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ESPN Insider - Mel Kiper Jr.: TOP 25 PROSPECTS UPDATED


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By Mel Kiper Jr.


BIG BOARD: Kiper's Top 25 NFL prospects | Jan. 2

Two more juniors, both from Miami-Florida, debut on my Big Board after declaring for the NFL draft: safety Sean Taylor (at No. 5) and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (at No. 6). Each could end up being a top-five pick. Eight juniors who have declared for the NFL draft are in my Top 25 (and six are in the top 10).

1. Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss (6-4, 210) | previous ranking: same

Manning has an outstanding arm and possesses tremendous pocket awareness. He has stepped up his intensity in the huddle as well as his leadership on and off the field. He's accurate, poised and intelligent. Manning began the season at No. 4 on my Big Board. His situation this year is comparable to Carson Palmer's last year. Palmer rose up the draft board and wound up becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft (to the Cincinnati Bengals). If Manning had declared for the draft last year, he could have been a late first-rounder. He's the younger brother of Colts QB Peyton Manning.

2. Roy Williams, WR, Texas (6-4, 213) | previous ranking: same

Williams was the clear No 1 when I launched my 2004 draft board, but he dropped to No. 2 on Nov. 11 -- not because of any slip-up on his part but due to the rise of QB Eli Manning. In a way, it's a matter of splitting hairs, but Manning gets the nod right now. Williams is a brilliant talent who excelled in 2003 despite a lack of consistent quarterback play. Texas ran a conservative offense that wasn't sophisticated in its passing schemes. Still, Williams averaged 16.1 yards per catch on 61 receptions with eight TDs.

A superb athlete with great size, Williams averaged 17.8 yards per catch with 12 TDs as a junior in '02, when he returned to the all-world form he displayed as a freshman after slipping some as a sophomore (when he averaged just 12.5 yards per catch). If Williams had declared for the 2003 draft, he likely would have been an overall top 10-15 pick and the third receiver off the board, behind Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Miami's Andre Johnson.

3. Ben Roethlisberger (jr.), QB, Miami-Ohio (6-5, 245) | previous ranking: same

Roethlisberger was a wide receiver until his senior year of high school, so he wasn't heavily recruited. But he's emerged as a potential top-five pick overall after a remarkable year. He has great size and surprising mobility for his size. In the GMAC Bowl, Roethlisberger completed 21-of-33 passes for 376 yards and four TDs (and no interceptions). After the game, he declared for the NFL draft. In the regular season, he completed 65 percent of his passes and threw 33 touchdowns (and just 10 picks).

Roethlisberger possesses all the intangibles NFL teams looks for: passion for the game, intelligence, work ethic. Plus, he has great physical ability.In the first game of the 2003 season, Roethlisberger was intercepted four times in a 21-3 loss at Iowa. But he rebounded from that season-opening disaster to play at an extremely high level the rest of the campaign. He has a slightly slower delivery than some QBs, but his release point is fine and he delivers the ball accurately. Roethlisberger reminds me of New York Jets QB Chad Pennington.

4. Robert Gallery, OT, Iowa (6-7, 318) | previous ranking: same

His size and physical skills make him ideally suited for pass protection. Over the past two years, Gallery has developed into one of the nation's premier left tackles. Intelligent and a good athlete, he started his college career as a tight end. He's gotten bigger and stronger throughout his college career.

5. Sean Taylor (jr.), S, Miami-Florida (6-2¼, 225) | previous ranking: unranked junior

Taylor is to the safety spot at Miami what Ray Lewis was to the middle-linebacker position. He follows in the footsteps of former Miami safeties Bennie Blades, Darryl Williams and Ed Reed (all were first-round picks). I expect Taylor to be even better. In fact, he could be the best safety in the NFL early in his career. Taylor is the prototypical Pro Bowl safety: tremendous speed, a nose for the ball, aggressive, a great tackler and terrific in coverage (team-leading nine interceptions). He has such tremendous instincts and awareness. Worthy of being a top-five pick.

