Kiper: Apple Falls to Raiders in First Round

You've probably heard the expression, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." According to ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., an apple, Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple to be exact, could be falling to Oakland with the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft in April.

Kiper spoke to the national media on a conference call Tuesday afternoon on the heels of his third mock draft of 2016. For the second mock draft in a row, he has the Raiders selecting Apple.

"When you look at him and break him down physically, his performance on the field was impressive, he's got the hips, the feet, the turning radius, everything about him I like," Kiper said. "Then you see the workout. That's the important part for a third-year sophomore, how's he going to test, you knew he was tall, he's over six-feet, 200 pounds and he ran a 4.4. To me, that put him in the first round. I had him going to Oakland hoping his workout would be up to par and it was."

According to Kiper, Apple could be one of up to seven cornerbacks selected in the first round.

"[Vernon] Hargreaves doesn't have the length that [Jalen] Ramsey does, Eli Apple does have the length. He only had four career interceptions, but he was pretty good, and very solid and very consistent in coverage, had a good workout," Kiper said. "William Jackson is coming up the board, eight career interceptions, he had five this year, he's got length, had a good workout, he's a complete corner. Don't forget about Kendall Fuller, he had eight career interceptions, he's got great bloodlines, good football player. Mackensie Alexander will be the only DB in the modern draft since 1967 to have no career [interceptions] and go in the first round if he does. Artie Burns from Miami of Florida. He's going to get called for some penalties if his style remains the way it is but he's got a lot of ability. So that's seven corners with the potential to at least be in the discussion to be first round picks. I do think five will be of the seven first- round draft choices." 

If the Raiders pass on Apple but still want a cornerback early in the draft, there will be options.

"If you look at corners that could go if you don't look at Apple, William Jackson, Kendall Fuller, could all be late first round picks that would make sense," Kiper said. "If you look for the pass rushers, Noah Spence could be a guy that you could look at as a defensive end/combo guy out of Eastern Kentucky if he got into that second round area. I don't think he will, but you never know, teams can trade down off of 14."    

He acknowledged that creating mock drafts before the start of NFL free agency is a risky proposition.

"It's very difficult. You can think all you want about where a guy may sign," Kiper said. "When teams lose a player it becomes a need; you gain a player you scratch that need off. It does become something that is a daily update beginning today. It certainly impacts mock first rounds. It hasn't impacted mine yet, but I sure it will be affected over the next week or two."

The process of evaluating potential draft picks and projecting where they might land is a year-round business for Kiper and his colleagues.

"Usually six-seven hours a day all the way from August, all the way through even during the offseason, it's constant. Measurables are important, there's no doubt about that. They're just a part of the process," Kiper said. "Because college is college and the NFL is a different ballgame. A major jump up in the level of competition is huge. You factor all that in, the medical part of it, the interview part of it, the research you do, the due diligence that is done on a player's intangibles is all factored in, the analytics. Cynthia Frelund, she does a great job at ESPN. She has all the analytics down. Her take is a little bit different than mine. There's a lot of ways to augment what Todd [McShay] and I do with the analytics with Cynthia. It's never ending." 

The NFL Draft is less than two months away, and the experts will certainly continue to weigh in as we go along.

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