Commentary

New names on Big Board

For a league where tight ends have become huge stories, there's a new name to watch

Originally Published: December 14, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

There's a lot of talk about who will go No. 1 (see above), but the new guy this week will be catching passes. It's pretty amazing to think what we could be saying about the 2010 NFL draft in a few years. We could be calling it "The Year of the Tight End." Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Gresham and Tony Moeaki are already considered very good ones, and Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and others such as Anthony McCoy could continue to develop. This year's class looks a little lighter, but Clemson's Dwayne Allen makes his way onto the Big Board this week. If he opts to come out, he could emerge as the top name off the board.

NFL coaches don't just see tight ends as weapons anymore. These are major matchup headaches that are focal points in a number of offenses. Allen could develop into a good one if he stays on this path. There are other moves, as well. Read on and let me know who should be higher or who's been passed over, in your opinion. As always, juniors and draft-eligible sophomores are noted with an asterisk.

1
Andrew Luck *
AGE: 22
DOB: 9/12/89
HT: 6-4
WT: 235
POS: QB
Comp 261
Att 373
Pct 70.0
Yds 3,170
TD 35
Int 9

Luck was unable to show off all he can do given the talent around him in 2011, but he is the total package: arm strength, size, smarts, demeanor. He remains my pick to go No. 1 overall and could unseat Peyton Manning in Indy.

LAST WEEK: 1 | PLAYER CARD

2
Matt Kalil *
AGE: 22
DOB: 7/6/89
HT: 6-7
WT: 295
POS: OT
GP 12
GS 12

Kalil was steady the entire season and has the full range of skills for the left tackle position, not to mention the pedigree. He could opt to return to USC, but I won't shift guys until final declarations are locked in.

LAST WEEK: 2 | PLAYER CARD

3
Trent Richardson *
AGE: 20
DOB: 7/10/91
HT: 5-11
WT: 224
POS: RB
Car 263
Yds 1,583
Avg. 6.0
TD 20

The BCS title game should be his final one in college. Richardson's splitting carries in his first two seasons will benefit him. Powerful, fast, with improved vision, he runs with good pad level and breaks tackles with ease.

LAST WEEK: 3 | PLAYER CARD

4
Justin Blackmon *
AGE: 21
DOB: 1/9/90
HT: 6-1
WT: 208
POS: WR
Rec 113
Yds 1,336
Avg 11.8
TD 15

Blackmon had a remarkable regular season, eclipsing his 111 catches of a year ago. A better prospect than recent OSU star Dez Bryant. Versatile and explosive and really works to get open. Great ball skills; breaks tackles.

LAST WEEK: 4 | PLAYER CARD

5
Morris Claiborne *
AGE: 21
DOB: 2/7/90
HT: 6-1
WT: 185
POS: CB
Tkl 46
Sack 0
Int 6

Doesn't get the attention, but he's a very good player. Big rise in 2011; now the top corner. Exceptional pure cover corner with impeccable instincts at the position. Has solid ball skills for the position. Not a burner; plenty quick.

LAST WEEK: 5 | PLAYER CARD


To see the rest of the Big Board, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst