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February 6, 2014

Mel Kiper discusses NU's NFL Draft prospects

After routinely having players picked in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft over the past five years, the Huskers had a bit of a down year in 2013. Rex Burkhead and Daimion Stafford were the only Nebraska players to be selected, and they were taken in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.

But the Huskers should rebound this year due to the efforts of Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound cornerback earned rave reviews from a number of talent evaluators and scouts at the Senior Bowl last month. Some even said Jean-Baptiste had potentially played is way into the first round.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. isn't willing to go quite that far, but he thinks team will be high on Jean-Baptiste because of the model set by the Seattle Seahawks, who recently won the Super Bowl. The Seahawks "Legion of Boom" secondary is the best in the NFL and is filled with cornerbacks who stand 6-foot-2 or taller.

"He's a press corner all the way," Kiper said of Jean-Baptiste. "He's going to benefit, and everybody knows it, because of what happened with the Seahawks. They did so well with these big corners, and (Brandon) Browner wasn't even drafted and look at where (Richard) Sherman went - he was in the fifth round. Look at where (Byron) Maxwell (6th round) went. They weren't early picks, but the team hit on some late-round picks, and everyone wants to get that player now. That's why everyone is looking at these big corners like Stanley Jean-Baptiste. I think he's going to be a second-round draft choice."

Kiper mentioned another NU cornerback, Ciante Evans, as someone who has "a chance to be a guy."

The draft analyst said he expects wide receiver Quincy Enunwa to be taken late in the draft. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound wideout had a breakout senior season with 753 yards and 12 touchdowns and was at one point valued much higher. But some inconsistencies and dropped passes caused his stock to dip.

Kiper also said that he expects several NU linemen to go undrafted but be picked up as free agents. He didn't mention any specific names, but Spencer Long, Jeremiah Sirles, Brent Qvale and Andrew Rodriguez would all fall into that category.

Maybe the most surprising thing Kiper mentioned was the possibility of quarterback Taylor Martinez playing on defense. Martinez missed most of his senior year with injury and didn't play defense at all in college, but his speed intrigues NFL scouts. If he has a strong pro day and proves he's healed, it's possible Martinez will get a look from some teams.

"You look on the offensive side of the ball, I think Martinez is a position-change guy, maybe the secondary," Kiper said. "We'll see how he fits in there."

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