Chat with Mel Kiper
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. will be by to discuss the college football and NFL seasons.
Kiper has served as expert analyst for ESPN's annual NFL draft coverage since 1984. His pre-draft predictions are frequently the most accurate. On Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon ET, Kiper co-hosts "Dari and Mel" with Dari Nowkhah. He also appears on ESPN Radio's College GameDay as well as SportsCenter and on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join Kiper Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mel Kiper (2:01 PM)
Glad to be back! Before you know it, the leaves will be changing. For all intents and purposes, the summer is now over with my first official chat!
Mel Kiper (2:02 PM)
We'll run this all of the way until the middle of May with the end of the draft.
What do you make of the USC QB battle?
Mel Kiper (2:03 PM)
It's interesting. Everybody thought Kessler would win the job, but it turns out he'll play them both. That surprises me a little bit. He has a little bit of touch. He's accurate. Wittick has more arm, but he needs to develop the accuracy. We'll see how they go when the games begin. I guess he wants to see who handles the game pressure better.
Mel, What player will jump to the top of the draft list this year, one that may not be on anybodies radar yet?
Mel Kiper (2:05 PM)
I think Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo. He'll be playing against Ohio State. He'll be trying to chase down Braxton Miller. We have a great matchup tonight. James Hurst, the LT of UNC. He'll be going against Clowney. He's rarely called for a holding penalty. Rarely gives up a sack. Good matchup there. A couple of other guys: Brett Smith, junior QB, Wyoming. They play Nebraska. WR Robert Herron, senior speedster at Wyoming. They have a chance to move in the draft. That will be a fun matchup against Nebraska.
Mel Kiper (2:05 PM)
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon. He could move up the board. Mark Helfrich came on ESPN Radio with Dari and me this last Saturday and he raved about him. Helfrich has been around good TEs as a coach.
Mel Kiper (2:06 PM)
BTW, the radio show will be on ESPN Radio from 7-9 a.m. ET only and then on ESPNU simulcast from 9-10 a.m. ET.
Mark (Pasadena, CA)
I know it's only preseason, but Kyle Long has been very impressive so far. I think he will end up being one of the steals of the first round and will have a huge impact this year. In fact, all of the Bears draft picks this year look like they will at least contribute. As of now, which teams do you think had the best draft?
Mel Kiper (2:08 PM)
First of all, I agree with Long. He and Bushrod will be key this year. Long has great versatility. He could end up a tackle. Give Steve Greatwood credit. He's the OL coach at Oregon. He was a key guy in developing Long so quickly. Jon Bostic has been a great second round pick. For not having many picks, the Bears deserve a solid B-plus grade, maybe even an A. It turned out to be a productive draft.
Dylan P (Vacaville, CA)
National Championship...Louisville-LSU? My Deep-Sleeper, Baylor! Seastrunk is my Heisman winner. What do you think?
Mel Kiper (2:11 PM)
I'll tell you, Louisville's schedule sets up perfectly to make a run. Bridgewater is a potential No. 1 pick at QB. If a team picking no. 1 needs a QB, you could see him jumping over Clowney as the first pick. The tough games will be Rutgers, at South Florida, at Cincinnati. Ohio is not a bad team either. They're very well coached. It sets up for them. But they need to solidify the center and LT spots. They could run the table. LSU is an under the radar team to watch. If Alabama has to watch a game on their schedule, it's LSU in November. Alabama is vulnerable at home at times. LSU at Alabama is a potential danger spot. LSU will get better as the year goes along. They're young, they have talent. LSU has to get out of the gate fast and beat TCU. That's a tough matchup. They also have Georgia on the road. For a young football team, it will be a hard road. I don't see them playing for the national title, but they could play spoiler. I'd think more Louisville-Oregon.
Hey Mel,what kind of future does Gardner(Mich) have in the NFL?BTW the draft is right around the corner
Mel Kiper (2:12 PM)
Let's see how he plays at QB. I want to see him develop into a quality collegiate QB. This is a team that's very well coached. They have to replace all three starters on the interior line. They could arguably have the best tackle tandem in Schofield and Lewan. They have big time NFL futures ahead. Gardner gained some experience last year. Whether he's a QB or WR, he'll be in the NFL at some point.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What is your draft grade on Bryn Renner as his final college campaign begins tonight for the Tar Heels?
