Mel Kiper Big Board February 6, 2008

Matt Ryan to Dolphins is a distinct possibility

Boston College’s Matt Ryan reminds me of the three quarterbacks who were taken at the top of the first round in the 2004 NFL draft — Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. In four years, Manning and Roethlisberger already have won Super Bowls, and Rivers has reached the AFC Championship game. Ryan — up to No. 3 on my Top 25 Big Board — has a grade similar to that of Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger when they were drafted. That’s just one reason why you hear Ryan’s name associated with the Miami Dolphins, who own the No. 1 pick.

If Ryan doesn’t go to Miami, look for Atlanta, Kansas City and perhaps Baltimore to try and land the top quarterback in this year’s class. The way the draft order is now, I don’t see Ryan falling past the Falcons unless a team is willing to trade up.

* Asterisk denotes underclassman

1. *Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (6-foot-1, 208) | Previous: Same
The reasons for his dynamic performances throughout his career are excellent vision, very good balance, game-breaking speed and a passion for the game.

2. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (6-2, 292) | Previous: Same
Disruptive force along the interior. If there is one non-skill position player fans should watch, Dorsey is the one, because despite constant double-teams, he is always making plays or opening up space for his teammates.

3. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College (6-4, 223) | Previous: 6
He has the size and arm to wow the NFL brass during testing.

4. Jake Long, OT, Michigan (6-6, 320) | Previous: 3
Top-drawer left or right tackle prospect.

5. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (6-4, 282) | Previous: 4
A 3-4 defensive end with great bloodlines who understands leverage and uses his hands as well as any D-lineman in the country.

6. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC (6-1, 297) | Previous: 5
Tampa Bay Bucs-style DT with superior quickness and a nonstop motor.

7. *Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas (6-1, 193) | Previous: Same
A game-changing cover corner who had 11 interceptions the past two seasons. Talib has outstanding recovery speed and tremendous leaping ability. He also showed his versatility by catching eight passes (four for touchdowns) on offense.

8. *Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio St. (6-3, 262) | Previous: Same
He took his play to a new level in 2007, showcasing the explosiveness to overpower offensive tackles at the point of attack. Gholston also has excellent closing speed, as evidenced by the 14 sacks he registered. He also has the versatility to play with his hand off the ground.

9. *Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State (6-5, 320) | Previous: Same
An excellent left tackle prospect with athletic ability and solid technique that will make him a great blindside protector in the NFL.

10. *Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon (5-10, 233) | Previous: Same
A strong and athletic, big running back who displays tremendous patience with the way he sets up his blocks.

11. *Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson (6-4½, 272) | Previous: Same
An underrated standout, Merling might not be as flashy as former teammate Gaines Adams (the fourth pick in last year’s draft), but you can make the argument that Merling is a more complete player.

12. Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina (6-4, 298) | Previous: Same
Unbelievably talented player who had a breakout season in 2007.

13. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy (5-10½, 185) | Previous: Same
Not only a very good cover man with superior recovery ability (runs in the 4.38 range) and the aggressiveness to get the job done in run support, McKelvin has made a name for himself as the top return man in the entire nation. He’s also stood out this season in games against the likes of Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma State and Georgia. With his speed and versatility, McKelvin will bring a great deal of value to a football team.

14. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt (6-5½, 318) | Previous: Same
Top-drawer talent, possessing superior athleticism and good feet to neutralize outside pass-rushers.

15. *Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas (5-11, 202) | Previous: Same
Tremendously explosive and versatile, Jones gained a whopping 8.7 yards per carry this season, while also excelling as a kickoff returner, gaining nearly 30 yards per return.

16. *Calais Campbell, DE, Miami (6-7, 280) | Previous: Same
Physically imposing with his height and wingspan, Campbell is able to beat offensive tackles with either speed or power. He does a good job of varying his pass rush moves, while also proving to be solid against the run.

17. Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh (6-5, 339) | Previous: Same
Light on his feet for a huge bookend, Otah is still developing. He played only one year in high school and two at the junior college level. He also played basketball in junior college and is a tremendous athlete. His upside and potential are going to excite offensive line coaches in the NFL.

18. Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida (5-11½, 202) | Previous: Same
He has excellent recovery speed and the toughness you look for in a cornerback. His size allows him to match up with an opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver.

19. *Chilo Rachal, OG, USC (6-6¼, 339) | Previous: Same
Tremendous size and plays with a defensive mentality you like to see. Rachal can match the speed and power of defensive ends he faces which is why he has so much upside at the next level.

20. *Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois (5-10, 224) | Previous: Same
Authoritative runner with a major league burst through the hole. Mendenhall’s hard-charging style makes him difficult to get to the ground.

21. Fred Davis, USC (6-4, 253) | Previous: Same
Productive, consistent and multitalented. He’s caught five or more passes in eight of 13 games while also doing a very capable job as an inline blocker. Davis stretches the deep middle of the field with big plays while bringing excellent physical and athletic skills to the tight end spot.

22. *Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma (6-3½, 219) | Previous: Same
He has the combination of size and speed that NFL teams covet, plus great hands and is a tremendous competitor.

23. *DeSean Jackson, WR, California (5-11, 168) | Previous: 24
Exciting wideout and returner with very good natural pass receiving skills. Jackson has excellent speed and is a terrific open-field runner.

24. Sam Baker, OT, USC (6-4½, 310) | Previous: 23
Exceptional pass-blocker with superb technique.

25. *Kenny Phillips, S, Miami (6-1½, 200) | Previous: Same
While he had a decent but not great season, Phillips has the skill level necessary to reach high honors in the NFL. He has excellent range and good ball skills, and he is solid in run support. Also keep in mind that safeties are in high demand in the NFL these days, and Phillips is clearly the top safety in this year’s draft.