Depending on who you ask, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is either one of the leading authorities on the NFL Draft or an insufferable blowhard who wouldn’t know a first round lock from an average Tennessee recruit, but he is touted by the worldwide leader as the former. Yesterday, he released his first 2018 mock draft behind the paywall at ESPN Insider, and spoke about it with reporters on a teleconference.
As you’d imagine, he spent a good deal of time on Alabama players.
On the quarterback, Kiper said Hurts is a great leader, plays tough and is a “phenomenal runner.”
“Just did enough in the passing game to get by,” Kiper said. “When they needed more, they went to Tua (Tagovailoa) and they got it. So, who knows? Nick isn’t going to discard a Jalen Hurts, but to say he’s a pro prospect right now, I’d say no. I don’t think -- as a quarterback -- I wouldn’t say he was an NFL quarterback prospect. But we’ll see if he could maybe make a change to another position down the road.”
“I think Minkah Fitzpatrick’s one of the best players in this draft,” Kiper said. “Can play corner, can play safety, slot, everything. He’s done it all.
“Da’Ron Payne was a key guy all year for them. They needed that, they needed a guy to be like a Marcell Dareus, an A’Shawn (Robinson), a (Jarran) Reed, and he was better than that. He had a great year. I have him going to the Chargers. They had the worst per carry average allowed in the NFL with almost five yards a carry. They have a little soft belly in the interior, and that would help them.
“And then Rashaan Evans and Calvin Ridley, who I pushed up to eight. I think in most drafts he would probably be more of a mid-first, but in this draft he’s the best receiver. So, that’s what the Bears need.
“And Rashaan Evans, I dropped down to Pittsburgh. At one point I had him going 13 to Washington. So, there’s a wide range on Evans, who I think is a heck of a player. He can play inside, he can get after the quarterback, you can move him to the outside in those pass-rush situations. I think Evans is a guy who if he’s there with Pittsburgh’s selection at 28 would be a heck of a choice.”
It’s obviously very early in the process for these types of projections as the Combine and pro day circuit tends to change things significantly, but four first rounders would be another phenomenal draft for a Saban machine that just keeps humming along.
Jalen is certainly not the first college player to be in this conundrum. He is a fantastic athlete that likely doesn’t have the skills to be a NFL quarterback. There have been a very few players who were able to successfully transition at the pro level, Terrelle Pryor serving as the most recent success story, but it is rare. If Jalen wants to play in the NFL, he is probably best served changing now.
Kiper also believes that Damien Harris made a good choice in returning to school, and I tend to agree. Next year’s running back field will be much less crowded.