AUBURN, Ala. — Mel Kiper wasn't asked to give a comparison for Tre Mason on Wednesday.
But ESPN's noted NFL draft guru offered one up, anyway.
"He's a Ray Rice-type runner, I believe," Kiper said. "I would say third round for him."
And it's easy to see where the crux of Kiper's comparison comes from: The two running backs are nearly identical in size. Rice is 5-foot-8 and 212 pounds; at Auburn's pro day in March, Mason came in at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds.
Rice has been the starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens since 2009. In four of the past five seasons, Rice has run for more than 1,100 yards. He's also proven to be a threat out of the backfield, catching at least 58 passes each of the last five years.
After breaking Bo Jackson's single-season school rushing record last season with 1,816 yards, there are no questions about Mason's ability to carry the ball. The same can't be said about his pass catching. Blame the Tigers' run-heavy offense, which ranked 116th (out of 123 FBS teams) in pass attempts last season. In 14 games last season, Mason had 12 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown.
Kiper, however, had no reservations about Mason, believing he can develop into an effective all-around player in the pros.
"I know his blocking needs to improve, but he caught the ball better," Kiper said. "He's an excellent runner."