If ESPN football analyst Mel Kiper knows his stuff, two recent members of the 2006 University of Tennessee program will be first-round selections in the upcoming National Football League Draft.
Kiper, who has fashioned a career evaluating and rating pro football prospects in the print and broadcast media, predicts that wide receiver Robert Meachem
will go to the Dallas Cowboys
with pick No. 22 in Round 1. Kiper projects defensive tackle Justin Harrell
will go to the Super Bowl champ Indianapolis Colts
with pick No. 32, the final selection of Round 1.
If Kiper's projection proves correct, Meachem will be joining ex-Vol Jason Witten, now a Pro Bowl tight end with the Cowboys. Should Harrell indeed find his way to the Colts, he will join ex-Vol quarterback Peyton Manning.
Interestingly enough, Kiper projects that 10 of the 32 first-round picks will be Southeastern Conference alumni. Those picks are as follows:
LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell will be the No. 1 overall pick, going to the Oakland Raiders.
LSU safety LaRon Landry will be the No. 7 pick, going to the Minnesota Vikings.
Florida defensive end Jarvis Moss will be the No. 21 pick, going to the Denver Broncos.
Meachem will go to the Cowboys with pick No. 22.
Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston will be the No. 23 pick, going to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, a native of Bruceton, Tenn., will be the No. 24 pick, going to the New England Patriots.
Florida safety Reggie Nelson will be the No. 28 pick, also going to the Patriots.
LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe will be pick No. 30, going to the San Diego Chargers.
Auburn guard Ben Grubbs will be pick No. 31, going to the Chicago Bears.
Harrell will cap the first round.
In addition to his NFL Draft projections, Kiper has put together a "Big Board" rating of the top 25 players without respect to where they might be drafted. Harrell is rated No. 16 but Meachem is not listed among the top 25.
The top 10 on Kiper's Big Board are as follows:
1.Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
2.Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
3.Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
4.JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
5.Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
6.LaRon Landry, S, LSU
7.Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
8.Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
9.Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
10. Levi Brown, OT, Penn State