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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. lists the players who are moving up the draft board.
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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. runs down the top players on his draft board.
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Who chose not to work out at the combine? Mel Kiper Jr. weighs in.
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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. on LaDainian Tomlinson's impressive performance at the combine.
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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. lists the players who didn't have impressive performances at the combine.
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Mel Kiper's Top 25 prospects (post-combine)

Kiper: Mel's initial first-round projection

Mel Kiper's story archive

Thursday, March 29

Kiper's first-round draft projection

Mel Kiper Jr.'s updated, post-NFL combine projection of the first round of the 2001 NFL draft :

1. San Diego | Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech: During his upcoming individual workout, Vick has a chance to lock up the top spot in the draft. With John Butler taking over as the Chargers GM, it would make sense to begin a new era with a gifted athlete like Vick who possesses so much upside potential.

2. Arizona | Gerard Warren, DT, Florida: There is no question that DT is the key need area for the Cardinals heading into the draft. In addition, Warren certainly deserves consideration this high up the board. He's potentially a dominating, collapse-the-pocket type, able to really disrupt things along the interior with his combination of athleticism, quickness, strength and desire.

3. Cleveland | Koren Robinson, WR, N.C. State: The Browns need to assemble a more effective talent base at the skill positions, which will provide a better opportunity for Tim Couch to establish himself as one of the top young signal callers in the NFL. RB is also a key need area, but with Robinson's awesome skill level, I don't see how the Browns can pass him up.

4. Cincinnati | Leonard Davis, OT, Texas : Not only is Davis huge and powerful when it comes to moving defenders off the line of scrimmage, but he also made great strides throughout this past season when it came to pass protection from his LT spot.

5. Atlanta | Justin Smith, DE, Missouri: I know the Falcons invested a late first-round choice a few years ago on Patrick Kerney, but with DE still a need area, Smith would make a great deal of sense. Not only does he have the eye-catching physical ability to wow the NFL brass, but he also plays the game with a tremendous amount of desire and intensity.

6. New England | Kenyatta Walker, OT, Florida: With skill-position talent needed on offense the Pats could go a number of directions with this choice. How about a trade down, and then grab TE Todd Heap at a more desirable point in the draft (which would be the middle portion of round one)? If they remain at this spot, however, Walker would be an excellent addition to the Pats' offensive line. While he operated at RT with the Gators, there is no question that Walker has all the necessary skills to reach Pro Bowl status at the critical LT spot.

7. Seattle (from Dallas) | David Terrell, WR, Michigan: Now that the Seahawks have landed QB Matt Hasselbeck in the trade with Green Bay, they can look to upgrade the wide receiving corps. While they have a bright young wide-out in Darrell Jackson, a big-play talent to work on the other side is needed. Terrell would have figured earlier had it not been for the recently announced injury (stress fracture in his foot) that he reportedly played with all year. The question now becomes, will any surgery be required? And if not, will he be able to work out prior to the draft? Right now, Terrell is the wild card in the early portion of round one. Stay tuned...

8. Chicago | LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, TCU: With his speed and demonstrated ability to catch the football, Tomlinson appears to have moved slightly ahead of Deuce McAllister at the RB position. The durability issue also helps Tomlinson. While the Bears have an over-achieving, hard-working back in James Allen, Tomlinson is potentially a top-drawer feature back. I know the Bears struck out in past years with first-round busts at RB -- including Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis -- but the third time could be the charm with an all-around talent like Tomlinson.

9. San Francisco | Deuce McAllister, RB, Mississippi: If he's still on the board at this point, I don't know how the Niners could pass him up. I still believe strongly that McAllister is one of the top four to five players in the draft, with the all-purpose skills to really provide a major boost to an offense. With Jeff Garcia emerging at QB, McAllister could prove to be the ideal compliment with his ability to beat a defense as both a runner and super blue-chip receiving option.

10. Green Bay (from Seattle) | Freddie Mitchell, WR, UCLA: After his impressive showing in Indy at the combine, Mitchell has clearly established himself as one of the elite offensive players in the draft. The Packers would never have been able to secure a big-play WR like Mitchell had they not made the deal involving QB Matt Hasselbeck with Seattle that elevated the Packers from the 17th to 10th spot in round one.

