When it comes to the NFL Draft, only one name and pompadour combination is truly legendary. That'd be ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., the man whose gospel is accompanied by the sound of a lute and the praise of Von Miller.
So when Kiper picks somebody for your team—even if he's as likely to be wrong as any other analyst—it's worth paying attention. That's why I present you with his latest mock draft (ESPN Insider only), in which Kiper has the Falcons taking Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
Despite the fearsome hairdo that demands respect, I'm going to go against Kiper here. After the jump, I'll tell you why.
Clayborn had a huge season in 2009, posting 20 tackles for losses and 11 sacks as Iowa's most effective lineman. In the two years before that breakout campaign, he posted two sacks each season. Fast forward to his senior year, when scouts say he battled nagging injuries, Clayborn managed 7 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks.
If the alarm bells are already going off, they probably should be. There are legitimate questions about Clayborn's ability to explode past offensive linemen at the next level. He's technically proficient, smart and pretty strong, but his frame doesn't name him a pass rusher and his first step does even less to recommend him. Though they're not the same player and their track records in college aren't identical, he reminds me a little too much of Jamaal Anderson for my comfort.
Clayborn ran in the 4.8s at his Pro Day, quality speed for a guy of his size, and he's a tenacious run defender and sound tackler. Teams looking for a defensive end who can do a little bit of everything well will find plenty to like in the Missouri product, and I could see him going in the first or second round, depending on whether teams are satisfied he checks out medically.
It's inspiring that Clayborn can even play after he was left to his nerve damage to his head and neck at birth, and I'm sure he can be an effective end in a defense that puts a strong emphasis on stopping the run. I'm just not sure the Falcons are that team, with their huge need for an upgraded pass rush along the line. Unless 2010 was a giant anomaly, he's not going to deliver what the team really needs.
Sorry, Mel Kiper and hair. This is unlikely at best.