6. Kellen Winslow Jr. (jr.), TE, Miami-Florida (6-4¼, 250) | previous ranking: unranked junior

The NFL tight-end position has been redefined and expanded in recent years by guys like Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey and Tony Gonzalez. Winslow is in that mold as well. He has the speed, athleticism and pass-receiving skill usually reserved for a wide receiver. Miami's quarterback play in 2003 was erratic, which affected Winslow's production, but he'll provide an unbelievable dimension to an NFL passing game. He can be careless in terms of ball security, so he'll need to be aware of that at the next level. Like his teammate, safety Sean Taylor, Winslow is worthy of being a top-five pick.

7. Will Smith, DE, Ohio State (6-3½, 255) | previous ranking: 5

Smith is an excellent natural pass rusher with great closing speed. He was the headliner on the Buckeyes' stellar defensive front seven during last season's national-championship run (recording 10½ tackles for loss and 4½ sacks). Had he declared for the 2003 draft, he probably would have been a late first-rounder. In '04 he's a likely early first-round pick.

8. Reggie Williams (jr.), WR, Washington (6-3½, 218) | previous ranking: same

Williams has the size and physical skills every NFL team is looking for. His size will give him a matchup advantage against even the biggest cornerbacks at the next level. The first player in school history to start the first game of his freshman season, Williams caught four passes for 134 yards against Michigan in that debut and set the tone for an excellent, consistent career. He's a focused competitor with a businesslike approach, and even without the benefit of a solid running game and offensive line Williams still finished tied fourth nationally with an average of 7.42 receptions per game. Demonstrating speed will be key in his workouts; if Williams can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.47-4.52 range he will be a top-10 selection.

9. Shawn Andrews (jr.), OT, Arkansas (6-5, 360) | previous ranking: same

A huge right tackle, Andrews is a tremendous run-blocker, dominating the defensive end he works against and driving him significantly off the ball. He would accentuate an NFL rushing game. He's also light on his feet for a player his size, making him adequate in pass protection. Andrews has been an All-American caliber offensive tackle since his freshman year. I expect him to go in the early-to-mid first round.

10. Steven Jackson (jr.), RB, Oregon State (6-2, 231) | previous ranking: same

Jackson is a tremendous blend of quickness and power. While he isn't as shifty or elusive as smaller backs, he runs with power and makes defenders miss with his athleticism. Jackson also has ability and versatility as a receiving option (39 receptions in 2003 to go with his 1,396 rushing yards). He does damage in the open field and has a nose for the end zone (15 rushing TDs plus two receiving TDs). Jackson gets better as the game goes along.

11. Kevin Jones (jr.), RB, Virginia Tech (5-11½, 210) | previous ranking: same

Jones is an explosive runner with game-breaking speed. In the open field, few cornerbacks can catch him. He has the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. Plus, he's a good pass-receiver out of the backfield and is a strong blocker, making him a complete player. A tremendous natural athlete, Jones was highly recruited out of high school. In fact, he was seen by most as the nation's best high-school running back in his class. The only concern is that his running style is a bit upright, but he's excelled despite an average offensive line (except for center Jake Grove, who is outstanding).

12. Jonathan Vilma, LB, Miami (6-2, 230) | previous ranking: 6

A middle linebacker who will shift to the outside in the NFL, Vilma is the latest in a long line of top-flight middle linebackers produced by the Hurricanes (including Ray Lewis, Nate Webster and Dan Morgan). He took over for Morgan, the Butkus award-winner after the 2000 season as the nation's top college linebacker. Vilma, who had outstanding 2001 and 2002 seasons, is an underrated standout on a strong team. He's smart, instinctive and fast (in the 4.5-4.6 range in the 40).

13. D.J. Williams, OLB, Miami (6-2, 240) | previous ranking: 12

A superb physical specimen, Williams has developed into a tremendous player, with great athleticism and excellent range from sideline to sideline. He's also a good form tackler. He began his career as a fullback and was considered a great prospect coming out of De LaSalle High School in California. Had he declared for the '03 draft, he probably would have been gone by the late first round.

