NFL Draft: 2014 Mel Kiper Mock 3.0

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Panthers

March, 13, 2014
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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. finally has come around to my thinking on the Carolina Panthers having to take an offensive tackle with the No. 28 pick of the NFL draft.

He has, at least for the moment, given up on Carolina taking a wide receiver -- although when Steve Smith is traded or cut, the team won't have any of its top four wideouts from last season under contract.

That could make receiver more of a priority, particularly if the Panthers are sold on Byron Bell replacing Jordan Gross at left tackle.

But I'm not.

So Kiper's pick of Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio makes sense.

Maybe this will be a repeat of last year's draft in which defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was considered one of the top picks -- if not the top pick -- until a medical issue involving his heart at the NFL combine forced some teams to back off.

Carolina got him for a steal at No. 14. Lotulelei played so well he could have been defensive rookie of the year.

Kouandjio was considered one of the top players in this draft until concerns surfaced at the combine about his knee, which doctors have since said is fine. Then he didn't work out at Alabama's pro day, another negative.

If he falls to No. 28, the Panthers can't pass on him. He could be the starting left tackle for the next 10 years.

If not him, then Virginia tackle Morgan Moses.

If not one of them, then Kiper and I will agree it's a wide receiver.

Check out a complete look at Kiper's 3.0 draft Insider.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Falcons

March, 13, 2014
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ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. went exactly in the direction I expect the Atlanta Falcons to go in the first round of this year's NFL draft: offensive tackle.

Kiper has the Falcons taking Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews with the sixth overall pick in his latest mock draft. He has Matthews as the second offensive tackle to be drafted, following Auburn's Greg Robinson at No. 2 to the Rams.

The Falcons are destined to take a close look at Matthews, Robinson and Michigan's Taylor Lewan as they try to fix the line going into the 2014 season. A lot of folks would say a pass-rusher is a more pressing need after the Falcons decided to add nose tackle Paul Soliai and run-stuffing defensive end Tyson Jackson via free agency. True, adding a pass-rusher is a great need, but maybe the Falcons can gamble on getting one in the second round. The trading-down scenario always is in play, too.

Among the top three tackles, Robinson would be the best fit for the Falcons in terms of bringing that gritty nature the Falcons need up front. But Matthews could be the most NFL-ready of the three.

While Matthews could be a safe pick, he might underwhelm. One scout I talked to said Matthews was "a little overrated" and would lean toward Lewan between the two. Kiper even mentioned on a conference call Thursday how Matthews sometimes gets in trouble facing quick defenders. At the same time, Kiper praised Matthews, Robinson and Lewan as a trio.

"Right now, I would have Robinson as having the most upside," Kiper said. "He's a tremendously gifted player. He's got some work to do in pass protection. Obviously, he came out of a run-oriented attack. But he's an incredibly gifted football player. That's why he's going to go in the top 2-6.

"I think you look at Jake Matthews, the bloodlines [Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews' son], the fact that he plays right tackle so effectively. He played left tackle very well. Now, he had some trouble with the quick guys, the explosive guys in a couple games when you watch him. But he's a guy who's going to be solid, consistent, and reliable. ... Taylor Lewan had a really good year. I think people were critical of Lewan based on the line play at Michigan. But if they watched the games -- which some people were making comments about Lewan that were inaccurate -- he played well. ... I think he's deserving of being in the top seven. Probably won't go that high just because we get into needs again."

The bottom line is, the Falcons need to protect Matt Ryan. Matthews might not be my first choice, but he certainly would be a tremendous upgrade.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Raiders

March, 13, 2014
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Apparently, the Rodger Saffold fiasco and the Oakland Raiders losing out on an offensive lineman had no bearing on Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 3.0.

No, he did not stay with his pick for the Raiders at No. 5 overall -- he went with Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins both times before.

The way Kiper sees things shaking out , Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will fall to Oakland, and the Raiders will scoop him up. Makes sense in the way that Oakland needs a franchise quarterback and, as many observers note, Bridgewater is the closest thing to an NFL-ready QB in this draft.

