- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ten days before his version of Mardi Gras, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. showed he was in tip-top form earlier today with a teleconference that lasted nearly two hours. And as usual, Mel delivered.

I’ll be saving most of his comments for our draft stories next week, but here are some highlights.

* Kiper calls Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson the two “wild cards.”

“Whoever doesn’t go to Cleveland [at No. 3] will drop a bit because the Browns can’t take them both,” he said. “If Quinn doesn’t go to Cleveland, he’ll be there for Minnesota at No. 7 and do the Vikings take him even though they traded up last year to draft Tavaris Jackson? Sometimes a guy falling isn’t a bad thing. Look at Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and Matt Leinart last year.”

* He said this year’s first round talent isn’t as good as last year’s star-studded first round.

“There’s not much difference between the guy that goes 45 and the guy that goes 25,” he said. “There are going to be some guys that go in the first round that aren’t necessarily worthy.”

* He is high on LSU safety LaRon Landry — Kiper’s mock draft has the Redskins taking Landry.

“He should be a Pro Bowl caliber player,” he said. “He’ll be better than Roy Williams, no question.”

* Kiper is also high on Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, another player on the Redskins’ radar screen.

“You see a lot of the same qualities in Okoye that you do in Calvin Johnson — tremendously mature and productive week in and week out,” he said. “Athletically and strength-wise, he’s what you want.”

* And when I asked him about the Redskins, it gave Kiper a chance to again say how much he disagrees with the team’s approach to building a roster.

“The Redskins have tried to use free agency over the draft every year and it’s backfired dramatically,” he said. “Demphasizing the draft has been done by one team. The Redskins. Has it worked? No. … It’s got to change. I don’t know what it’s going to take. My philosophy has always been the draft. You have to pick and choose what veterans you bring in. Throwing away draft choices is not the way to go. I sound like a broken record because I say it every year. I just shake my head because I can’t believe it continues to happen.”

* Kiper thinks the Redskins should trade out of the No. 6 position even if it means they acquire only a fourth- or fifth-round selection. He’s not as big a believer in the draft value chart as the Redskins are.

“Forget the chart,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about getting chart value. Who cares. It’s a draft pick you’re getting. But the attitude there is, we can’t get any help in the fourth or fifth round. Sure you can. You can get a starter in the fourth round. They’re not going to get chart value so if they’re at six, they’re staying at six.”

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