Packers Path To Draft: Part 7 With Mel Kiper

Packer Report talked to the ESPN draft guru and got his thoughts on some of the Packers' positions of need. What did Kiper have to say about Brandon Graham and the outside linebackers, safety Taylor Mays and other possibilities for No. 23?

Packer Report participated in a conference call with ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper on Wednesday. Here's what Kiper had to say on some issues pertinent to the Packers' draft prospects.

Who are the first-round prospects to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense?

Kiper: The first-rounders would be Sergio Kindle (Texas) and after that we go to Brandon Graham (Michigan). There's a lot of guys after that — second, third-round guys. You've got Jerry Hughes at TCU would fall into that category that could go, say, second-, third-round area, fourth-round area. Ricky Sapp from Clemson could be a second-round pick. It's a shame O'Brien Schofield from Wisconsin got hurt at the Senior Bowl practice early that week because he would have been a late first-round pick as a 3-4 outside linebacker. You've got Antonio Coleman at Auburn, Cameron Sheffield of Troy and there are others. There's a lot of other guys. We could go on and on. Eric Norwood at South Carolina (is) ideally suited to be a 3-4 outside linebacker as well.

What are you thoughts on Brandon Graham?

Kiper: He's got that great work ethic. He comes on every play. He took advantage of some offensive tackles who were very suspect, obviously. In the NFL, that's not the case. He'll be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He could be a 4-3 end as a situation guy; if Indianapolis looked at him in a rotation with Freeney and Mathis. I think his character and his every game bringing it and performing the way he did production-wise is the reason why he's a pick to go anywhere from 20 and 32.

Outside of Alabama's Terrence Cody, who's the next-best 3-4 nose tackle?

Kiper: It would be Dan Williams (Tennessee), there's no question about that. With his powerful lower body — he's 320 pounds — he definitely falls into that category. Tate Weston from Georgia is a 325-pound defensive tackle, as well, that I think gives you come flexibility. Cam Thomas from North Carolina is another one. There's others down the line that you can get beyond the early-round guys. But those are the guys in the first three rounds in particular. Cody's the No. 1 guy. That's why he's a first-round pick. He's the only guy that has that type of ability in terms of being a first-round-caliber player. Dan Williams jumps out because he's not just a nose tackle. He's a guy who showed that he can get off of blocks, locate the football. This season moved him up probably a round-and-a-half from where he would have been after his junior year. Dan Williams is in that 20 to 32 area in the first round.

For teams that want a running back, who should we keep an eye on after top prospects C.J. Spiller of Clemson, Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech and Jahvid Best of Cal?

Kiper: They always drop. There's always going to be running backs on the board at some point down the line. Some of those kids you could get down the line could be Joe McKnight at USC. He's a third-, fourth-round kind of guy. Ryan Mathews of Fresno State, probably second round for him. Some other guys that are a little later than that that I think have the ability to help a football team, James Starks from Buffalo. Injured all year with a shoulder. Out the whole season. He's right now back to where he needs to be physically. He would have been a second- or third-round pick had he played this year. If you get him in the fourth or fifth round, the kid's got a lot of ability. A big back that had a heck of a year and showed he could (produce) some 40-yard runs was Anthony Dixon of Mississippi State. Charles Scott (of LSU), that north-south, hard-nosed, determined runner at 5-11, 233 pounds. You want a guy who can be a combination-type guy in terms of catching and running from a situational role, one of those diminutive guys who's very dynamic is Michael Smith of Arkansas. You've got the powerhouse in LeGarrette Blount (Oregon). And I didn't mention Toby Gerhard (Stanford). If he runs well, he could be a third-rounder, maybe even a late two. Lonyae Miller of Fresno State has ability, Montario Hardesty of Tennessee has ability, Roy Upchurch of Alabama is a nice late-round pick because he was the third back at Alabama. There's a lot of backs. Every year, real good backs drop to the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh round.

Why is USC safety Taylor Mays' stock falling?

Kiper: They played him in that deep, deep center field area and he's an in-the-box type of guy. You say, ‘He didn't transition out of his backpedal.' Hey, he was never asked to do that. He's the kind of guy who's going to be very interesting. It's risky taking him in the top 15. I don't think it's as risky taking him after that. The reason I say that is because he's got freakish physical ability and he's a great kid. He's got great character. You can coach this kid. He needs some coaching. He needs to fit into a system and remain in that system, which was not the case at USC. With that said, I don't think he showed up big enough, I don't think he made the impact hits that some people thought he did. I thought he took some bad angles and missed some tackles in his career. He's not perfect, he's got some work to do. He'll do that and he'll give you everything he has on and off the field to get better. When you're as big and as fast and as athletic as he is, you're not going to be thinking bust. You're thinking he could be really good, he could be solid or decent. I don't think he'll ever be a bust because he's so talented and he's such a great kid. Taylor Mays would have to be a guy you have to think about if you're Philadelphia, you have to think about if you're Green Bay, you have to think about it if you're a team late in the first round if he's still there.

Can you throw out some names who the Packers might consider at No. 23? And the Packers need cornerbacks. How is the depth in that group after the top guys like Joe Haden of Florida and Kyle Wilson of Boise State?

Kiper: I think the depth of the cornerback class is decent but not great. Some of those corners aren't gong to play corner, they'll end up playing safety, so you're going to take them out of the mix. Some of the guys I like don't run well enough to have super-high grades. It's kind of a mixed bag there.

For the Packers, Bryan Bulaga, the offensive tackle from Iowa, Bruce Campbell, the offensive tackle at Maryland, would be some guys to think about that. Safeties like Taylor Mays at USC, Earl Thomas at Texas, those would be some guys that you would think about if you're the Green Bay Packers at that particular point in the first round.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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