But are the Raiders ready to hand over the keys to the franchise to a rookie? Depends upon what else they do in free agency.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bears

March, 13, 2014
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ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. unveiled his Mock 3.0 on Thursday, and just like his draft-guru colleague Todd McShay of Scouts Inc., he projected the Chicago Bears to take Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald with the No. 14 pick.

Chicago’s signings thus far in free agency certainly make such a move prudent. Although the Bears re-signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins before the start of free agency, the club still hasn’t put together an enticing enough offer to bring back Henry Melton, who, according to a league source, is visiting Minnesota but also has several other visits lined up.

If the Bears can’t re-sign Melton or any other starting-level defensive tackles in free agency, they’ll certainly turn to the draft to address that need. Kiper sent Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to the Bears at No. 14 in his first two mock drafts, writing in Mock 2.0 that “I’m a bigger fan of Jernigan in a 4-3 look, where he’s using his power to go through a blocker and not trying to beat people off the snap and use quickness.”

McShay chose Donald in his last mock draft, saying, "Donald is a perfect fit for the Bears’ scheme as a 3-technique defensive tackle. I don’t know if there’s been a prospect who has helped his stock more during the draft process than him. He was unblockable at the Senior Bowl, and that, put together with an unbelievable overall workout at the combine. He’s shorter than prototype size, but he has long arms and a powerful upper body and creates a lot of big plays with his anticipation and quickness. FSU’s Timmy Jernigan is a fit as a 3-technique as well, but Donald is a much better finisher as a pass-rusher."

Kiper and McShay have both been consistent throughout their mock drafts in Chicago's using its first-round pick to address the defensive tackle position, and from this vantage point they’re on the money.

Donald might actually be more of a fit than Jernigan at No. 14 because the Bears might benefit from pairing him with Ratliff next season. If Donald doesn’t pan out early, the worst-case scenario is he would provide depth at a position that lacked it in 2013 when injuries rendered the defense rudderless.

The Bears last season gave up the most points (478) and total yards (6,313) in franchise history as opponents put together 10 100-yard-rushing performances.

Uncertainty still exists along Chicago’s defensive line despite the signings of Ratliff, Collins and free-agent defensive end Lamarr Houston. The Bears need to add along the front four to avoid experiencing another catastrophe such as what they endured in 2013.

“I feel like I can make an impact right away, feel like I can come in and have trust in the coaches and playbook and make plays right away,” Donald said last month at the NFL combine.

At this point, that’s certainly what the Bears need in their attempt to revamp the defense.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Broncos

March, 13, 2014
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Make it three-for-three for the Denver Broncos.

In three mock drafts so far, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has had the Broncos looking for help on defense. In the first, in January, it was Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and in the second, in February, it was Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby.

But with the Broncos having signed cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end DeMarcus Ware in free agency this week, Kiper now predicted they'll address the linebacker position with Wisconsin's Chris Borland in his latest look at how the draft's first round Insider could shake out.

Borland's workout numbers don't measure up to some of the other prospects at the position -- he ran a 4.83 40-yard dash, for example, but the 5-foot-11½, 248-pound inside linebacker is all football player. His instincts are top-shelf and you can see him, play-after-play, knocking blockers off balance on his way to the ball carrier.

He has also shown the ability to drop into coverage as well at times and covers plenty of ground when he has to with good play speed.

Borland does have some injury history having missed two games in 2012 with a hamstring issue and was awarded a medical hardship in 2010 when he missed all but two games because of a left shoulder injury.

But he is a quality leader and his coaches have routinely praised his work ethic to scouts.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Jaguars

March, 13, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s prediction in his third mock draft Insider that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft is not surprising. He made the same forecast in his first two mock drafts. It's the pick that makes the most sense.

The Jaguars do need a quarterback and in Kiper's scenario Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are available, but general manager David Caldwell has dropped several hints that he doesn't believe any of them are a franchise quarterback.

Caldwell has said rookie quarterbacks generally aren't ready to play right away. There are exceptions, such as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, but those players didn't leave school early and played in pro-style offenses in college. He also has said Chad Henne, who signed a two-year extension last week, can keep the team afloat with better offensive line play and more weapons.