Mel Kiper (2:14 PM)
You could make an argument that he's anywhere between the 7-10 best draft eligible QB. Bodine is a junior center. And I mentioned the rest of the line, so that will help him. Renner has the size. He has an NFL arm. He has to improve on the deep ball and his touch. He's a sharpshooter in the short to intermediate areas. It's turning out to be a potentially interesting QB group.
Mel, Any disappointments so far from the rookie class not showing up in preseason?
Mel Kiper (2:16 PM)
Good question. The disappointing thing has been the injuries. I don't think there have been any disappointments due to level of play. I tend to give the young guys a break anyway. Manuel, Jordan, Mingo, etc. It's been injuries moreso that's impacted the high draft picks.
Richard (Hurricane, WV)
Hey Mel, what are your thoughts on WVU running back Charles Sims this year? Is he in for a monster season?
Mel Kiper (2:17 PM)
Yes. I think he has a chance to have a heckuva year. He's a home run hitting back. The thing with him is he's familiar with this offense. The blocking scheme will benefit him. With Austin gone, the receiving entities are unproven. He's a transfer from Houston. He catches the ball very well. He'll run between the tackles. He sets up his blocks. He has a chance to be a guy who comes in and really elevates the team. You have no Bailey, no Geno, no Austin. He'll hvae to ignite that offense.
How good do you think that front 3 for notre dame will be? Also where do they get drafted? Thanks
Mel Kiper (2:19 PM)
They get drafted and they get drafted high. Louis Nix, "The Third." He's the highest player on the Big Board. He now wears the No. 1. A DT wearing No. 1. He doesn't take plays off. Unbelievable motor. He'll be a high first round pick. Tuitt. He's a DE, 6-5, 312. Bench presses over 500 pounds. Great scheme versatility. True sophomore Sheldon Day, they really like him. He's not draft eligible. Just imagine if they had Lynch. He transferred and is now at South Florida. That could have been the best DL we've seen in a long time.
Bill H (New Jersey)
Mel. With all the injuries which have hurt many teams, which NFC teams to you believe can best withstand the injuries early and avoid getting off to a horrible start?
Mel Kiper (2:21 PM)
In the NFC, the Giants have had some injuries. They should be very good. Green Bay, even though they've had the injuries. I think Arizona will surprise some people. St. Louis has a chance to have a decent year. Carolina could be a borderline playoff team. Chicago will be right there when it's all finished. New Orleans should be in the mix.
Joe (Lincoln, NE)
Have his missteps in the NFL caused people to forget just how good a defensive lineman Suh was here in Lincoln? No way Clowney is any where near as dominant this season.
Mel Kiper (2:22 PM)
He is. Clowney is as dominant. It's a different position. Clowney is the best I've seen since Bruce Smith. He'll have the best grade since Smith in 1985. He's got freakish talent. He improved from a freshman to sophomore year. If he's not the first pick, he'll be the second.
Buckley (Los Angeles)
Geno Smith looks to be somewhat of a project. How are your top 5 QB's this year and maybe one project QB? Go to the slate with power Mel.
Mel Kiper (2:23 PM)
Teddy Bridgewater is No. 1. Brett Hundley, UCLA, No. 2. He's a third year sophomore. Stephen Morris, Miami. Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Johnny Manziel, Texas A-M
Mel Kiper (2:24 PM)
A QB to keep an eye on is Bryce Petty from Baylor. The other kid that will be intriguing is Brett Smith, junior, Wyoming.
Mel, Will we see a defensive player win the top award this year?
Mel Kiper (2:25 PM)
If Steve Spurrier plays him at TE and he catches some TD passes, he would. That's why Charles Woodson won, he was a shut down CB, but he played WR and scored some points. So unless Clowney can score some points, I don't think it will happen.
Shades (Bay Area)
Hey Kubes! As an overall team, does Notre Dame have what it takes to get into a good BCS spot this season? If so, it will be shrimp cocktail for everyone!
Mel Kiper (2:27 PM)
Yes. But they're going to have to win a lot of the close games. That's what they did last year. They won a ton of close games last year. This year, they'll have to do the same. So many games could have gone either way. This year, you have to find a way to do it again. When you look at the team, they look pretty good, even without Golston at QB. Rees is a solid college QB. Troy Niklas, they hope is a good replacement for Eifert at TE. Greg Bryant, they love as a true freshman RB. They have an excellent front seven on defense. They have good players on the back end. Could they be 9-3 this year? They could be as good or better than last year and be 9-3 if they can't win those close games.
