Of all the draft experts dropping knowledge on the masses, no one's mock drafts elicit more emotion than Mel Kiper's. Maybe it's his perfectly quaffed hair or penetrating voice that creates such a visceral reaction. Or maybe it's the fact that he's done it the longest at the highest level and is usually pretty spot on. Either way, Jets and Patriots fans will have some big reactions to his second mock draft after reading it.
With a newfound, self-bestowed power to create trades in this mock, something he hasn't done in 38 years of creating them, Kiper projects the Jets to trade back from the No. 2 pick to the No. 4 pick and select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, thus committing to Sam Darnold as the starting quarterback.
That's a shocking move considering all the buzz we've heard about the Jets trading Darnold and starting fresh with either Zach Wilson, who Kiper has the Falcons drafting after trading up with the Jets to the No. 2 pick, or even Deshaun Watson. It's also surprising because LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is still on the board here and the Jets instead opt for the risker prospect of Pitts. But we'll get back to that in a minute.
Equally intriguing within the AFC East, Kiper projects the Patriots will move up to the No. 9 pick and draft North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. That's a stunning move for several reasons, most notably because Lance is anything but a sure thing. But it's also surprising because the Patriots typically move back in the draft to acquire more picks. In this case Kiper has the Patriots trading the No. 15 pick, their 2021 second-round pick and possibly their 2022 first-round pick to the Broncos to move up and select Lance. That's a lot to give up for a noted-pick hoarder like Bill Belichick. It's also a lot to give up for a player who played in the FCS and played only one game this fall before North Dakota State announced its season would be held in the spring and he opted out of that. But perhaps the Patriots feel Lance is too good to pass up on here.
Pitts and Lance are arguably the most risky prospects being projected in the Top-10 because both have obvious question marks. Pitts is an incredibly athletic tight end who can create separation and make outstanding catches, but he also needs to improve as a blocker and has to be put in a scheme that optimizes his versatility. While the Jets gain additional picks in this trade, selecting Pitts over a polished player like Chase is a risk. Also, No. 4 is the highest I've seen Pitts being projected.
Lance is a mobile quarterback with a cannon arm, but he didn't play against elite competition, only started one full season in 2019, and took the field once in 2020. His ability to read the field has also been questioned because he tends to run if his first option is covered.
Of course, this is what makes Kiper a genius. He knows people (like yours truly) will nitpick his projections and discuss them until his next mock draft comes out. That's smart marketing and you gotta respect it -- just as you have to respect someone like Kiper who has been doing this successfully at the highest level for nearly four decades.
Simultaneously, as wise as Kiper is, he never gets it 100 percent right. Whether you like his projection for your team or not, remember to take it with a grain of salt. A lot of things can change between now and April 29, including Kiper's subsequent mock drafts. But with no football on between now and August, this is the best we can do to scratch our itch. And no one makes fans itchier around the draft than Kiper.