The Jaguars worked on both of those issues early in free agency by signing guard Zane Beadles and running back Toby Gerhart. They are expected to add at least one more offensive lineman and possibly a receiver before the draft, as well.

So Clowney, whom many regard as the best player in the draft, is the natural pick. He fills an immediate need and upgrades a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. He's ridiculously athletic and exceptionally quick (4.53 40-yard dash, including a 10-yard split of 1.56 seconds) for a 6-foot-5, 266-pound end.

Some have concerns about his work ethic and motivation, but those issues are being overblown. Clowney is a freak who can dominate a game.

And consider this: Since the Jaguars will play six games against the AFC South it's important the team is built to handle those opponents. The Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the division because of Luck so the Jaguars need to be able to deal with them twice a year.

Clowney is the first piece.
In his latest mock draft , ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the San Diego Chargers selecting Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby with the No. 25 overall pick.

Roby no doubt fills a need for the Chargers, who have just one cornerback (Shareece Wright) with NFL regular-season starting experience currently on the roster. Kiper had Roby pegged for the Chargers in his first mock draft. After a so-so performance by Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson at the NFL scouting combine, Roby moves back to No. 25 for San Diego.

Kiper had Roberson going to the Chargers in his second mock draft, but the Florida product fell out of the first round in Kiper's latest mock draft.

At 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, Roby is athletic, running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and posting a 38.5-inch vertical jump. Roby also is versatile, with the ability to play on the perimeter or match up inside against slot receivers. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano likes players who can move around the field and play different positions.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Giants

March, 13, 2014
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Now, this is more like it. After assigning the New York Giants an inside linebacker at the No. 12 overall pick in his first two mock drafts of 2014, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has altered his most recent mock Insider and now has the Giants selecting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.

Even if the Giants had taken a linebacker in the first round since 1984 (which they have not), the re-signing of Jon Beason makes a pick of Alabama's C.J. Mosley unlikely. Ebron, however, makes a ton of sense.

The free-agent market at tight end is underwhelming, and the Giants have been getting by for too long with one-year stopgap solutions at tight end. That bit them in 2013, when Brandon Myers flopped, and it's time to address the position for the long-term. Ebron is, by all accounts, an instant difference-maker and a freakish athlete who could enable the Giants to do things at the tight end position they haven't been able to do since the heyday of Jeremy Shockey. Eli Manning needs weapons on offense, and Ebron would give him a versatile one.

I could see the Giants going any number of ways in the first round. They could take an offensive lineman, a cornerback, a wide receiver or a defensive lineman, and it would be tough to rip the pick. They are rebuilding a roster in decay, and they have tons of long-term needs. But Ebron would be an exciting and appropriate pick at No. 12.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Steelers

March, 13, 2014
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As much of a shortage as the Pittsburgh Steelers have at defensive end, there probably isn’t a player at that position who is worthy of the 15th overall pick.

And the Steelers’ need at cornerback is just as acute, which is why they would be thrilled if they had a chance to take Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Gilbert going to the Steelers in his third mock draft, and the speedy Gilbert would contribute immediately while also shoring up the position from a long-term standpoint if he is as good as advertised.

He and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard are considered the top two cornerbacks in the draft, and Kiper said on Thursday that both “could be in play” for the Steelers.

“Gilbert’s a guy to me that ability-wise deserves to be that high,” Kiper said Thursday during a conference call. “In run support [he’s] not going to be a big factor, but a lot of these corners aren’t. Darqueze Dennard, he’s great [in] run support. He’s as aggressive a tackler as you’ll ever find. I love the way he plays against the run, but this is a pass league.

“If you could take Dennard’s aggressiveness and put it with Gilbert you’d have a top-five pick. Both are real good players and both are going to go, I think, in the mid-first-round area. Some like Dennard, some like Gilbert. I give a slight edge to Gilbert, but like them both.”

The Steelers could still go in a number of different ways with their first-round pick, and free agency, which is still in its infancy, has already dropped a couple of pieces into the draft puzzle.

The signing of Mike Mitchell all but rules out the Steelers taking a safety with their first-round pick. Another signing outside of Pittsburgh could also impact the Steelers’ draft.

The Lions lured Golden Tate away from Seattle, signing the wide receiver to a five-year contract on Wednesday -- and perhaps making it more likely that Detroit addresses its secondary with the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Kiper has the Lions taking Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans in his latest mock draft, but the Tate signing could allow Detroit to target a player such as Gilbert in the first round.

Kiper said he thinks Evans would still make a lot of sense for the Lions even with the signing of Tate.

“He’s solidly in the top-10 area,” Kiper said.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Lions

March, 13, 2014
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The Lions might have signed Golden Tate and Kevin Ogletree already this week, but that hasn't stopped Mel Kiper Jr. from predicting Detroit will go wide receiver again in the first round of May's NFL draft.

Kiper is tabbing Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans with the No. 10 pick to Detroit, and while it would make sense for the Lions to pick up another receiver, considering who else is available on Kiper's board still at No. 10, it might be a stretch.

Based on Kiper's latest mock draft, the Lions would have their pick of Evans, linebacker Anthony Barr, tight end Eric Ebron, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and cornerback Justin Gilbert. All, in one way or another, have been linked to Detroit early in the process.

And considering the team's needs at the present moment -- safety, cornerback, tight end and defensive end -- it would be surprising to see Detroit go with Evans if this were the way it were to shake out.

Of course, a lot can shift between now and May, or even a week from now, when most of the quality free agents will have likely been scooped up. And if Detroit addresses some of its other needs, then Evans becomes a potential value/best player available pick and could give the Lions a dynamic receiving corps.

Here is Kiper's take on why he would still go with Evans:
"After the Lions signed Golden Tate, the obvious reaction is to think they go another direction here. I'll counter and say that the Lions didn't just need one wide receiver, they needed two, and I'd also say that while Tate is a nice addition, he doesn't do much to ease the worry of what this offense looks like when Calvin Johnson isn't healthy. The Lions shouldn't be done at this position, and I think Evans is too good to pass up here. Tate's presence doesn't mean this is no longer a need."


There is definitely logic there, especially if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi believes Tate will be more effective in the slot than on the outside or wants to get super creative and use Johnson in the slot more often. But depending on what Detroit needs, it might not be the best use of such a high draft pick.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bengals

March, 13, 2014
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To this point, signs have mostly pointed to the Cincinnati Bengals drafting a cornerback in the first-round of this year's NFL draft.

ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. ignored them in his latest mock draft Insider that was unveiled earlier Thursday. Instead of taking a cornerback like he suggested in his first two mocks, Kiper now has the Bengals taking outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

An Ohio State product, Shazier would certainly be welcomed by Bengals fans in southwest Ohio. Fellow Buckeyes Mike Nugent and Dane Sanzenbacher (currently a tendered restricted free agent) are already on the roster.

One of the many underclassmen in this year's draft, Shazier left Ohio State after his junior season. While helping lead his program to the Big Ten championship game, he had 133 tackles and 6.0 sacks in his final year. As a "Will" linebacker, he fits one of the Bengals' many needs. Vontaze Burfict currently starts at the "Will" position and figures to do so for a long time, but an injury at the position on the depth chart put Cincinnati in a bind when it came to numbers for its nickel defense.

Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury in the preseason forced the Bengals to get creative with their rotations on pass-specific downs. They even flirted at one point with moving safety Taylor Mays into the nickel linebacker spot to give the position a bigger, athletic body in order to help cover tight ends, running backs and extra receivers.

Shazier's coverage ability, particularly his physical style of play in coverage, has been noted as a strength. His speed and range are also positives. ESPN's draft team currently ranks him the third-best outside linebacker on the boards.

While the cornerback need still exists, if Shazier is still around at pick No. 24, he wouldn't be a bad selection for the Bengals.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Patriots

March, 13, 2014
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Two things stood out when dissecting ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft 3.0 Insider selection for the New England Patriots:

1. After going with Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro at No. 29 in each of his first two mocks, Kiper now has Amaro out of the first round.

2. Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who was viewed as a mid-round possibility in earlier mocks, also has slipped out of the top 32.