11. Carolina | Steve Hutchinson, OL, Michigan: If the top two RBs are off the board, the Panthers could look to the versatile Hutchinson, knowing that Chris Terry has the skill level to shift from right to LT. While Hutchinson operated at guard for the Wolverines, he has the ability to play center as well as RT. The Panthers would also be getting a great deal of value with this selection. I believe Hutchinson is one of the top five to nine players in the draft; plus, they would get a versatile performer who could reach Pro Bowl status at three different positions.

12. Kansas City | Fred Smoot, CB, Mississippi State: With nothing but question marks at the CB spots, the Chiefs would have to feel fortunate if they could land the top pure cover man in the draft. Smoot thrives on the challenge of going up against the opposition's top wide-out, combining superior instincts with the confidence of Deion Sanders.

13. Jacksonville | Andre Carter, DE, California: With so many potential holes opening up along the Jaguars' offensive line, the aforementioned Hutchinson would be ideal. However, if he's off the board, DE becomes a priority, with Carter figuring to combine with Tony Brackens to give the Jaguars a pair of play-making performers on the outside. Remember, for most of the year or even just before he checked in at just 249 pounds in Indy, I figured Carter would be a top five to eight selection.

14. Buffalo | Will Allen, CB, Syracuse: After his strong showing at the combine, Allen has closed ground on Smoot in the battle to see who will be the first CB selected. With the Bills, he'd have an opportunity to compete for a starting job right away as a rookie, working opposite another former first-rounder, Antoine Winfield. At the very least, he would significantly upgrade the depth situation at this spot.

15. Washington | Santana Moss, WR, Miami (Fla.): Not only did Moss come through with a strong individual workout last week, running a 4.37 and turning heads with his amazing 44-inch vertical jump, but he also has the production to match with the Hurricanes. The bottom line with Moss is that he's a playmaker, pure and simple. Keep in mind, the thinking here could change, depending on what transpires with Derek Smith in free agency. If he signs elsewhere, Dan Morgan would be the ideal hole-filler, bringing tremendous physical ability as well as great leadership to the Redskins' defense. How about a linebacking corps of LaVar Arrington and Shawn Barber on the outside, with Morgan in the middle. If Smith is re-signed, WR would be the obvious area they would look to upgrade; that's why Santana Moss would be a nice addition if he is still on the board.

16. Pittsburgh | Dan Morgan, MLB, Miami (Fla.): I could have gone a number of directions here, with Nebraska center Dominic Raiola also making a great deal of sense. Raiola would follow in the footsteps of Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson as the next great center prospect for the Steelers. However, with Levon Kirkland's status uncertain due to the salary cap, Morgan would be an ideal addition if Kirkland isn't retained.

17. Seattle (from Green Bay) | Marcus Stroud, DT, Georgia: Even with the recent signing of former Viking John Randle, the Seahawks could still use another defensive lineman to throw into the mix. Last year, opposing RBs saw gaping holes develop against the outmanned Seahawks defense, who really felt the loss of Sam Adams in free agency. Remember, they stole Michael McCrary in the seventh round of the '93 draft and then allowed him to move on to Baltimore in free agency. Stroud, a potentially huge force clogging things in the middle, could give Holmgren the run-stuffer they lacked after allowing Adams to move on last year.

18. Detroit | Dominic Raiola, C, Nebraska: With C Mike Compton and RG Jeff Hartings both unrestricted free agents, the possibility exists that the Lions could be forced to upgrade the interior of their offensive line. Raiola established himself as the Huskers' top pivot man since Dave Rimington, figuring to anchor an NFL offensive line for a long time.

19. New York Jets | Chris Chambers, WR, Wisconsin: Needing a top-drawer compliment to Wayne Chrebet, the Jets should have a number of intriguing wide-outs to consider at this point in round one. That's due to the tremendous depth and talent this year at WR. Chambers combines ideal size with blazing speed, really coming on strong down the stretch this past season after missing the first four games of the 2000 campaign with a stress fracture in his right foot. Oregon State wide-out Chad Johnson (who is Keyshawn Johnson's cousin) would also be an intriguing possibility for the Jets.

20. St. Louis | Richard Seymour, DT, Georgia: With a complete restructuring taking place along the interior of the Rams' defensive front, Seymour would be a great addition. He's physically gifted and has shown dominating potential at various stages of his college career with the Bulldogs. That's exactly what the defenseless Rams are looking for.

