NFL Draft roundup: Mel Kiper updates big board; Blake Bortles hype

David Purdy

ESPN's top draft analyst debuts three players in his top 25 while the buzz around Central Florida's quarterback grows and grows.

Mel Kiper, ESPN's lead NFL Draft analyst, updated his top 25 big board last week and it includes several new additions.

The highest debut is Oklahoma State senior cornerback Justin Gilbert, who checks in at No. 21. Because he's a bigger cornerback (6-foot, 200 pounds), Gilbert is going to be a hot commodity in May. Kiper also debuts Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy (No. 24) and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard (No. 25).

The other notable is Kiper pushing Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson up to No. 12. Kiper was the first to really be on Robinson, forcing many others to go back and take a look. What they saw is a powerful tackle who can maul defenders if he gets his hands on them.

If you're not an ESPN Insider member and looking for another big board, Rob Rang of CBS updated his here. His highest rated player whom Kiper kept off his big board is Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr (No. 4).

Commence Bortles hype

The quarterback class for next year's draft is going to be heavily scrutinized, particularly with so many teams needing one and no Andrew Luck-type prospect available. Some are going to prefer Carr or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater while others will covet Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. The sleeper contender at the top of the draft could be Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Peter King of touched on it in his latest column.

I think I’m hearing some crazy things about the quarterback race at the top of the draft. Namely: I know one team that, as of now, thinks it’s no sure thing Teddy Bridgewater will be the top quarterback on its board (and this is a team that could take a quarterback in the first round). Moreover, this team believes Central Florida’s Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel could be the top quarterback on the board.

Given the great need and Bortles' skill set – size, arm, athleticism – it shouldn't be a surprise to see him taken highly. It should even be less of a surprise up until May to see those in the media speculate about where the quarterbacks will land. We'll try to keep track of it for fun.

Senior Bowl invites small-school left tackle

North Dakota State left tackle Billy Turner scored an invitation to the Senior Bowl. This isn't some courtesy invite to a small-school player. Turner is the real deal. No one was talking about Turner during or after NDSU's dominant win over Coastal Carolina Saturday, but they should have been. He's a vicious blocker who seems to enjoy putting defenders on the ground.

Turner likes to employ a violent punch move to rock defenders at the point of attack. He has some athletic limitations, so it will be interesting to see if he's used at guard at the Senior Bowl.

(Speaking of, yours truly booked a trip to the Senior Bowl this weekend. It should be fun.)

Catching up on underclassmen

The latest underclassmen to enter next year's draft are Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling and Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman.

We don't have Dowling rated because there wasn't a lot of expectation he'd enter the draft. He's a Florida transfer with athleticism and length (he's listed at 6-foot-3). Stats by in large are meaningless, but Dowling forced six fumbles this season. Dowling was kicked off Florida for a violation of team rules.

The massive 6-foot-6 Coleman didn't have quite the season some expected. While some of it is due to the quarterback play at Rutgers, Coleman had just 32 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns this season. Coleman also had knee surgery before the season. The potential with Coleman is vast, but he'll be a project.

As always, we're tracking the latest underclassmen updates here.

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