ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. was on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” Thursday on ESPN Radio as they talked about next month’s draft.
During their segment talk turned to players from Alabama and how both felt many of its players under-perform in the NFL. Out of the blue, Cowherd compared them to players from LSU. Both also remarked that it was LSU’s defense, not Alabama’s that confounded Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel the last two years.
Here’s their conversation:
COWHERD: Is there that guy in this draft? Is there the Eric Berry? Is there the Patrick Peterson? Is there that guy that everybody knows is just a 10-year great player?
KIPER: The guy that should be is Taylor Lewan, the left tackle at Michigan. He’s, right now, better than Greg Robinson [Thibodaux native]. Can Greg Robinson, two or three years from now, the Auburn offensive tackle, be better than Lewan? Yeah, he could.
COWHERD: Not now, though.
KIPER: But I’d rather say right now, Lewan is really good. Robinson struggles in pass protection. He needs some work.
COWHERD: I’ve got another theory for you: Why are the Alabama guys … everybody loves Nick Saban. Let’s go (over) all these Alabama guys in the NFL.
Rolando McClain, out.
KIPER: Disappointing right now. Kareem Jackson. Dre Kirkpatrick.
COWHERD: Mark Ingram.
KIPER: Terrence Cody.
COWHERD: Trent Richardson. Dee Milliner.
KIPER: Defensive players are struggling right now. That’s a fact. Alabama defensive players have not lived up to the hype.
COWHERD: This is an interesting theory here. Years ago with Jeff Tedford [former head coach at California, now offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay] people stopped taking his quarterbacks because they were like, ‘Jeff gets the most out of them in college’ …
KIPER: We called it ‘A Tedford creation.’
COWHERD: ‘A Tedford creation.’ That nobody wanted Tedford’s quarterbacks.
KIPER: You know who was a Tedford creation? Aaron Rodgers. Joey Harrington. Trent Dilfer.
COWHERD: Aaron worked out pretty well.
KIPER: And Trent won a Super Bowl. In Baltimore. For my Ravens. It worked out pretty good. And Aaron worked out great, cause you know what? They took his mechanics from what he was at Cal and spent four summers, four years, and all those summers changing. If you put Rodgers in his final year at Cal …
COWHERD: I saw him play.
KIPER: … And you saw him at Green Bay, it looks like a completely different quarterback throwing the ball. Look at the mechanics. Completely different.
[Skipping ahead through an aside from Cowherd about watching Rodgers play while at a wedding on a mountain. Whatever.]
COWHERD: So what I’m saying is, do you have programs and coaches, is there a ‘Tedford effect’ a little bit with Saban? I always look at these LSU guys. They’re better than Alabama guys as pros. Les Miles is crazy, but those LSU guys are better pros.
KIPER: What defense completely frustrated Johnny Manziel? Not Alabama’s. He (Saban) had no answers. LSU’s. John Chavis. Look at that game.
COWHERD: Look at LSU guys in the NFL right now.
KIPER: We’ve got one, former safety Ryan Clark working for us now doing stuff. Ryan was a heck of a player. At LSU, underrated coming into the NFL. But I think you look at the Alabama defensive players and they’re all within that system.
COWHERD: The system!
KIPER: They’re all ‘coached up’ by Nick Saban, the defensive guru, and they all work within that framework of that Alabama defense. And they get to the NFL and they’re as good as they’re going to get. They’ve probably already peaked in terms of what they’re going to be.
COWHERD: They said this years ago about Nebraska players in the 90s. Remember that? Nebraska was rolling people 70-17 … they all topped out in the Nebraska weight room. That’s as good as they were going to get.
Certainly the Cowherd-Kiper conversation is just one small fragment of draft talk, and next week they could be piling on LSU or some other school. You could point to any number of LSU players who have been busts in the NFL, none more notorious than JaMarcus Russell. And for the record, Ryan Clark was recruited to LSU by Gerry DiNardo but played his last two college seasons (2000-01) under Saban.
Still, perception can be reality, and it makes you wonder how wide a perception Kiper and Cowherd’s viewpoint is throughout football.
You can hear the entire Kiper segment at ESPNRadio.com.