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Tuesday With Mel Kiper Jr

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Originally Published: March 31, 2009

Tuesday With Mel Kiper Jr.Mel works overtime to bring you the latest news from the NFL DraftComment Email Print Share ESPN Insider

Tracking team needs and player stock fluctuations, Mel Kiper Jr. is all over the NFL Draft. This week, Mel looks at the middle of the first round with advice for the Buccaneers, Jets and Bears.

Bucs (19) trade up for QB Sanchez?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added offensive weapons in Kellen Winslow and Derrick Ward this offseason, and they already had solid receivers in Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton, but they don't have anyone to throw them the ball.

Right now, the Bucs quarterback is Luke McCown. At No. 19, the Bucs will have an outside shot at USC's Mark Sanchez and a good shot at Kansas State's Josh Freeman. If they want Sanchez, Kiper said they will have to trade up. He said they will likely have to jump ahead of Houston at 15, San Francisco at 10 and even Jacksonville at 8.

"You might have to get up in the seven or six spot which is very difficult to do," Kiper said.

So the more likely pick is Freeman. But, Kiper said, "Josh Freeman's going to need a year or two coming out as a junior. Luke McCown's the quarterback right now. ... [Freeman's] not going to be ready. None of these quarterbacks this year are ready to play."

However, the Bucs might be better off looking at other positions because they have a plethora of needs -- outside linebacker, cornerback and defensive tackle.

"It's going to be a step backward before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can move forward again."

Bears (18) will decide Orton's future on draft day

Kyle Orton: a savior or a reminder of the Bears' seemingly eternal quarterback problem? On draft day, we will find out what the Bears' front office thinks.

"The quarterback issue: Do they take a Josh Freeman, knowing he's not going to be ready as a rookie, saying he is the heir apparent to Orton if Orton doesn't get it done? Or do they go with (Maryland receiver) Darrius Heyward-Bey to help out Kyle Orton?"

Depending on which way they go, we will know the future of the Bears quarterback position -- at least for the next few years.

Jets (17) need WR and blocking TE

Kim Klement/US Presswire

Harvin would help the Jets' young QBs.Brett Favre is gone. Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff will likely take over the reigns. So what do the New York Jets do? Help these young quarterbacks out -- and run a lot.

"Percy Harvin, wide receiver Florida, would give them some juice at that position," Kiper said. "And hey, if you're going to run the ball, you got to get a blocking tight end as well. Dustin Keller, great receiver, not a blocker."

And to you Jets fans who, like Chris Mortenson, think Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin might still be there at 17, Kiper said, "Jeremy Maclin's going to be long gone, pal."

Last year, the Jets drafted Vernon Gholston, the defensive end from Ohio St. who was unproductive his rookie year. "He was supposed to be a 10 to 15 sack guy," Kiper said. But new coach Rex Ryan could bring out Gholston's potential. After all, he did it with Terrell Suggs when he was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

Off-The-Radar Prospects

Which player is going to come from an unknown school and contribute to an NFL team?

No one, Kiper said. There is no Dominique Rogers-Cromartie this year. But there are some small school prospects who could be good picks down the road.

Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Richmond: "He is going to be expected to be very good because he's going to be a second round draft choice."

Don Carey, CB, Norfolk State: "He's a versatile defensive back with a lot of ability," Kiper said. He will go in the fourth or fifth round.

Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian: Knox (6-0, 185 lbs) wowed everyone at the combine with a 4.34 40-yard dash. "He had a real good career -- averaged almost 20 yards a catch, helps out in the return game. He's the kind of kid, if he's getting time, he could be a factor certainly moving forward."

Domonique Johnson, CB, Jackson State: "He didn't have the great year over at Jackson State, but he's still is a guy who has ability in that defensive secondary to maybe be a player for you."

Movers and Shakers

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A leg injury is causing Nicks to fall.Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State: Maybin has been rising on several draft boards, including Kiper's. "Kid's a great football player." Maybin will likely go in the top 12 picks.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina: Last week, reports came out saying Nicks had gained 14 pounds from the combine to his workout -- that's 14 pounds in a month! But North Carolina officials said it was because of a hamstring injury that prevented him from working out. Still, he's falling.

D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt: Moore didn't run a great 40 (4.54) and doesn't have great size (5-9, 192 lbs). But Kiper thinks he will be a great pick in the third round. "All those big plays he made -- he's so instinctive."

Jason Smith, OT, Baylor: "This is a kid you really root for," Kiper said. Smith, who will be a top five pick, showed his charisma throughout the workout process, which impressed scouts. In fact, Kiper said he could have a job at ESPN in 20 years -- about the time Kiper will retire.

Tackle with most upside?

Derick Hingle/Icon SMI

Kiper has his eye on Michael Oher.Which tackle has the most upside in this year's draft?

Kiper was asked to choose among Baylor's Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe or Alabama's Andre Smith. He had two things to say:

First of all, Ole Miss's Michael Oher should be on that list. Arizona's Eben Britton also has good potential.

Second of all, Monroe is overhyped. "He's a good player, but to think he's going to be Boselli, Pace, Ogden -- one of the great ones?" Kiper said. "I didn't see it. He wasn't super, super elite."

But wait? Did he answer the question? Nope.

Maybe next week.

Passing on Stafford for Smith?

Kiper's advice to the Detroit Lions: "Get him signed!" He's talking about Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, of course. There's the possibility that, if the Lions can't sign Stafford before the draft, they will go after Baylor's Jason Smith.

But Kiper said, "You get to Super Bowls with great quarterbacks. You don't worry about an offensive tackle because you can't get Matthew Stafford signed." He added: "Signability should not factor in."

So the whole talk of passing on Stafford for a lineman? "The quarterback reigns supreme, pal," Kiper said. "That's who's hoisting that Super Bowl trophy."

However, the Lions should not name him the starter from day one. "Develop your team; don't let Matthew Stafford get clobbered out there."

However, Kiper said Stafford could play midway through the season if the offensive line is holding up. That would give him some valuable starting experience.

Longer Season?

Should the NFL shorten its preseason and extend its regular season?

Kiper said, "You have to adjust to the times." In other words, yes.

However, ever since he was a kid, Kiper has loved preseason games -- he said it allowed him to see the future of organizations. "I loved August."

Nevertheless, Kiper thinks the preseason should be two games, three at most. Then the regular season could be extended by one of two games.

Weekly Wisdom

Kiper said the successful people in this country share one attribute: They are confident. "You can't be right if you're afraid to be wrong."

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Theres one thing he said I really agree with , I also think Monroe is very over hyped , Just BC he has very quick feet is not a tell all IMO. For me , I don't think he has the strength to be drafted that high.

True that. It wil be interesting to see if there is a run on left tackles like last year. I think Michael Oher willbe a good late round pick for some team.

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