Suprise College team?
Mel Kiper (2:30 PM)
Georgia Tech could have a nice year. Auburn could have a nice year. Mississippi. Washington Huskies. Indiana. Southern Miss will be a better team.
Mel, what are some realistic expectations for us Pitt fans for our first year in the ACC?
Mel Kiper (2:32 PM)
Tom Savage at QB has bounced around from a couple of programs. Tough start against Florida State on Monday night. I could see them going 6-6. If they're 6-6 again, they seem like a middle of the road team. At certain spots they have good talent, but I can't find more than six wins on their schedule.
Mel, if Manziel leaves for the NFL this year what round would you project him as? what it be the same round if he grew 4 inches?
Mel Kiper (2:34 PM)
As he is right now, it depends if he's 6-feet tall. It looks like he will be. You're not going to find many of these QBs like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees right at or below the 6-foot mark. Manziel, right now, he's a second day guy. And that's assuming he plays like last year. I don't think he'll have as good of a year, because he's missing some weapons. No Swope. They shifted the OL around. He's a Day 2 guy.
Louisville's schedule is so weak I could see a 2 loss SEC champ getting the nod over an undefeated and untested Cards squad.
Mel Kiper (2:36 PM)
No. I don't think you can lose two. One game is all you can afford to lose. Keep in mind that this Louisville team beat Florida in the bowl game. They're legit. There is nobody on the schedule that could give them a statement win. No potential there. TCU, Boise State and San Diego State were on their schedule at one point and they're gone. You can't blame them for that. A lot of juniors are on this team. It's a very talented team. If it falls right, they could have a chance at the title game. But they have to run the table. They can't lose one game.
Brubaker (Oroville, CA)
Mel - How do you think Oregon stacks up over the long-haul this season in the post-Chip Kelly era? Will they still be able to go to the slate with power, or do you think their offense will get bogged down as if stuck in a vat of black tar? Thanks. Take good care now. Have a good life. Bye bye now.
Mel Kiper (2:38 PM)
Mark Helfrich has an outstanding offensive mind. They have a great defensive coordinator. He has a great QB. There is a lot of talent on the team. There is a great RB/slot guy in Thomas. A great TE. A great center. Barner is gone. Marshall is a key guy. Defensively, Arik Armstead is a sophomore DE and he'll have to make up for the loss of Jordan. And LB Alonzo, they'll have to make up for his loss. But it all comes down to the Stanford game. One of those teams will be eliminated from the national title hunt. I pick Oregon, but Stanford will be right in the mix.
Currently, do you have Will Sutton as a 1st round pick or early-to-mid 2nd round? He's going to be a beast this year with that chip on his shoulder when he was injured during the Oregon game last year. Dark horse sleeper behind Clowney for Heisman or not enough for him?
Mel Kiper (2:40 PM)
I have him right now as a second round, and that's only because of his size. He's a tremendous power rusher. He'll have a role in the NFL. He's kind of like a Warren Sapp. He's a stud at the college level. Incredibly quick. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a first round pick. If he has another year like he did last year, I could see a team taking him in the first round. Right now I have an early second round grade on him.
Would a team in need of a QB still take Clownly over Bridgewater,manizel?
Mel Kiper (2:41 PM)
Yeah. If Bridgewater has a great year, then yes, if you need a QB, you take him. But there are not a lot of teams in the NFL that will prioritize a QB next year. It will be interesting to see who picks No. 1. If a team desperately needs a QB, they'll take Bridgewater.
are you watching the ole miss @Vanderbilt game at 9 15 eastern time on espn?
Mel Kiper (2:44 PM)
That's one of the most intriguing games of the week. With Vanderbilt, what James Franklin has done there is remarkable. They're trying to get to their third straight bowl game at Vanderbilt. That's amazing. They don't have Alabama or LSU on their schedule. Jordan Matthews is an outstanding WR. Wesley Johnson can play any position on the OL as a four year starter. Hal, senior CB, he will probably be matched up with Donte Moncrief, junior WR of Ole Miss. He's No. 9 on the Big Board. He's big, fast, athletic, tough. NFL scouts will watch that very closely. That's the game of the night. Ole Miss is just a three point favorite. This will be a fun game to watch.
Mel Kiper (2:44 PM)
And the coaches will be fun to watch. James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss. Freeze has done a great job there as well.
