Kiper: A “two-horse” quarterback race

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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. on set during the first round of the 2018 NFL football draft on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

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

“Right now, it’s a two-horse race,” he said.

Kiper, ESPN’s most-tenured NFL Draft analyst, detailed that race during a Tuesday afternoon conference call – one day after he released his second mock draft leading to April’s 2019 NFL Draft.

Kiper projected University of Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor to the Jaguars with the No. 7 overall selection, emphasizing that he believes the Jaguars will sign a free-agent quarterback such as Teddy Bridgewater of New Orleans or Nick Foles of Philadelphia.

In Kiper’s view, that would preclude the Jaguars selecting either of the drafts top two projected quarterbacks: Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State.

Kiper projected Haskins to the New York Giants at No. 6 overall and Murray to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13 overall.

“I would lean to Haskins, but it’s not a lock that Haskins will be the first quarterback taken,” Kiper said.

Haskins long has been projected by many analysts as the draft’s top quarterback, with Murray – the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner – emerging as a possible Top 10 selection in recent weeks since declaring his intention to pursue football over baseball.

Whereas Haskins at 6-feet-3, 220 pounds is a more traditional “prototype” NFL quarterback, Murray’s size – closer to 5-feet-10 and 195 pounds – makes him a more non-traditional prospect.

“He’s a quarterback – no doubt about it,” Kiper said of Murray. “His arm strength, his accuracy, his football IQ … today’s NFL suits him perfectly. He’s a quarterback all the way. Now, is he the fourth pick in the draft to Oakland? Is he a guy who goes 11 to Cincinnati? Thirteen to Miami?”

Kiper said it’s possible Murray goes ahead of Haskins.

“He could,” Kiper said. “He’s kind of a wild card, but to compare him to Dwayne Haskins isn’t fair because they’re totally different quarterbacks. [Murray’s] style of play would change the way you go about your business on offense. Haskins is a traditional drop-back pocket passer whereas Kyler can do everything. He can throw from the pocket, but you want him outside the pocket. …

“The height’s not a big deal. It’s throwing through windows. He’s smart.”

Also on Tuesday:

*Kiper said the draft is strong at running back with one first-round possibility at the position and at least five in the second round and five more in the third round. Kiper projected Alabama running back Josh Jacobs to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 22 overall in Round 1. …

*Kiper said the gap between the draft’s top two edge rushers – Nick Bosa of Ohio State and Josh Allen of Kentucky – is comparatively small, primarily because of Bosa’s injury history. Bosa, projected by some as the No. 1 overall selection of the draft, sustained injuries as a senior in high school and this past season. “The only reason it’s not a big gap is durability,” Kiper said, calling injuries to Bosa’s only issue. …

*Kiper discussed Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, who he projected No. 8 overall to the Detroit Lions. “He’s a blocker,” Kiper said. “He will block in line and help the running game. He’s a complete tight end. He’s not a guy you flex out. He’s not just a great athlete who will catch the ball. He’ll do that because he is a gifted athlete. But he’ll also block. He’s consistent. He’s a quarterback’s best friend. That’s what he was at Iowa this year. He’s kind of a throwback, but he has the skills to fit in very well with today’s NFL. I think he’s one of those guys who’s going to skyrocket. You can’t just look at him as a one-dimensional player. He’s a multidimensional tight end. He can do everything you want.”

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