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Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Draft day looms

Talib, Kelly emerge as Big 12’s most likely first-round picks

April 23, 2008

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Aqib Talib, Kansas University

Aqib Talib, Kansas University

Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma

Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma

What Keegan says

The recent revelation that Aqib Talib tested positive for marijuana three times during his stay in the KU football program has resulted in split opinion on how much, if at all, that will damage Talib's standing in the draft.

Mel Kiper has Talib going to New Orleans with the 10th pick of the first round. The Associated Press has Talib going 20th, to Tampa Bay, and nfldraftcountdown.com has Dallas taking him at No. 22.

It's conceivable the Orange Bowl MVP could slip all the way to the fifth pick of the second round, where the Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to snag the big-play, big-bodied cornerback.

The Chiefs could reach across the border again and select offensive tackle Anthony Collins with the fifth pick of the third round. Jared Allen's departure makes defensive end Chris Long the first-round target. Offensive line and the secondary remain two huge needs for the Chiefs. Talib and Collins would fill both holes nicely and be in line for early playing time under Herman Edwards, even though they both went 0-2 at Arrowhead Stadium for Kansas.

- Tom Keegan

tkeegan@ljworld.com

It's been 15 years since the Kansas University football team had a player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Four days from now Aqib Talib, fresh off his pick-six in KU's 24-21 Orange Bowl victory, will most likely end Dana Stubblefield's 15-year reign as the last Jayhawk taken in Round One.

Talib, along with Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly and Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed, are the Big 12's best shots at first-round glory.

Oh, and positive news for KU fans waiting to see where Talib ends up: The draft, which starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, will go by much faster than previous years.

Teams have 10 minutes this year - as opposed to 15 minutes in the past - to make their first-round selections. After the first round, teams will then have seven minutes for their second-round selections and five minutes in rounds three through seven.

Perhaps this year, you won't have to eat breakfast, run errands, mow the yard and hit the links for 18 holes...all before your favorite team drafts.

It should be a fairly active Saturday for the Big 12 Conference, which has 15 players predicted to go in the first four rounds by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.

Here's a preview:

Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

Why teams should care: Sure, the Richardson, Texas, native talks a big game. He also backs it up (11 interceptions the past two seasons with teams often looking the other direction anyway). War room representatives likely will salivate at film of Talib's versatility, which would display the four touchdown passes he caught on offense. The term "big-play ability" gets thrown around loosely, but concrete evidence of Talib fitting the term was present in the 2008 Orange Bowl when Talib jumped a route for an interception and returned the ball 60 yards for the game's opening touchdown.

Key stats: Talib runs a 4.47-second 40 and has a vertical leap of 42 inches.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 10 overall, New Orleans

If Kiper's right: Talib would likely start in nickel and dime packages and have a tough time cracking a starting corner spot with newly-acquired Randall Gay and veteran Mike McKenzie around.

Malcolm Kelly, WR, Okla.

Why teams should care: 19 touchdowns and 1,814 yards in the last two years. Kelly has the size at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds to be a quality possession receiver.

Key stats: The only question mark is his speed. NFL.com reported Kelly clocked a 4.75 and 4.68-second 40, much slower than expected, at his April 9 "Pro Day" workout in Norman.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 23 overall, Pittsburgh

If Kiper's right: Kelly would add to a nice receiving corps of Hines Ward (who's 32 years old), Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington.

Limas Sweed, WR, Texas

Why teams should care: Sweed, at 6-4, can win jump balls against opposing cornerbacks more times than not. Combine that with his 4.48-second 40 time, and Sweed could be a scary receiver.

Key stats: His 20 career touchdown catches rank second all-time at Texas.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 36 overall (second round), New York Jets.

If Kiper's right: Sweed might not replace Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery his rookie season, but he could make immediate impact as a No. 3 receiver.

Jordy Nelson, WR, K-State

Why teams should care: At 6-3, 217 pounds, Nelson's 4.51-second 40 time cannot be ignored.

Key stats: His 2007 season line: 122 catches, 1,606 yards, 11 touchdowns. Nelson's season line, just two years ago: 39 catches, 547 yards, one TD.

Kiper's mock position: No. 41 overall (second round), Buffalo

If Kiper's right: Nelson could work the slot in his first season behind Lee Evans and Josh Reed. If Nelson makes immediate impact, how much longer will the Bills wait on Reed? In six seasons, Reed has yet to catch more than 58 passes and two touchdowns in a season. And he's only missed eight games in those six seasons.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas

Why teams should care: Charles' speed is simply unmatched. Charles, a former track star, recently clocked a 4.38-second 40. The team that drafts the UT junior will draft a back who can take it the distance on any given play.

Key stats: Averaged 6.3 yards per carry last year, despite carrying the ball 258 times. Compiled 1,619 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 54 overall (second round), Tennessee

If Kiper's right: This would be a fascinating development if Charles was re-united with Vince Young on the Titans. If Tennessee drafts Charles, he could start his rookie season as a third-down back and spell incumbent LenDale White.

Martellus Bennett, TE, A&M

Why teams should care: After Dustin Keller (No. 25 overall on Kiper's mock draft) of Purdue, drafting the best tight end is a tossup. Enter Bennett, a 6-7, 253-pound tight end.

Key stat: Runs a 4.72-second 40. That's in between the times of Oklahoma's Kelly, a wide receiver. Scary.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 56 overall (second round), Green Bay

If Kiper's right: Bennett wouldn't pass Donald Lee (45 catches, 575 yards, six TD's in 2007) on the depth chart overnight, but Green Bay is known for frequently playing two tight ends. Lee played alongside Bubba Franks for a while, and Franks went to the Jets in the offseason.

Jordon Dizon, LB, Colorado

Why teams should care: For those unfamiliar with Dizon, he registered 463 tackles in his four-year career at CU, good for the eighth best total in NCAA history.

Key stat: Had the most tackles in the nation (173, 13.31 average) last year. Ran a 4.59-second 40.

Kiper's mock draft: No. 63 overall (second round), New York Giants

¢

Kiper's mock draft went through round four. The other Big 12 names on it:

73. Reggie Smith, DB, Oklahoma; drafted by Minnesota.

76. Curtis Lofton, LB, Oklahoma; drafted by Detroit.

80. Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska; drafted by Philadelphia.

88. Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas; drafted by Pittsburgh.

101. Cody Wallace, C, Texas A&M; drafted by St. Louis.

103. Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri; drafted by Atlanta.

109. Jermichael Finley, TE, Texas; drafted by Carolina.

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