Kiper: a race of two horses

JACKSONVILLE – Mel Kiper Jr. simply sees the top of the 2019 quarterback class.

"Right now, it's a two-horse race," he said.

Kiper, ESPN's most experienced NFL draft analyst, detailed the race during a Tuesday afternoon teleconference a day after the release of his second preliminary test leading to the April 2019 NFL draft.

Kiper screened offensive attacker Jawaan Taylor of the University of Florida among the Jaguars with the overall selection No. 7, pointing out that he thought the Jaguars were going to sign a defensive quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater of New Orleans or Nick Foles of Philadelphia.

According to Kiper, this would prevent the Jaguars from choosing one of two expected quarterbacks: Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State.

Kiper projected Haskins to the Giants of New York in 6th place and Murray to the Dolphins of Miami to 13th.

"I would like to press Haskins, but it's not a lock that Haskins will be the first quarterback caught," Kiper said.

Haskins has long been projected by many analysts as the best quarterback of the selection. Murray, winner of the Heisman Trophy in 2018, is becoming a possible Top 10 pick in recent weeks since declaring his intention to continue football in baseball.

While Haskins at 6-foot-3, 220-pound is a more traditional "prototype" of the NFL quarter, Murray's size – closer to 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds – makes it a less traditional prospect.

"It's a quarter – that's no question," Kiper told Murray. "The strength of his arms, his precision, his football IQ … today's NFL suits him perfectly. He is a quarterback all the time. Now, is it the fourth choice of draft in Oakland? Is this guy going to Cincinnati? Thirteen in Miami?

Kiper said it was possible that Murray was ahead of Haskins.

"He could," Kiper said. "It's a bit of a wild card, but comparing it to Dwayne Haskins is not fair, because it's totally different quarters. [Murray’s] Style of play would change the way you deal with your business in attack. Haskins is a classic pocket smuggler, while Kyler can do it all. He can throw out of pocket, but you want him out of pocket. …

"The height is not a big problem. He throws through windows. He is intelligent."

* Kiper said the project was solid for the U-turn with a first-round opportunity to position and at least five in the second round and five more in the third round. Kiper screened Alabama's running back Josh Jacobs to the Baltimore Ravens at 22nd overall …

* Kiper said the gap between the top two project forwards – Nick Bosa of Ohio State and Josh Allen of Kentucky – is relatively small, mainly because of Bosa's injuries. Bosa, screened by some as the No. 1 draft choice, was injured in high school at high school and during the last season. "The only reason it's not a big gap is sustainability," Kiper said, calling Bosa's only problem of injury. …

* Kiper discussed the tight end Iowa T.J. Hockenson, who he projected No. 8 overall to the Detroit Lions. "He's a blocker," said Kiper. "He'll block online and help the game going on. It is a tight close complete. He's not a guy with whom you bend. It's not just a great athlete who will catch the ball. He will do it because he is a talented athlete. But he will also block. He is coherent. He is the best friend of the quarterback. That's what he was at Iowa this year. He is a little behind, but he has the skills to fit in perfectly with the current NFL. I think he's one of those guys who's going to skyrocket. You can not just look at him as a one-dimensional player. It is a tight end multidimensional. He can do anything you want.

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