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Mel Kiper's Top 25 NFL prospects | Jan. 31

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Old 02-01-2005, 12:26 PM   #1
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Mel Kiper's Top 25 NFL prospects | Jan. 31

BIG BOARD: Kiper's Top 25 NFL prospects | Jan. 31

http://proxy.espn.go.com/ncf/column...&id=1980444

The underclassmen have declared and Senior Bowl week is over, so it's once again time to update my Big Board of the top 25 NFL prospects.

He did not participate in the Senior Bowl, but Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards has moved up to No. 2 on the Board based on his overall body of work and his superior athletic skills. Oklahoma wideout Mark Clayton is back in the rankings after coming up big in Senior Bowl practices. Along the same line, Washington offensive tackle Khalif Barnes makes his Big Board debut after proving at the Senior Bowl that a late-season wrist injury is behind him.

On the defensive side of the ball, LSU end Marcus Spears is back in the top 25 after impressive performances last week and Iowa end Matt Roth raised his stock thanks in part to some great battles with Barnes. And there is also one newcomer on defense, Oklahoma junior safety Brodney Pool.

Overall, the board features eight juniors (four among the top 10) and players from 18 different schools, led by three from USC and two each from Auburn and Florida State. USC places one receiver and two defensive linemen on the list, Auburn has a pair of running backs and Wisconsin a duo from the defensive line, while Florida State's players represent the offensive and defensive lines.

Here's how they fall into order:

1. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas (5-10˝, 222) | previous rank: same
Benson is a strong, tough runner who has been incredibly productive in his four years in Austin. He has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons, and his ability to block and catch the ball make him a complete back. Benson has tremendous vision and quick feet, and thanks to his powerful lower body, the first tackler rarely brings him down. He is not flashy but puts up big numbers against top competition.



2. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan (6-2˝, 210) | previous rank: 5
Edwards has been steadily moving up based on a tremendous overall season in 2004, when he took over games and showed off his unbelievable athletic skills. He has the size, athleticism and overall pass-catching skills to dominate cornerbacks and corrected the problems he had with concentration lapses and dropped balls. Without question, he's the top wideout on the draft board.

3. Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn (6-0, 230) | previous rank: 7
Brown showed against Tennessee earlier in the year that he is one of the most complete backs in the nation, running and catching the ball with equal skill. He averaged over six yards per carry this season and had 34 catches. Brown has the size, instincts, power and quickness to put up unbelievable numbers and would have been a Heisman candidate if he were the clear-cut No. 1 on the depth chart. An explosive powerhouse and a complete back.

4. Alex Smith (jr.), QB, Utah (6-3, 207) | previous rank: 3
A mobile quarterback who rushed for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns, Smith is also a very efficient passer who completed 68 percent of his attempts with 32 TDs against only four interceptions. He is tremendously intelligent and will pick up an offensive system quickly at the next level, but the one knock is that he's somewhat of a finesse passer who did not have to muscle a lot of throws into tight spots in college. Smith has very similar ability to California's Aaron Rodgers but gets the nod because of his height advantage.

5. Dan Cody, DE, Oklahoma (6-4, 265) | previous rank: 2
Cody continues moving up the board because of his impressive overall body of work this season. He has been utilized as both a stand-up outside linebacker and a defensive end with his hand on the ground, in much the same way as former NFL standout Kevin Greene. This year Cody finished with 42 tackles (17 for loss, including 10 sacks) and 12 QBH.

6. Adam "Pac-Man" Jones (jr), CB, West Virginia (5-9˝, 191) | previous rank: 10
Jones is lethal not only a a cover man but also as a kick and punt returner. He is a little raw technically, but he's still an outstanding cover corner. He has tremendous closing speed and is more than willing to give up his body in run support. In today's NFL, where the rules are tilted in favor of the receivers and corners are unable to become true "lockdown" defenders, that tackling ability in the open field will be just one more asset to combine with his speed, aggressiveness and special teams skills.