14. Ben Troupe, TE, Florida (6-4¼, 260) | previous ranking: 7

Troupe is an imposing figure and a gifted athlete. In 2003, he hauled in 39 receptions, averaging 16.4 yards per catch with five TDs. Last season, he caught just 15 passes while sharing time with current NFL tight end Aaron Walker. As Troupe maximizes his ability and refines his pass-catching game, he will become a high-quality NFL tight end. Coming into the season, I envisioned him as a first- or second-round draft choice. Now, I expect him to be a solid first-rounder.

15. Karlos Dansby, OLB, Auburn (6-4, 225) | previous ranking: 13

With range and athleticism, Dansby can create difference-making plays in a variety of ways. He posted some impressive performances in 2003 and had a strong senior campaign. He's an excellent pass rusher, and his best football is ahead of him.

16. J.P. Losman, QB, Tulane (6-2½, 220) | previous ranking: 14

Losman is a pure passer who can thread the needle or feather a throw when he has to. He's also one of the toughest quarterbacks in the country -- he'll hang in the pocket and take abuse in order to make throws. Losman has a passion for the game and studies endlessly, and he's an honors student in the classroom. With the skills and intangibles the NFL looks for, he has a chance to be a solid first-round draft pick.

17. Will Poole, CB, USC (5-11, 190) | previous ranking: 19

Originally a nickel back, Poole was not a starter until replacing the injured Kevin Arbet in the third game of 2003. He started 10 games as a redshirt freshman at Boston College in 2000, was suspended for the '01 season and transferred to Ventura Junior College in 2002 (where he intercepted seven passes). Poole is an instinctive player and an excellent tackler with good ball skills.

18. Philip Rivers, QB, N.C. State (6-4½, 230) | previous ranking: 15

Rivers was a constant on my top-five weekly Heisman list in 2003 because of his phenomenal performance. Look at his '03 numbers: He completed 71 percent of his passes, with 4,016 yards, 29 TDs and just seven interceptions. Rivers has great size and a good arm, though his lower release point could be a question mark and his footwork is not polished. But he makes up for that low release with an incredibly quick, hair-trigger release. Rivers is accurate, smart and an excellent leader with great instincts. And keep in mind, he achieved his '03 success with three key offensive components in and out of the lineup with injuries (LT Chris Colmer, WR Sterling Hicks and featured RB T.A. McClendon). Rivers is reminding people of Bernie Kosar, who had an awkward release and lacked great footwork but found success in the NFL.

19. DeAngelo Hall (jr.), CB, Virginia Tech (5-10½, 196) | previous ranking: 16

Hall has said that he'll run the 40-yard dash in the 4.2 range, which would give him unbelievable recovery speed. While he lacks ideal height, he's strong and has a chiseled frame. His combination of strength and speed is impressive for a cover corner. As a punt returner, Hall averaged 14.5 yards per return (returning two TDs). If he were taller, he'd be a sure mid-first-rounder. I still see him as a first-round pick.

20. Dwan Edwards, DT, Oregon State (6-2½, 308) | previous ranking: 17

Edwards was arguably the Pac-10's best defensive lineman in 2003. He's quick, explosive and disruptive behind the line of scrimmage despite being consistently double-teamed. He creates a steady inside push and is effective against the run as well as the pass. His tremendous athletic ability enabled him to quietly have a great year in the Pac-10.

21. Jake Grove, C, Virginia Tech (6-3, 300) | previous ranking: 18

It's rare to see a first-round-caliber center. It happened last year, when Notre Dame's Jeff Faine was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round. It could happen this year with Grove, an outstanding anchor who controlled the interior of the Hokies' offensive line. Grove has the ability to fire out at the middle linebacker while also handling collapse-the-pocket defensive tackles extremely well. As the QB of the O-line, he's a great leader. A rugged competitor, Grove is tough as nails and has played in lots of big games at perennial power Virginia Tech.

