Kiper rates Tech draft prospects

Former Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller had two targets in the East-West Shrine Game Saturday before tweaking his ankle. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Former Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller may be the first Yellow Jackets player to be selected in the NFL draft this weekend. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Former Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller could go relatively early in the NFL draft this weekend, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., part of an analysis of the Yellow Jackets’ top draft candidates.

Kiper said that Waller, who had a strong finish to his Tech career and impressed at the East-West Shrine Game, could be selected in the third or fourth round of the draft. Wherever he is drafted, he’ll be the third wide receiver to play for coach Paul Johnson to be drafted, following Demaryius Thomas (first round, Denver, 2010) and Stephen Hill (second round, New York Jets, 2012).

“Darren Waller is so intriguing because he’s so big at 6-6, 240 pounds nearly, with long arms and 4.46 speed, a 37 (inch) vertical,” Kiper said.

Former Tech guard Shaquille Mason was pegged as a fourth- or fifth-round draft choice. Kiper called him intriguing because he can potentially play center and guard. Mason has never played center, but has trained at the position since the end of his senior season.

“I thought he was a very underrated player,” Kiper said. “I was shocked he wasn’t at the combine.”

Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter could have been a fourth- or fifth-round pick had he not torn his ACL in late November, Kiper said, implying he’ll likely end up as an undrafted free agent.

Safety Isaiah Johnson was the final draft candidate that Kiper addressed, saying he could be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Kiper said he has liked him and sees him as a prospect “who can play and then have a nice career in this league.”

Overall, he appraised Tech’s class as “a couple guys (that) are going to be drafted, but a lot of guys are going to get into camps.”

Other possibilities are linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and B-backs Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey.

“But I think Mason and Waller are two guys to really keep a close eye on, because I think they’re going to have the potential to be starters in the league, especially Mason,” Kiper said. “Waller has to improve in certain areas but he’s going to be a fourth receiver with a lot of teams.”


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