21. Tampa Bay | Jeff Backus, OT, Michigan: The Bucs hit the jackpot when they selected Paul Gruber with the fourth pick overall in the 1988 draft. This time around, with a huge need at LT, they could go right back to the Big Ten and land a tremendously consistent, incredibly durable veteran bookend in the underrated Backus.

22. Indianapolis | Damione Lewis, DT, Miami (Fla.): Things couldn't have worked out any better a few years ago when Colts GM Bill Polian opted to bring Edgerrin James into the fold. Here, with DT such a major need area, Polian could go back to the Miami Hurricane program and bring in a quality performer like Lewis. Remember, had it not been for a toe injury in his right foot that hampered him much of the season, you would have likely seen Lewis figuring in the top 10 to 15 overall.

23. New Orleans | Todd Heap, TE, Arizona State: While I could see him going earlier in round one, when you look at the needs of the teams selecting, it's hard to find a spot for Heap until this point in the draft. For the Saints, who just signed former Redskin Albert Connell to upgrade the WR position, Heap would give the offense a brand new dimension. With natural pass-receiving skills that rival former NFL star Kellen Winslow, don't you think that Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks would welcome Heap's addition?

24. Denver | Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State: During the early-middle part of the season, I envisioned a pass-rushing DE like Reynolds figuring much higher in round one. However, after his performance leveled off some down the stretch, he could possibly slide down this far. If that's the case, the Broncos, who need help along the defensive line (particularly at DE), would be a nice fit for a natural outside pass rusher like Reynolds.

25. Philadelphia | Chad Johnson, WR, Oregon State: Just prior to the combine, I thought Johnson would be a possibility for the Seahawks early in round one. However, after running just a 4.58, rather than the 4.3s that were anticipated, his star began to fall for the time being. After his upcoming individual workout, that should change, but whether he re-establishes himself as an early-mid first rounder is up for debate. If I'm the Eagles, I'd be keeping my fingers crossed that Johnson slides down this far. What an addition he would be for the Eagles and their talented young signal caller, Donovan McNabb.

26. Miami | Rod Gardner, WR, Clemson: While they Dolphins may look to add a wide-out in free agency, passing on a big, physical receiver like Gardner at this stage of round one would be awfully difficult. Like Cris Carter, he understands positioning, shows exceptional body control and has quite a pair of hands. And remember, the Dolphins had trouble scoring significant points in a number of key games this past season, then were shutout in the playoffs by the Raiders.

27. Minnesota | Willie Howard, DL, Stanford: With his 295-pound frame and ability to operate at either DE or DT, Howard would make a great deal of sense if he slides down this far. For the Vikings, their needs are simple. Defense, defense and more defense. And with the retirement of Robert Smith, you can put RB at or near the top of the Vikings' priority list.

28. Oakland | Drew Brees, QB, Purdue: The Raiders will be looking to upgrade the talent level at OLB and also at the safety spots on defense. Offensively, TE would become a need area if Rickey Dudley is allowed to move on as a free agent. With all that said, if Brees is still on the board at this stage of round one, the Raiders would figure to show interest. Rich Gannon isn't getting any younger, so there is no question that Jon Gruden and company have to start thinking about developing a young signal caller of the future. While he's only 6 feet tall and lacks top arm strength, Brees is a proven winner and tremendous competitor, with all the intangibles necessary for success at the pro level.

29. Tennessee | Reggie Wayne, WR, Miami (Fla.): Even though Derrick Mason was re-signed, Kevin Dyson is coming off a serious knee injury and the Titans also released veteran wide-outs Carl Pickens and Yancey Thigpen. It goes without saying that the Titans could use an influx of talent at WR. Wayne may lack impressive 40 speed, but he's a skilled route-runner with the best hands of any wide-out in the draft. The Titans could also be looking at DE if Kenny Holmes moves on in free agency.

30. New York Giants | Ken Lucas, CB, Mississippi: With his development into a blue-chip CB over the last two years after making the transition from WR, Lucas would be a definite hole-filler for the Giants. They re-signed Jason Sehorn but figure to be looking to upgrade the other starting spot on the corner.

31. Baltimore | Maurice Williams, OT, Michigan: Heading into the draft, RT figures to be the Ravens' major need area. Williams, a former DE who also worked some at guard with the Wolverines, settled in at RT over the last two years and did an excellent job. Since he's yet to really hit his stride, the NFL brass knows that with more experience, the sky is the limit for a top-drawer athlete like Williams.

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