What Does Mel Kiper Do All Day?
Typically, the day after the first round of an NFL Draft, I’d post five-word, all caps, bold-faced responses to each pick in the previous night’s action. This year, I’ve chosen to talk about something more serious: ESPN’s draft “expert” Mel Kiper.
After months of researching and observing and six different mock drafts, Kiper got picks #1, 2, 4, 6, 14, and 19 correct. That’s it. Two givens, two gimmes and two actual correct picks. This is his whole job. These picks are the only thing he does.
Our SpreeGoogs draft got #1, 6, 25, and 28 right, which is quantitatively fewer, but qualitatively way better, plus we only got one try and we made those picks, in most cases, a full week or two before the draft. On top of that, we predicted the Saints trading up to get a receiver and the Seahawks trading out of the first round. And all of us have other jobs. We have no information, no interviews with teams or prospects, no access to the combine or pro days, no nothing. In Mel Kiper’s full-time high-paying job, he barely bested a bunch of first-time bloggers helping a friend out in a mock draft.
Let me state that one more time in case you missed it: Mel Kiper wakes up every day, treats his hair and puts on a nice suit to go assess college football players and NFL football teams in preparation for the NFL draft. He supposedly has a sh*tload of metrics, statistics, behind-the-scenes intel and personal connections to tell him about NFL teams’ draft boards and he turned all of that into basically nothing. He has one beat and one job and he correctly picked 2 of the last 25 picks of the first round.
This post isn’t about the difference between our mock and Kiper’s. It’s solely about him and how necessary he is or isn’t. I know I didn’t take any of my draft information from ESPN, but I can’t say anything about the other 31 picks in our mock. There’s a really good chance that some of our fans read his stuff before making their picks for SpreeGoogs. Maybe that’s why we missed 28 of 32 picks.
Here’s what I want to say about Mel Kiper: He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know any more about the draft that you or I do. He might know more about the players and teams, but he clearly hasn’t learned anything about how they will actually pair up. His job is to be the draft expert, but he’s not the expert about the actual draft, he’s the expert at creating stories for TV that relate to the draft.
Consider the quarterback position in this year’s draft class. As was accurately pointed out in our mock draft, after all of the college football had been played last season, Teddy Bridgewater was who Mel Kiper had anointed as the best at the position. After the combine, some pro days and a bunch of other padless, helmetless nonsense, Kiper projected Johnathan M. Football as the first quarterback taken. Of course, during the real draft, Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken, and apparently the Jaguars were planning on it for months. To be clear, the first two picks of the draft were pretty clear for at least the last week, and the team with the third pick walked into the Draft planning to take Bortles, and Mel Kiper didn’t know. Of course, Mel Kiper hates the pick (because he knows better than the other people whose job it is to evaluate college football players for the NFL) and can blabber on for days about how it was a terrible pick, but the reality is that anyone with the actual level of information that Mel Kiper is supposed to have wouldn’t have missed that.
What does ESPN do? They don’t write about the Bortles pick. They don’t write about any of the first 21 picks. They write about the guy that they walked into the Draft preparing to write about: Johnathan M. Football. What happened with the quarterbacks and NFL actual draft was irrelevant to the story. They were writing about Manziel and that was that. He was Mel Kiper’s top quarterback and he was important. More important than the actual first quarterback taken. Manziel was selected 10 spots before Bridgewater in a similar draft-day-fall story, except it barely got any coverage. The actual most valuable quarterback got basically no coverage. The story of Johnny Manziel as the most important quarterback taken was more important than the story of the most important quarterback taken as the most important quarterback taken.
Mel Kiper didn’t have information about Manziel. He didn’t talk to anyone who knew that he would get picked early, he talked to the analytics team at ESPN.com and found out that Manziel stories do better than other stories. So they wrote a ton of Manziel stories and forced them on the draft even though we watched him becoming less and less important for three hours before he actually mattered at the draft.
I remember watch the Draft as my Saints traded from 27 to 20 last night. At the time, there was a great cornerback left (Darqueze Dennard) and Kiper was so confident that the Saints made the trade to grab him and spent the entire 10-minute lead-up talking about them picking Dennard. Of course they drafted Brandin Cooks. Not a cornerback, not even a defensive player.
Listen, I’m a man who loves drafts, so I like that there’s someone out there getting people excited, I just wish he was more actual information and less storytelling and hype.
I understand that teams keep their lips sealed pretty tightly about which players they’re interested in around Draft time, but in all seriousness, what is Mel Kiper doing if he can’t get more than six picks right? And two of them were pretty commonly-accepted knowledge. It’s a very inexact science and one or two unpredicted moves can end up skewing every subsequent move, but this is his whole job. Meteorology is complicated too, but the weatherman can still predict things accurately.
I’m not saying I could do better than Mel, but that’s a useless comparison to begin with. I’m an unpaid blogger with a whole other full-time job, he’s a professional TV personality who does this kind of thing specifically. I can call Andrew Bynum a bad contract too, even though he could dunk on me. I don’t need to be superior in his field to be justified in criticizing him. I just think there has to be a point where we stop calling actual draft picks dumb based on how far they are from Kiper’s rankings and start calling Kiper useless because of how far his picks are from the actual draft.