7. Aaron Rodgers (jr.), QB, California (6-1˝, 205) | previous rank: 6
Don't put too much stock in Rodgers' performance in the Holiday Bowl, where he was without his top three receivers. A smart, accurate passer with good athletic ability, Rodgers completed 68 percent of his passes this season. His arm strength is good enough and his release is quick, and the fact that he seems a bit mechanical at times is simply a product of the way Cal head coach Jeff Tedford coaches his quarterbacks to hold the ball at shoulder level. Rodgers is a better prospect than former Golden Bears QB Kyle Boller, now of the Baltimore Ravens. Rodgers and Alex Smith have very similar abilities

8. Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn (5-10˝, 207) | previous rank: same
A very creative and deceptively strong runner who has few peers in terms of pure running skills. Williams does not have imposing size but can still get tough inside yards, a skill which contributed to his 1,307 rushing yards and 17 TDs in 2003. He needs to work on catching the ball out of the backfield, but that's about it. Williams carried 239 times for 1,165 and 12 TDs last season.

9. Heath Miller (jr.), TE, Virginia (6-4˝ 255) | previous rank: 4
Miller is a precise route runner with tremendous body control and great hands. He has three seasons of outstanding productivity under his belt, including 70 receptions in 2003. His yards-per-catch average has improved steadily during his career, and Miller is also a willing, reliable blocker who does a nice job augmenting the running game along the offensive line. One of the top overall prospects in the nation, Miller should end up being a top-15 selection.

10. Derrick Johnson, OLB, Texas (6-3, 233) | previous rank: 13
Johnson led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons, totalling 255 stops and a team-high 39 tackles for loss in that time. A great athlete who has a nose for the ball and is all over the field, Johnson forced nine fumbles this year and also had nine interceptions over the last three years.

11. Travis Johnson, DT, Florida State (6-4, 292) | previous rank: 12
Has improved significantly from where he was last year. Johnson has been dominating offensive linemen all year and has spent a lot of time in opposing backfields, collapsing the pocket or getting penetration against the run.

12. Mike Williams (jr.), WR, USC (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) | previous rank: 9
Williams dominated the collegiate game for two full years before his bid to join the NFL draft as a sophomore was ended by the courts and he was declared ineligible by the NCAA. Williams will be eligible for the 2005 draft, though. If Williams can keep his weight at or below 230, he should ultimately be a top-15 pick. Williams likely would have been a top-10 pick last season because his size, strength and toughness make him a tremendous package who can use his body control and hands to go after the ball over smaller defenders. His two-year totals at USC: 176 receptions, 2,579 yards and 30 TDs.

13. Troy Williamson (jr.), WR, South Carolina (6-1˝, 200) | previous rank: 11
Williamson can flat-out fly and will likely end up being the fastest wide receiver in this year's draft. He put up 19.4 yards per catch this season in a non-passing offense. With with his size/speed ratio, Williamson should continue to zoom up the draft board.

14. Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin (6-4, 260) | previous rank: 16
James missed most of last season with a hip injury but had a great showing in fall camp and carried that momentum over to the regular season. He nursed an ankle injury late in 2004 but still commanded double-team blocks. An outstanding pass rusher who is also strong against the run, James has dropped because of his injury history and must still prove his durability.

15. Shawne Merriman (jr.), OLB, Maryland (6-3, 255) | previous rank: 14
A combo guy on the edge who will test the charts. Merriman benches 385, squats 590 and has a 41˝-inch vertical jump that is the best ever for a defensive lineman in Maryland history. But don't forget his production, as he led the Terrapins with 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Merriman cold play outside linebacker in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, or put his hand on the ground and play end in a 4-3.

16. Marcus Spears, DE, LSU (6-4, 295) | previous rank: unranked
Will not turn into a 10-12 sack performer at the next level because he lacks great closing speed, but Spears looks like a five-sack guy who will be an outstanding run stopper and disruptive to the passing game because of his size and long arms. He is a great athlete who began his career as a tight end and because of that will be able to play in any defensive structure and should be a solid pro. Boosted his stock with a terrific showing at the Senior Bowl.

17. Alex Barron, OT, Florida State (6-7, 325) | previous rank: 20
Athletically gifted with great footwork as a pass blocker, Barron started 30 games during his career.

18. Antrel Rolle, CB, Miami (6-0˝, 200) | previous rank: 17
Rolle has consistently proven his mettle against the top wideouts in the country. A perfect example of that came last year when he shut down former Pittsburgh wideout and eventual No. 3 overall draft pick Larry Fitzgerald. Teams did not throw his way this season, yet he was still a force for the Hurricanes with solid run support and tackles in the backfield.

