- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
People constantly see the Big Board and complain that a certain player can't be that high because "There's no way he could be taken that high." But the Big Board doesn't represent in any way a prediction about the order of picks. It represents my current assessment of the overall talent of the players as NFL prospects. Yes, there's an ounce of a positional value proposition that creeps into play -- you won't find an incredible college kicker up high -- but there are few exceptions. Talent supersedes all. Guards aren't as high because great tackles can often play that position better. And the value issue is particularly a recent trend when it comes to running backs, who seem to have lost some value on draft day in recent years as teams consistently find production lower on the draft board and also hesitate to spend such a high pick on a player at that position.
But the past couple of years have also just lacked that game-changing, elite back. Mark Ingram was the top back off the board last year, and is a very good player, but some teams had questions about his knee, which caused a drop. C.J. Spiller was gone at No. 9 in 2010, but he's more of a multipurpose player than a workhorse. Knowshon Moreno was the top back gone in 2009, and while good, didn't have the speed quotient to push him higher. But in 2008, Darren McFadden went No. 4 overall. McFadden at his best epitomizes a dynamic NFL back, a game-changer teams will covet even that high. Trent Richardson, who jumps to No. 3 this week, could be in that class. On draft day, he may well fall past No. 10, but his current ranking is a reflection of his talent, and he's the rare back who really could be in that top 10 mix. Read on and let me know who you think should be higher. As always, juniors and draft-eligible sophomores are noted with an asterisk.
Andrew Luck *
We'll finally get to see him against some decent competition this week; the Cardinal running game has mitigated their reliance on him. He's the total package. Arm strength, size, smarts, demeanor. A safe bet to be No. 1 overall.
LAST WEEK: 1 | PLAYER CARD
Matt Kalil *
He'll remind you of former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long, an athletic left tackle who has the full set of skills, able to move his feet and hands well as a pass-blocker, then move defenders in the run game. Elite.
LAST WEEK: 3 | PLAYER CARD
Trent Richardson *
Freak athlete. Richardson has come on after splitting carries in his first two seasons, something that benefits him in the eyes of scouts. Powerful, fast, with improved vision, he runs with good pad level and breaks tackles with ease.
LAST WEEK: 6 | PLAYER CARD
Landry Jones *
Coming off a tough week, during which he struggled in his progressions, I still like the way he's battled so far in 2011. He has some INTs, but accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm, needs to improve footwork.
LAST WEEK: 4 | PLAYER CARD
Justin Blackmon *
Dominating week after week. He is a better prospect than recent OSU star Dez Bryant. Versatile and explosive and really works to get open. Great ball skills; breaks tackles. Exceptional work ethic.
LAST WEEK: 5 | PLAYER CARD
Mel Kiper releases his latest Big Board of 2012, and Alabama's Trent Richardson has reached a very high level for a running back.