ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. defended his surprisingly low grades for LSU stars Arden Key and Derrius Guice in his first 2018 mock draft, which was released on Thursday.
Kiper has neither player going in the first round. Both declared for the draft as juniors. It’s a far different look from ESPN co-worker Todd McShay, who has mocked Key as the No. 9 overall pick and has Guice going 24th.
“Key had the injury and didn’t have the kind of year that was expected,” Kiper said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “I think he’s more of a second-round pick.”
As for Guice, Kiper believes the running back has late first-round potential, but doesn’t see a team with a need for running back in that part of the draft. He compares his anticipated drop for Guice to that of Alvin Kamara, the Saints rookie sensation who was not drafted until the third round last year.
“I could have put Guice in the late first, but didn’t find a team for him,” Kiper said. “Running backs historically drop. Look at Alvin Kamara. He was a third-round pick. Guice is a good player, but he’s not as versatile as Alvin Kamara. I see him as a second-round pick.”
It should be noted that Kamara’s drop to the third round may have had more to do with him only getting 103 carries in his junior season at Tennessee. Guice was the unquestioned feature back in the LSU offense with 237 carries for 1,251 yards this season.
Guice and Key are among a group of six LSU juniors who declared for this year’s draft. But Kiper anticipates it will be a senior who will be the third LSU player to come off the board — wide receiver DJ Chark.
“I think DJ Chark is going to be interesting,” Kiper said. “He has size and athleticism, and is helped by the big punt return against Auburn.”
Kiper views cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Tolliver as Day 3 picks with the potential to improve their stock.
“LSU has lot of guys who will go Day 3, [starting with] Donte Jackson and Kevin Tolliver,” Kiper said.
Rounds 2-3 are on the second day of the draft, with Day 3 consisting of Rounds 4-7.