This time around, Kiper slots Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman to the Patriots at No. 29, and it has been a popular pick in various mock drafts. Hageman could give the Patriots a high-upside prospect with an ideal physical makeup at the position. Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead and Chris Jones top the current depth chart, so Hageman would likely have the luxury of time to develop.

While Hageman could be a solid pick, I'm also curious about the fall of Nix and if he might represent the better pick in that scenario. He's a big run-stuffer who is a good athlete for his size. In a league that trends toward the pass, might Nix be a potentially undervalued asset who could be a solid selection at No. 29?

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Cardinals

March, 13, 2014
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With Arizona’s left tackle issues fixed for the next five years, it’s time to plug the Cardinals’ next biggest hole: the secondary. In his Mock Draft 3.0, ESPN NFL draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. predicted the Cardinals will select Darqueze Dennard, a cornerback out of Michigan State.

If there’s a safety on the board who’s better than Dennard, the Cardinals will most likely go in that direction because of their serious need to stop tight ends. However, if Dennard is the best player available, it’d be hard not to choose the Jim Thorpe Award winner and a unanimous All-American. He had 62 tackles and four interceptions, and Dennard would be able to learn the tricks of the trade from Patrick Peterson on the other side as well as pick up a thing or two from Tyrann Mathieu.

If Arizona drafts Dennard, there’s a very good chance the Cardinals will cut Jerraud Powers and begin the reformation of the secondary this year.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bills

March, 13, 2014
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We're still two months from the 2014 NFL draft, but a consensus is beginning to develop among our NFL draft experts as to whom the Buffalo Bills should pick at No. 9 overall.

In his third mock draft, Mel Kiper Jr. projects Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan to the Bills. This is the third time that Kiper has mocked an offensive tackle to the Bills, and it makes sense: It's a position of need for the Bills, who could be looking to upgrade from Erik Pears at right tackle.

Here's more from Kiper's latest mock:
I like Cordy Glenn, but protection was still a problem for the Bills last year, so I have them placing a higher priority on keeping EJ Manuel upright and shifting their attention to the deep class of wide receivers in Round 2 or 3. I've said more than once that I think Lewan could have graded out as the top tackle last year if he chose to enter the draft, and while he has the prototypical length as a pass-blocker, he really gets after it as a run-blocker.

It would be surprising if the Bills didn't select either an offensive tackle or receiver with the ninth pick.

Here's a rundown of Kiper's and Todd McShay's mock drafts to date:

Mel Kiper's mock drafts:
March 13 (3.0) -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Feb. 6 (2.0) -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jan. 16 (1.0) -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Todd McShay's mock drafts:
March 6 (3.0) -- Matthews
Feb. 6 (2.0) -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Jan. 16 (1.0) -- Lewan

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Eagles

March, 13, 2014
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About a week ago, selecting a free safety in the first round of the draft made a lot of sense for the Philadelphia Eagles. That is, to anyone who watched the Eagles in 2013 and saw Patrick Chung, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff. Chung is gone, Allen remains a free agent and Wolff, the Eagles hope, is a developing talent.

The Eagles can’t just address this position with one free-agent signing. Malcolm Jenkins is an upgrade for them, but he’s not going to solve every problem in the secondary.

But, perhaps, if you pair him with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor that just might get it done. And that’s why it makes sense that in his Mock Draft 3.0 Insider, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected Pryor to the Eagles with the 22nd pick in the first round. Jenkins is a free safety, best in coverage. Pryor is more of an in-the-box safety, best on the move against the run.

Pryor would give the Eagles their own version of Kam Chancellor (though not nearly as big) or Troy Polamalu, a guy who can make plays in the box and hit with force. Pryor is fast enough and athletic enough to develop in coverage. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds; not a blazer, but fast enough. Where he would can really help is against the run; he’s aggressive in this area and does a good job of seeking out ball carriers.

Pryor has to show he can cover tight ends. But if he does, the Eagles would have solved a nagging issue at safety -- first with Jenkins and then with Pryor. Of course, then they’ll have to address the pass rush and possibly corner depth. But this would be a good start.

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