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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kiper Talks Dawgs in the Draft

Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Georgia's other draft-eligible players (and there's a bunch of them this year) will be arriving back in Athens this weekend to prep for Pro Day, which will be held on March 19.

I talked with ESPN's draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. last week to get his thoughts on some of Georgia's big-name players who will be participating in Pro Day to find out where they might go in next month's NFL draft. Here's what he had to say...

Hale: Knowshon Moreno's 40 time at the combine was both a bit vague and not terribly impressive. Did that hurt his stock at all, or would you still consider him the best back available?

Kiper: He is what he is. He's not a speed guy, he's not a game breaker. So I don't think that was that big a deal what he ran. That's not going to hurt him because we knew he was that kind of back. I have him as the 22nd best player right now in that area of the draft. He's a good football player, there's a lot to like about him. He's a good kid, he works hard, he's complete, he can run, he can catch, he can block. He's very unselfish. I liked him coming out of high school. He's got that spin move and he's very elusive in the hole. He can break tackles. There's a lot of things to like about him, he just doesn't have game-breaking speed. But hey, Emmitt Smith didn't run great coming out of Florida either.

DH: How about Mohamed Massaquoi? I've heard you mention him a few times as one of the top senior wide receivers available in the draft. Where do you have him going?

MK: He didn't run good at the combine, and he'll need to run better during his workout. That probably hurt him a little bit. I thought he was a two or a three going into the combine, and I think he's probably more of a three now -- third-round pick. He's got good size, he's a tough kid, caught the ball much better this year, made a lot of big plays for that Georgia offense and has some good run-after-the-catch ability. He'll block for you. He just doesn't have that vertical stretch ability, that great deep speed, but if he runs well during his workout, he'll be a two. If he doesn't, he'll probably end up being a third- or fourth-rounder.

DH: You mentioned Massaquoi improving his stock a lot with a strong senior season. A guy on the flip side of that scenario is Dannell Ellerbe, who seems to have dropped a good bit after a disappointing senior campaign. Where do you see him going?

MK: He's a hard one to call. He's a player, I really have no clue where he's going to go. Everybody's all over the place on Ellerbe because he's got talent but he's been very up and down and erratic and inconsistent and all that. He's had some other issues. I have no clue on Ellerbe. His performance on the field, you'd probably say third or fourth round, possibly, but there are others that think sixth or seventh round. You could say he's a third rounder or a seventh rounder and nobody's going to question that analysis. I'll probably end up putting him in the fifth or sixth round.

DH: A guy who didn't stick around for his senior season was Asher Allen. A lot of folks around here think leaving was a bad decision on Asher's part. Did he do anything at the combine that would lead you to believe he has upped his stock to a first-day pick?

MK: He didn't run great. He's not real big. He's a strong kid, but not real tall. He didn't run a great 40. I thought he should have gone back. My attitude is always if you're not going to be a first-round pick, you stay in school. He's not a first-round pick, and I don't think he's a second-round pick. I'd say he's one of those mid Day 2 guys, third to fifth round, who will probably end up being a nickelback. But if he does better during his individual workouts, he could go in the third round. I thought maybe second at one point, but now I'm thinking third, fourth or fifth.

DH: OK, I know you've discussed Matthew Stafford ad nauseam the past few weeks, but I've got to ask: Is he going to be the first pick in the draft or will the Lions be scared off from taking a quarterback at No. 1?

MK: They don't have to worry about him being a franchise quarterback in my opinion. They just have to worry about can you win with this guy and can he be a very good starting quarterback. This whole notion that he has to be a franchise quarterback is ridiculous. You just don't know.

There's too much mystery about young quarterbacks. Ben Roethlesburger was not considered a franchise quarterback coming out of Miami of Ohio. Eli Manning was. Who's better? A lot of people had questions about Troy Aikman. A lot of people had questions about Peyton Manning. Some people liked Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning. We have too many issues when evaluating quarterbacks. It's a difficult position to evaluate. You hope he's a franchise quarterback when you draft him, but he doesn't have to be to make that pick a wise one.

As long as he's a very good quarterback, you're fine. You don't need him to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He doesn't need to be a future hall of famer. You can win with the guy. Just as long as he's not a bust, that's all you've got to worry about. If he's very good, you take him No. 1 and don't look back. This notion that because you're paying him so much, he's got to be great, if you're that smart, you've got to take my job or be a general manager in the NFL. If anybody's that smart to know who can be a franchise quarterback and who won't, you've got a place in the NFL as a general manager somewhere. It's not easy. If you can draft a guy hoping he'll be a franchise quarterback and he turns out to be very good, you're going to keep your job. If you draft him to be a franchise quarterback and he's a disappointment, then you're going to be out of a job. If he's good to very good, that's plenty good enough, and I think Stafford should be that kind of quarterback.

DH: Stafford didn't throw at the combine, which I know is not uncommon for guys expected to go high in the draft. What might scouts be looking for at his Pro Day that they didn't get to see at the combine?

MK: To me, his arm is what it is. He's not going to show any more or less arm strength. He's got a great arm. The thing that he's got to do, and that's why I think it was probably wise to wait to do an individual workout, he's going to be throwing to Massaquoi and his guys, he's not going to be throwing to a bunch of guys he's never been with at the combine. If your question is accuracy, and that's the question about Matthew Stafford -- how precise can he be with the football? -- you're better doing it during your individual workout. I think that was the smart move.

That's what they're going to be looking for during the individual workout: How precise, how accurate is Stafford. That's going to be what they're there for. Arm strength is a given. He's got that. He's adequate with his legs, he's not going to beat you running, he's not Steve Young, but he's adequate. But as a pocket passer, can he be accurate enough? If he shows that, he'll be the first pick.

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