being opportunistic by placing Still here. There are a handful of teams who will be drafting in the middle of the first round who need tackles. Still could be overdrafted here, but he's not a good value at the middle of the first round.
Vontaze Burfict, Linebacker, Arizona State
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Mel's Rank: No. 15 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 7 Overall
It's been well-documented that I absolutely love the way Vontaze Burfict plays football. I mentioned on the 4th and Long: A Football Podcast that I wanted a middle linebacker who is a bit mean. I want my MIKE 'backer to be nasty. Imagine the alternative. Defensive players need to have a bit of a temper.
Kiper even gives Burfict credit for something he isn't called much: disciplined.
Great instincts, makes plays sideline to sideline and is far more disciplined than he gets credit for.
I couldn't agree more. This is a three-year starter at linebacker who has never missed a start. He's big, strong, physical and mean. I would build my defense around Burfict.
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College
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Mel's Ranking: No. 12 Overall
Matt's Ranking: No. 27 Overall
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a favorite of Mel Kiper's. I have different feelings.
Kuechly is highly regarded due to his ability as a tackler. Kuechly is a good tackler. I'm not taking that away from him; I just don't think tackle numbers matter. No stat is more over-inflated by the teams or overused by "scouts."
For example, here are the NCAA Top 10 all-time tacklers. Stop me when you recognize one of them.
Tim McGarigle, Northwestern (2002-05): 545
Rod Davis, Southern Miss (2000-03): 526
Justin Beriault, Ball State (2001-04): 508
Ryan Fowler, Duke: (2000-03): 495
Grant Wiley, West Virginia (2000-03): 492
Matt Pusateri, Miami (Ohio) (2001-04): 485
Dexter Reid, North Carolina (2000-03): 466
Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04): 458
Abdul Hodge, Iowa (2002-05): 453
John Leake, Clemson (2000-03): 443
Player No. 8, Derrick Johnson, is the only one who has made a name for himself in the NFL. Take your tackle numbers and put them on your college awards shelf. They don't matter when evaluating a prospect for the NFL.
Showing an ability to flow to the football, fight through traffic and read an offense is far more important. Kuechly struggles to get through blockers and to the point of contact. He'll be a two-down middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, while guys like Manti Te'o and Vontaze Burfict become stars at the position.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
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Mel's Rank: No. 11 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 3 Overall
What's not to like about Alshon Jeffery? Here's another case of Mel Kiper needing to update his rankings.
Jeffery doesn't have the stats of a Justin Blackmon, but Blackmon doesn't have Jeffery's size, body control or hands. The uneducated will argue that Blackmon is faster than Jeffery, but it's simply not true. Both are projected to run a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
The way that Jeffery can take over a game should remind smart fans of an Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. He has rare ability to separate deep and use his big body and long arms to extend and high-point the football. Match his 6'4" frame up against even a 6'1" cornerback, and he'll win the battle for the jump ball every time.
Jeffery has reached elite status on my draft board. One of these days, Kiper will catch up.
Quinton Coples, Defensive End, North Carolina
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Mel's Rank: No. 8 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 19 Overall
Mr. Kiper and I are clearly seeing different players on film.
Coples dominated in 2010 with the help of play from a solid defense around him. In 2011, with more offenses targeting him and more blockers being sent his way, Coples has struggled both in production and in effort.
Matched against the best in the ACC, Coples has struggled. Case in point: Two of his 4.5 sacks came against James Madison.
Coples' 2011 season has been a major disappointment. A player I had ranked Top 5 in the preseason has dipped into the late 20s on my big board at times this season. The talent is there, but the effort and production are not now that he's seeing chips from tight ends and backs.
Mel's ranking makes me wonder if he's watching 2011 film.
Landry Jones, Quarterback, Oklahoma
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Mel's Rank: No. 4 Overall
Matt's Rank: No. 9 Overall (and falling)
Spoiler Alert: Landry Jones will be moved down from the No. 9 spot this week on my big board after spending time this week re-evaluating the quarterbacks in the top of the draft.
Jones is a good quarterback, but a Top 5 ranking is elite status. A Top 5 pick needs to come in and make an impact right away, and I don't see that from Landry Jones. At least not yet.
Jones plays in a system that boosts his stats with bubble screens and easy dumps over the middle. What you won't see often when scouting the Oklahoma quarterback are throws with zip on them deeper than 10 yards and to the outside.
Jones has good ability, but he doesn't have Sam Bradford-level arm strength or velocity. I see Jones as a player who will need at least two seasons to improve his footwork before he can be a consistent passer in the NFL.