Tha Sports Junkies 101

TSJ101 – Our Latest ESPN Conference Call With Mel Kiper Jr. -“Mitch Trubisky Is The Only First-Round QB” –

NFL Draft "Mitch Trubisky is the only 1st round QB" - Kiper via Flickr



On Thursday afternoon, ESPN hosted a conference call with Mel Kiper Jr. answering questions on the 2017 NFL Draft following the release of his most recent big board, which listed his top 25 prospects. TSJ Sports were among those in attendance.

With how crucial the position is to a team’s success, it was only natural that much of the focus was on quarterbacks. After ranking him at number 16 on his big board, Kiper made it clear that he believes North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is the only passer in the draft who should be taken in the 1st round, but even then, he still believes that Trubisky would benefit from returning to school.

“Only 13 career starts is what he’d end with if he decided to come out. I have him 16 on the big board. I think he’s a first-round talent, but I’d love to see him go back to North Carolina for another year – if he does he could be the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. For a top 10 pick and maybe the 1st pick overall, 13 starts has to be a little bothersome.”

Among the other quarterbacks likely to be discussed by front offices as the future of their franchise, Miami signal caller Brad Kaaya is another who Kiper believes would be a better player in a year’s time.

“I think it would help him to continue to get better with Mark Richt there. If he does come out, you’re looking at a third-round type, maybe second-round depending upon how the workout goes. But I really think if you’re not first-round round pick, go back and try to get to that point. That’s something that I think can be achieved with a good year.’’

After an incredibly impressive performance in a losing effort to Alabama in the BCS National Championship last year, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was being penciled in as the first-overall pick. While Clemson qualified for the playoffs again this year, Watson underwhelmed slightly and Kiper believes that how he performs in the postseason could be crucial to where he comes off the board.

“Everything you hear suggests he’s coming out. You have to view him as an NFL ready quarterback and I think there’s going to be some work involved there getting him to a point where in another year or so he can be a starting quarterback.

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People will say ‘look at Dak Prescott – he was a forth-round pick and look what he’s done.’ Well, that was a perfect scenario with a great offensive line and running back, with an offense and team where everything was in place for him. He was a fifth year senior, so was Carson Wentz.

If you’re coming out early like Watson is, you look at the year that he’s had and he’s had some decision making and accuracy issues. It will take a little bit of time.

The start was a little shaky and the decision making with the interceptions. He threw two or more interceptions in four games. He did have the hot finish. He’s got a chance still to get into that late first or early second-round discussion. Right now he’s not there yet, I don’t believe.”

TSJ Sports shifted the focus to running backs, with Kiper having Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and D’onta Foreman in his top-25 players with Christian McCaffrey just outside. When asked whether he believes they project as three down, feature backs in the NFL, Kiper was optimistic.

“Certainly Fournette. Dalvin Cook compares to Jamaal Charles. D’onta Foreman is a powerhouse – you would like to see him get more receptions coming out, more than the 7 receptions this past year so during his Pro Day they’re going to want to see what type of hands he shows. So that’s going to be important for D’onta Foreman to show that he can be a consistent threat coming out of the backfield catching balls because he only had 7 catches.

Cook can do everything. He’s extremely explosive. As I said he, to me, is a Jamaal Charles type. Fournette draws comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Christian McCaffrey is a do-it-all and can beat you in a multitude of ways. Everybody in this league likes versatile players and he’s versatile. He can punt return, kick return, he can catch, block, run; he can do it all. He’ll be one of the hardest workers on your football team, so I’ve got to believe McCaffrey sneaks into that late 1st – he should test well too. I think he can sneak into the late 1st.”

Despite thinking that a large number of underclassmen would benefit from deferring their draft entry until 2018, Kiper complimented the depth of the cornerback class, suggesting that there could be as many as five drafted in the first round with a similar number in the second round.

Beyond that, it looks like another strong year for defensive linemen, with the pass rushers in particular receiving praise.

Thanks to ESPN and Mel Kiper Jr. for their invitation. The full conference call can be heard here.