Mel Kiper loves Josh Allen.
The ESPN analyst is sticking with the University of Wyoming quarterback as the No. 1 overall choice in his latest NFL mock draft, released on Wednesday.
Kiper went to great lengths to defend Allen's 56.3 percent college completion percentage on a conference call with reporters.
"He has the best arm of anybody in this draft," Kiper said of the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Allen. "He's got tremendous size, he's got tremendous athleticism for a big man. You saw his mobility. You go back to that Iowa game early in the year. You look at the Senior Bowl in that second quarter his mobility there. He just has all the physical traits you want, athletic prowess. He has a will to learn. He has great competitive desire."
Kiper has Cleveland taking Allen with the top pick. He has Southern California's Sam Darnold going No. 5 to Denver, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield going No. 6 to the New York Jets and UCLA's Josh Rosen going 11th to Miami. In a switch from conventional wisdom, Kiper projects the New York Giants at No. 2 picking running back Saquon Barkley instead of a quarterback.
Kiper does not project trades in his mock draft.
He gives the Buffalo Bills Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes at No. 21 and Iowa center James Daniels at No. 22. Of course, projecting a mock draft even before teams fill needs in free agency is wildly speculative.
How does Kiper reconcile giving Allen a relative pass on his completion percentage while giving former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville no consideration in the first round? The 6-3 Jackson completed 57.4 percent for his career.
Kiper's answer: "I think with Lamar, you talk about a quarterback who when you watch the throws, there were some inaccurate throws. Then you say well Josh Allen had some. Yes he did. They were the tough throws, though. He didn't have a lot of the gimmies, the layups, the tunnel screens, the bubble screens. He didn't have many of those, if any. So I think you look at in a lot of games, he was tested in terms of the throws."
"It's just the nature of that offense," Kiper said of the Wyoming attack. "It's not going to allow for a completion percentage of 65 percent. If he had those easy throws, those layups, he'd have been at 60 percent. So I think that's why he's still in the mix to be the No. 1 pick overall."
Bills picks: Kiper considers Hughes as filling a huge Bills need opposite Tre'Davious White at cornerback. Of course, we'll have to see if the Bills move on a cornerback in free agency. Kiper opted for Iowa's Daniels over Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who he views as a "perfect fit" for Buffalo's defense.
Colts at No. 3? Cleveland and the Giants have quarterback needs with the top two picks. That leaves No. 3 Indianapolis and No. 4 Cleveland as obvious potential targets for teams looking to trade up.
Kiper does not like the idea of the Colts moving out, given their glaring need for a pass rusher. He projects the Colts taking North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
"That would be a risky move," Kiper said of a Colts trade-out. "There's a huge dropoff back to Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio, and after that there's a big dropoff. I think you have to be very careful. If you want the pass rusher and you have to have one in Indy, he's the best guy by miles. You've got to take him. If you lose him, then you've got to roll the dice on Davenport. I like Davenport's potential but he certainly didn't wow people at the Senior Bowl practices. . . . This is a bad, bad year for down defensive ends."
If that's true, then Cleveland is sitting in the prime seller's position at No. 4.