22. Ricardo Colclough, CB, Tusculum (5-11, 186) | previous ranking: 21

Colclough is the best player in Tusculum history, and he would have been a star at any major college. Before transferring to Tusculum, a Division II school, Colclough played at Kilgore Junior College, where he was a juco All-American. Besides being an outstanding cornerback, he's a brilliant punt and kickoff returner. At Kilgore, he averaged 40 yards per kickoff return. At Tusculum in 2003, Colclough's stats were impressive: nine interceptions (one returned for a TD); 10 pass breakups; 17 punt returns for a 13.9-yard average; and 18 kickoff returns for a 29.4-yard average and two TDs (97 and 92 yards). He has a great vertical leap and made some highlight-film interceptions. Colclough runs the 40-yard dash in 4.43. He needs to get stronger so he doesn't get pushed around by bigger NFL receivers, but I expect him to be a late first-round pick.

23. Chris Perry, RB, Michigan (6-0½, 225) | previous ranking: 22

Perry was one of the nation's best running backs in '03 (he was No. 2 on my Heisman list behind Oklahoma QB Jason White). Perry isn't a game-breaker, but he's tough in short-yardage and red-zone situations. He's also a good pass-receiver and blocker -- you could make a case that he's the most complete back in this draft. He's a better prospect than former Michigan RB Anthony Thomas, who was a second-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in the 2001 draft.

24. Dunta Robinson, CB, South Carolina (5-11, 188) | previous ranking: 23

An underrated SEC standout, Robinson has excellent feet and great ball skills. There aren't many wide receivers who can accelerate past Robinson on deep routes. He consistently runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.40-4.45 range. Robinson is the kind of shut-down corner who can match up against the opponent's best receiver and maintain excellent coverage the entire game.

25. Vernon Carey, OL, Miami (6-4, 355) | previous ranking: same

Carey has starting experience at both tackle spots as well as at right guard. His experience makes him a proven All-American-caliber lineman. He also has incredible athletic ability and the necessary mean streak. Carey is one of the nation's best offensive lineman.

DROPPED -- Dropped out of Top 25 (since last ranking):

Stuart Schweigert, S, Purdue (6-2, 209) | previous ranking: 20

Schweigert was a true center fielder for the Boilermakers. His savvy and speed enable him to consistently show up in the middle of the action -- he runs a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. Schweigert is Purdue's career interceptions leader (with 17).

Lee Evans, WR, Wisconsin (5-10½, 193) | previous ranking: 24

Evans had a magnificent junior year in 2001, establishing a new Big Ten receiving record with 1,545 yards. Then, in 2002 spring practice, he suffered a serious knee injury that required further surgery in November 2002, causing him to miss the entire 2002 season. In 2003, Evans had 60 receptions for a 19.4-yard average (1,162 yards) and 12 TDs. He possesses good leaping ability and outstanding pass-receiving skills. At full strength, he can be as good a wide receiver as Charles Rogers or Andre Johnson, who both declared early and became first-round picks in the the 2003 draft.

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Originally posted by Skins_KDawg

ahh jbooma,

After all the convincing some of us on the board have tried to do, Kiper says four words and you're convinced... Go figure :)

I have said all along I would like us to get either Taylor or Jones, depends on who the next HC is though.

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Originally posted by Art


When ESPN lets us know to stop doing it we'll address it at that point. Until then, you can post any pay information you'd like.

Ahh...I'm a mod on another board and I know stuff like this can get the site owner in trouble :o Anyhow, carry on. :)

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No it can't.

We have copywrite and trademark attorneys on staff (my wife and the biggest firm in the Midwest). You can put anything you want on your site. If contacted and asked to stop should you refuse there can be ramifications. But, as we are not a pay site, even that's not certain.

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Originally posted by Art


No it can't.

We have copywrite and trademark attorneys on staff (my wife and the biggest firm in the Midwest). You can put anything you want on your site. If contacted and asked to stop should you refuse there can be ramifications. But, as we are not a pay site, even that's not certain.

I know, that's why I said "can" get you in trouble. I know of a couple boards that have received letters for this or that and wasn't sure how strict you were on this stuff but I thought you didn't allow it. My apologies :)

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Eli Manning - Chargers

Roy Williams/Larry Fitzgerald - Raiders

Ben Roethilsberger - Cardinals

Robert Gallery/Shawn Andrews - Giants

Sean Taylor - Redskins

could very well happen.....I don't see any of the other teams going for Sean Taylor. If the giants were smart they would trade down, they could still probably get both of these tackles with a 8-10th pick

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