ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper was part of a conference call with national media on Wednesday. Near the end of the two-hour session, Packer Report publisher Bill Huber asked Kiper about the Packers' draft prospects.
Here's what he said.
Q: Is it safe to assume that Boston College's B.J. Raji will be gone by the time the Packers pick at No. 9 in the first round?
Kiper: I think he will. You look at where he could go, No. 5 to Cleveland, he could go in that area very easily. Right now, I have him the sixth-best player. I would be surprised if a guy that I think most people would be in agreement is one of the top five or six best players in this draft is still there at 9. That would be a major surprise to me.
If that's the case, where do you think the Packers will turn?
Kiper: You would have to look at Brian Orakpo (of Texas), if he's there; you have to look at Aaron Maybin (of Penn State), if he's there. I don't think you take the defensive back (Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State) the way it looks right now. I thought Jenkins possibly, but now, since he ran the 4.55 (40 at his pro day). I'd say Orakpo or Maybin right now if (Raji is) gone, and I think he will be. I would think you would look at one of those two outside linebackers.
After Raji, it's his Boston College teammate Ron Brace at nose tackle, and who else?
Kiper: Brace would be the guy. Brace fits into that mold. He's a huge kid. People think Raji's big, Brace is 6-3 and he's about 330 pounds. Great upper-body strength. He did 32 reps (in the 225-pound bench press) at the Combine. Not as athletic as Raji and not as quick and overall explosive and in terms of being a pass rusher. Raji will be a guy who's disruptive in the backfield. Brace will be more that guy that occupies, stays at home, allows your linebackers to be freed up. Those would be the two guys I think would fall into that area as your lead guys. He makes sense in the second round.
I's a big drop-off after Brace, isn't it?
Kiper: Yes, there's a drop-off. There's guys that you can find that can fit into the role, but not anybody that's an elite guy at that position.
(Kiper then went on to list some 3-4 defensive ends, such as San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert, LSU's Tyson Jackson and Hampton's Chris Baker, who we will feature this weekend.)
Kiper: There's not that many. There's not a lot of guys you would say in a 3-4 could play that end spot and play it effectively. There are a couple guys early and a couple guys later that I think you would look at if you're in that scheme.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport