Kansas State University

Why ESPN analyst Mel Kiper is high on K-State’s Dalton Risner ahead of NFL Draft

Mel Kiper thinks the Kansas State Wildcats are in for an eventful three days at the NFL Draft later this week.

The longtime ESPN draft analyst is high on offensive lineman Dalton Risner, and he likes what he has seen from running back Alex Barnes. He also won’t be surprised if a third former K-State player gets selected in the late rounds, which would give the Wildcats their biggest draft haul since 2013.

Risner, a four-year starter and standout right tackle in Manhattan, will be first to go. Kiper has him projected as a second-round pick and thinks he could be a steal for any team that selects him on Friday.

“I just love the way he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Kiper said Monday during a media teleconference. “He finishes blocks and he has the versatility to be an inside presence or to stay at right tackle and be a starting right tackle in the NFL. I just love the way the kid plays the game. I think he is going to be a solid player. He could be a guy who moves inside. He has tremendous versatility.”

Risner began his K-State career at center, but moved to right tackle for his final three years of college football. A two-time all-conference blocker, some have suggested he has first-round potential. That may not be in the cards, but he has a shot at becoming the Wildcats’ highest draft pick since Josh Freeman went in the first round in 2009.

Cody Whitehair (2016) and Arthur Brown (2013) were both selected with the No. 56 pick, late in the second round.

K-State fans may have to wait until the later rounds on Saturday to see another former player get picked.

After leading the Big 12 in rushing yards last season and putting up strong numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, Barnes has worked his way into a probable selection. But Kiper doesn’t think he will go in the middle rounds.

“When you look at Barnes I think he’s more of a late rounder,” Kiper said. “He is a hard-nosed inside runner, but is limited in terms of speed and what he can do at the pro level in terms of making people miss.”

Barnes rushed for 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior last season and opted to leave early for the NFL. He is hoping to become K-State’s first running back to get drafted since Bryce Brown in 2012.

There is a big dropoff from Barnes to K-State’s next NFL Draft hopefuls, but there is hope former defensive backs Duke Shelley and Eli Walker could hear their names called.

Shelley had a strong showing at K-State’s pro day and has since worked out with a handful of teams.

And Kiper mentioned Walker on Monday.

“Walker has got a shot to make a team,” as a situational player, special-teamer.”

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