Plenty of talented juniors

Mel Kiper Jr. takes draft-related questions on this year's impact juniors as well as Boise State QB Ryan Dinwiddie and Miami linebacker D.J. Williams.

Originally Published: November 5, 2003
By Mel Kiper Jr. | Special to ESPN Insider
YOU'VE GOT MEL | Mel Kiper Jr.'s Mailbag
Q: Who are the top juniors who could impact the draft by coming out, and who is making a move up the draft board?
James, Virginia Beach, Va.
Ben Roethlisberger
Miami's Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 2,767 yards and 18 TDs this season.
KIPER -- Miami-Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the first junior who comes to mind, and he could be interesting to many teams in the first round with his size and arm strength. You mentioned Jones, but other impact juniors at running back include Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams of Auburn and Steven Jackson of Oregon State. At receiver, Washington's Reggie Williams tops the list, followed closely by Michael Clayton of LSU and Miami (Fla.) tight end Kellen Winslow.

On defense, Tommie Harris of Oklahoma and Vince Wilfork of Miami lead the way up front. It looks like Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson will be coming back to school so linebacker won't be a big spot for juniors, but among defensive backs Miami safety Sean Taylor looks like a top-10 pick and Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble should also be a first-rounder.

As for players moving up, NC State quarterback Philip Rivers is looking better all the time. He goes 6-4, 228 pounds but plays shorter because of his unorthodox delivery, but his accuracy and pocket presence make him an accurate passer and tremendous leader. At this point he looks like a third-round choice, something I could not have said at the beginning of the season.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.