Mel, what are the chances that Pryor takes the QB job from Flynn has some success to where even if the Raiders are bad, they still take Bridgewater over Clowney when they most likely pick 1st? Also, if you're Jacksonville and picking first...Clowney or Bridgewater? Do you give Gabbert another year or no?
Mel Kiper (2:45 PM)
That's the thing. How does this year play out? Does Pryor play? How does Flynn do? Do they have any pass catching playmakers? Can McFadden stay healthy? Big year for him with it being a contract year. Can the OL hold up? That's why I think they need the legs of Pryor. The QB of Oakland doesn't have a great supporting cast.
Ray V (La Feria, TX)
In what round do you have Morgan Breslin, out of USC, right now? I've read that some teams might take him as 3-4 OLB. Do you think he can make the transition?
Mel Kiper (2:47 PM)
That's where he's playing this year. He's done from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB. It's more of a 5-2 scheme that they're calling it. He had a lot of big plays behind the line last year. Great motor. Very well conditioned. He can go forever. Never runs out of steam. Last year, he had 13 sacks. Another year like that and he'll be going early in the draft.
Shawn (Sac Town)
What are you most looking forward to most in the South Carolina v N. Carolina game this evening?
Mel Kiper (2:48 PM)
Clowney against James Hurst. Hurst is a four year starter at OT. You've got the freak in Clowney against the veteran, reliable, consistent OT. Great matchup in the trenches.
Mel Kiper (2:48 PM)
Also, Bryn Renner. He has the skill set the NFL is looking for. How effective will they be against that defense.
Don (Berkeley, CA)
Do you see any of the Cal defensive lineman as potential early 1st or 2nd round draft picks?
Mel Kiper (2:50 PM)
Yeah, definitely. The one that's going to be the most highly regarded is Coleman. He'd probably be in the first round discussion. He'll be more of a NT. He'll be in that late first round, early second round discussion. Brennan Scarlett, junior, is their second best defensive player. He's a 4-3 DE. I'm going to watch him and study him some more this year.
Is Ohio University's CB Travis Carrie on the NFL draft radar?
Mel Kiper (2:52 PM)
Definitely. He's definitely on the radar. He was out last year. It was a shame. He needs to come back and have a big year. Louisville has good WRs like DeVante Parker. Carrie had shoulder surgery last fall and got granted a sixth year. He's the kind of guy that has a chance. He's 5-11, 212. He could be a safety in the NFL. He runs in the 4.4s. He's a highly respected kid. That'll be a fun matchup.
What was your impression of Jeff Tuel in college?
Mel Kiper (2:55 PM)
My final comment last year in the draft report, which was the final edition of my blue book draft report after 35 years, we'll no longer publish it... "Decent to good arm and just enough mobility to get the job done. Extremely accurate. Tough kid. Didn't have a quality supporting cast around him. For what he had to deal with, he did a nice job in handling adversity. I think he has some nice things going for him and could be a guy you hear from down the road. Late round pick or priority free agent."
Mel Kiper (2:55 PM)
Now, you can't wait to hear from him down the road, he'll be there opening day! I don't know if it's happened before where an undrafted free agent starts opening week. I gave him a sixth round grade.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
True of False, current LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson is better than former Tiger lineman Glen Dorsey?
Mel Kiper (2:56 PM)
Talent wise, he's probably better. He has all of the skills you want. He's not yet as dominant a college player as Dorsey was. He has everything you want, so if he can put it all together, he could be a top five pick. This will be the year he has to do it. He hasn't dominated as he's capable, that's why I have him 20 on the Big Board.
Thoughts on OU starting Knight over Bell?
Mel Kiper (2:58 PM)
Not surprised. Dari is a Sooner grad and we've discussed that a lot over the past 3-4 weeks on our radio show. In college football right now, you have to get your best playmakers out there. We've heard a lot about Knight with his versatility and his arm. We'll still see Bell. He's 6-6, 255. Bob Stoops' team doesn't have a lot of talent right now, so if you can have a playmaker at QB, it will give them a shot to win.
Mel Kiper (3:00 PM)
This should be as interesting and good of a first weekend of college football as we've seen in a while. UNC-USC tonight. The Clemson game on Saturday. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State. Washington State-Auburn. Boise State at Washington. Nevada at UCLA. Northwestern at Cal. There are some fun matchups. A ton of intriguing games on Saturday. BYU at Virginia. A battle of great TEs. Enjoy it all! It's just the beginning of a great year!