19. Matt Roth, DE, Iowa (6-3˝, 266) | previous rank: 24
A fiery and intense player who is a tremendous natural pass rusher, Roth is a nice complement to standout tackle Jonathan Babineaux. Roth led the Hawkeyes with eight quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles during the regular season and tied for the team lead with eight sacks. His 14 tackles for loss were second on the team during the regular season. The overall consistency of his body of work elevated Roth.

20. Shaun Cody, DT, USC (6-4, 288) | previous rank: 18
A versatile performer who can play either end or tackle, Cody helped the Trojans finish first in the nation in rush defense at 79.4 ypg.

21. Brodney Pool (jr.), S, Oklahoma (6-2˝, 200) | previous rank: unranked
One of the top playmakers on a star-studded defense, Pool covers a lot of ground and shows very good anticipation. He is excellent in coverage and more than adequate in run support, diagnosing plays quickly and using his enormous physical gifts to get to the ball. A complete player who led the team with 92 tackles in 2004 while intercepting two passes and breaking up nine others.

22. Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, Wisconsin (6-2˝, 315) | previous rank: unranked
Very quick for his size, Hawthorne knows how to handle double-team blocks and can create tackles for loss. Add his strength and overall athleticism to that size and experience and you have an ideal tackle for a 4-3 scheme.

23. Roddy White, WR, UAB (6-1, 205) | previous rank: 15
Runs a consistent 4.42 in the 40, giving him a size/speed combination in the elite category. White averaged 21.6 yards per catch last year and scored seven TDs, and this season he finished second in the nation in receiving yards per game (121.0) while averaging 20.0 yards per catch. White also held his drops to a minimum this year.

24. Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma (5-10, 188) | previous rank: unranked
Clayton set OU records in 2003 with 83 receptions for a 17.2-yard average and 15 TDs. The best wideout after the catch we've seen in quite some time, Clayton led the Sooners in 2004 with 66 receptions and 876 yards. He also caught eight TD passes.

25. Khalif Barnes, OT, Washington (6-5, 311) | previous rank: unranked
A wrist injury cost Barnes the final six games of the season, but he was outstanding to that point. He has quick feet and good balance in pass protection, something he displayed in some outstanding one-on-one battles with Matt Roth at the Senior Bowl. Roth said afterward that Barnes is the toughest left tackle he faced all season. Barnes can also be effective in the running game and has all the necessary skills to be a good pro player.

DROPPED

Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn (6-0, 194)) | previous rank: 19
Has 4.4 speed in the 40 and is a physical player who can tackle in the open field and is an asset in run support. Rogers is a respected cover man with good ball skills who has been Auburn's best defensive player this year. With good showings in postseason workouts and all-star games, he could ultimately move into the first round. Consistency, durability and experience against top-level competition in the SEC should all boost his stock.

Jammal Brown, OT, Oklahoma (6-5, 313) | previous rank: 21
Equally adept at run and pass blocking, Brown has long arms that allow him to get his hand on defenders and move them off the ball using his good feet and balance.

Channing Crowder (so.), MLB, Florida (6-2, 245) | previous rank: 22
Crowder has sophomore eligibility but is three years removed from his original high school and therefore eligible for the draft. He adjusted immediately to the level of competition as a freshman, finishing second on the team with 106 tackles and starting nine games, the most ever for a true freshman at Florida. Has great toughness and was one of the top-tackling linebackers in college in 2004 despite missing three games with a knee injury. Ideal physical ability for a guy in the middle.

Thomas Davis (jr.), LB, Georgia (6-3, 233) | previous rank: 23
A combo safety/outside linebacker in college, Davis is a weakside linebacker prospect in the mold of Derrick Brooks. Davis was limited at times this season by minor injuries, but he is an excellent blitzer and a punishing tackler who loves to get down in the box against the run. If his coverage skills were a little better, Davis could be a safety in the vein of Roy Williams, but as it is, he ranks as an excellent linebacker prospect.

David Pollack, DE, Georgia (6-2˝, 265) | previous rank: 25
Not physically imposing, Pollack plays with incredible intensity and passion. He is quick off the ball, has great closing speed and wreaks havoc as a pass rusher, as evidenced by his 60 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons and 17.5 TFL (12.5 sacks) in 2004. Still, both Pollack and Matt Roth are going to have to prove their physical ability in workouts due to their lack of ideal size.
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:43 PM   #2
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That's an interesting top 25 list...I wouldn't put some of those players where he puts them.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:13 PM   #3
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Dunno whether to take this guy at his word or not, but I guess that rules out picking David Pollack.

