Baltimore Sun

Q&A with ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Baltimore's Mel Kiper Jr. is in his 27th year of providing draft analysis for ESPN. Here are some excerpts from last week's national conference call with the media:

Will the foot injury to wide receiver Michael Crabtree make him the Adrian Peterson of this year's draft?


Kiper: I don't think the injury affected him that much because he was projected to go fourth to Seattle prior to that, long before anybody signed any free agents. Now he's projected to go fifth to Cleveland. So it's not a huge drop for him. At least he was able to save himself from dropping out of the top 10. He could [do] very well if he gets back to where he needs to be physically, which he will, and granted his speed question is going to be there lingering, but at the end of the day a lot of receivers in this league who didn't run great 40s, turned out to be very effective. ... He's potentially the best offensive player in this draft and for the Cleveland Browns, who need a wide receiver, he should be a real good fit there eventually.

Is Matthew Stafford going to be the No. 1 pick and will teams try to trade into the top of the draft?


Kiper: I would expect Stafford to go No. 1. I don't have any inside information on what Detroit's thinking ... obviously they want to have this guy signed before the draft if they can. To me, it would be the obvious pick. That's what they need. People say, well, since [Jay] Cutler's in the division with Aaron Rodgers, they have to. I think that decision should based be on how Stafford is as a player, not based on quarterbacks in the division.

In terms of trades, you just don't see any. It's not like the '90s, '80s and '70s where teams were moving up and down and around. The top five or six aren't going to be traded. It's just too expensive both from a financial standpoint and from a pick standpoint as to what you have to give up. Normally the activity starts around seven or eight. All the speculation is about Jacksonville at eight trading down. ... You figure to have a lot of activity in the middle of the first round. We always do. That eighth pick to Jacksonville, if the receiver's not there that they target, then that would be a space someone might jump in there to get [USC quarterback] Mark Sanchez you would think.How do you project Sanchez?

Kiper: Had he gone back, he would have been battling [Oklahoma's] Sam Bradford to be the No. 1 pick overall. That's pretty guaranteed. With the talent they have – with Damian Williams, the great receiver there, emerging this season – they would have had him in place to be the No. 1 pick overall, or Bradford.

The fact that he comes out early, I thought he was the fifth-best player. I talked to some people … they were amazed when people had him down the line like they did at 17 to the Jets in an early projection. I have him 13 to Washington because I thought about putting him to Seattle and I was told not to. I still think Seattle is a possibility. And once you don't put him to Seattle, then you have a problem. I had him at Jacksonville and was told that they like him but they aren't going to take him. San Francisco, I've been told, they're not going to take a quarterback. Eight could be traded, 10 could be traded. That means someone can jump in there. ...

He's a hot guy right now because of the fact that he's what you want in terms of accuracy. And that's not just in the pocket, that's not just when he has all day to throw. He can roll right, he can roll left and throw accurately. His completion percentage was through the roof at around 66 percent this year. His touchdown-interception ratio was outstanding. He played through that knee injury early on and he didn't have a great supporting cast early on. ... I think when you look at what he was able to do this year with the numbers he put up, and the skill level he has and the football acumen, the smarts, the intelligence, the passion for the game, the enthusiasm for the game that he has, he's got a lot of Chad Pennington in him. He's got a little bit of Troy Aikman, in terms of accuracy. He's got a lot of good quarterbacks wrapped up in Mark Sanchez. That's why all the buzz seems to be about Sanchez right now.

What's Percy Harvin's status and is he dropping?

Kiper: Couple weeks ago I had him going to Tennessee at the 30th pick. At one point, I had him at No. 17 to the New York Jets. But he is different. He's not a wide receiver per say, but a jack of all trades. He's a Reggie Bush with the Saints -- not Reggie at USC, but Reggie with the Saints. And that's the kind of player he can be -- running back, receiver, return man. People talk about issues with Percy Harvin. The issue that's not positive is an injury. He played through in the [national] championship game. He made the one big play of that game that turned the tide and helped Florida to win it. And without him, they don't beat Oklahoma, in my opinion. He's got great value. Of course, Reggie Bush was the second pick overall and this kid will be in the late first round with those same type of explosive skills and versatility. Late first round, he's got outstanding value.

Durability with Harvin is an issue as it has been for Bush at the pro level. He's only 195 pounds and he's going to have to prove that he can stay healthy. If you can keep him on the field, he's going to put up a lot of all-purpose yards for you.


-Ken Murray