If Smoot re-signs, we ought to trade down for a later 1st and 2nd round pick. We pick Erasmus in the 1st round and pick a stud blocking TE in the 2nd round. We sign Plexico and a center through free agency.

If Smoot doesn't re-sign, we trade down for 1st and 2nd round picks. We pick Antrell Rolle in the first and pick a blocking TE in the 2nd round, praying that Daniels gets healthy next year. FA plan remains the same with us signing Plexico and a center.

Suppose we get a 3rd rounder for Gardner, we could then trade that 3rd rounder and next year's second rounder (or our later round picks) to get a high second rounder which could be used for a DT, or back-up O-lineman.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:20 PM   #4
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i wouldnt say that rules out taking pollack cuz of what kiper says, hes been wrong about so many players. cant base that on one guy
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:22 PM   #5
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Most definitely. I know that we keep on saying how we don't need a WR to be picked in the draft. I'm not endorsing taking one with our first round pick, but does anyone think that Troy Williamson would slip to the second round?
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:35 PM   #6
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Doubt it, but if he has Rolle dropped that far I guess anything is possible. Its all based on team needs. Kiper is an idiot sometimes though. I really don't agree with his evaluation of Marcus Spears. I think Spears will be a great run stopper but I also think he will get to the Qb more often then 5 sacks. He kind of reminds me of Shaun Ellis who is a big guy and gets his sacks every year.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:44 PM   #7
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i mean although everyone thought leaf would be a beast, kiper guaraunteed hed be a top quarterback for 15 years...and we see what happened to that. he knows a lot about all the players, but his assessments are wrong often
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:45 PM   #8
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Yeah, I'm not sold on any of his analysis of any of those players either. In a perfect world, I'd love to see us pick up Williamson in the second round if at all possible, to at least take a chance on.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:52 PM   #9
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Sigh....I miss the days of talking about our upcoming playoff/Super Bowl game at this time of the year and worrying about the draft later
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Old 02-01-2005, 03:01 PM   #10
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I know man, I know.

Next year, next year... (just like I said last year and the year before and the year before)
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Old 02-01-2005, 04:31 PM   #11
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Yeah, I'm not sold on any of his analysis of any of those players either. In a perfect world, I'd love to see us pick up Williamson in the second round if at all possible, to at least take a chance on.
Looks like the is zero chance of him making it to the 2nd..
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Old 02-01-2005, 04:36 PM   #12
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Here's the thing with Kiper. He does his board based on talent alone to begin with and ignores team need until it becomes more clear as April gets closer. Of course he incorporates draft history since if the most talented guy in draft is a guard there's just no way he is going in the top half of the first round. Kiper seems to be good at evaluating plain numbers and has a decent grasp of what it takes to be a quality ball player in the league but he misses so often on player character. I guess it is totally a crap shoot really in the end but honestly I'd trust just about any of the personell evaluators in the NFL before him.
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:35 PM   #13
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here's the thing about Mel Kiper, Jr...there is no one else around that gets the attention he gets. this guy's whole life is watching videotape of prospects and evaluating them. his opinion is only worth what anyone takes from it. his job is like predicting the weather...not quite rocket science, but seriously unproven
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:53 PM   #14
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his board has nothign to do where these players are going to get drafted. It has nothign to do with team needs, just pure overall talent. Mel Kiper could have a guy ranked 125th that could go first round if there are a ton of players picked from that position.

I still thikn that when you have a pick as high as we do, you take the best available, regardless of need. I think we should take Rolle, and play him with Taylor at safety. We could run any type of blitz package we wanted becuase both our safties can play corner back then. And both are freaks.
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Old 02-02-2005, 02:23 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BDBohnzie
here's the thing about Mel Kiper, Jr...there is no one else around that gets the attention he gets. this guy's whole life is watching videotape of prospects and evaluating them. his opinion is only worth what anyone takes from it. his job is like predicting the weather...not quite rocket science, but seriously unproven
True but like you say all he does is study prospects, so he does know what he's talking about most of the time. Of course he's not going to be right all the time, there's too many intangibles that can't be graded or scored.
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