In my 33 years of being a football fan, I can't possibly estimate how many hours I've spent either watching Mel Kiper talk about college prospects on ESPN, or reading his projections, analysis, and draft grades on espn.com. I'm a fan... a big fan. The hair, the mannerisms, the knowledge, the whole thing. Ask Kiper about a guard from some little D3 school in North Dakota, and he'll rattle off his strengths and weaknesses off the top of his head. He's become an icon of sorts in the professional sports world, and somewhat of an oddity, in that you only really see him for 2-3 months every year, but for those 2-3 months he's everywhere. He's kind of like the Michael Jordan of draftniks, and with the insane popularity of the NFL draft growing to unfathomable levels, his stature as "the guy" in that unique world is something to be envied.
That is why it was with great interest and surprise I read about Kiper's possible conflict of interest in George Dohrmann's outstanding read for Sports Illustrated about sports agents, which strongly implied that Kiper may be in cahoots with agent Gary Wichard.
This isn't the first time Kiper has been scrutinized for letting conflicts of interest get in way of honest analysis. Many people questioned whether his friendship with Wichard influenced his high rating for Jimmy Clausen. Kiper had Clausen rated higher than Sam Bradford leading up to the 2010 draft. I went back to Kiper's final "big board" (his April 21st edition) on espn.com, but that page was curiously not loading. Instead, I went to the "big board" he published the prior week (April 14th). Clausen was ranked 4th. He was eventually drafted 48th overall by Carolina.
But Clausen wasn't the only Wichard prospect in this draft class. The others were C.J. Spiller, Taylor Mays, Arrelious Benn, and Everson Griffen. All 4 made appearances on Kiper's Top 25 big board at some point leading up to draft day, although C.J. Spiller was the only one that made Kiper's April 14 big board. Kiper had Spiller ranked 8th - He was drafted 9th overall to the Bills, a move that was widely considered a reach by analysts. Interestingly, Kiper did a 2nd round mock draft after the 1st round of the 2010 draft had been completed, and here is where Kiper suggested Wichard's clients should be drafted, in order:
- Kiper had Arrelious Benn being drafted 1st in the 2nd round (33rd overall) by the Rams. Benn would eventually be drafted by the Buccaneers at 37.
- Kiper had Taylor Mays being drafted 2nd in the 2nd round (34th overall) by the Vikings. Mays would eventually be taken 49th overall by the 49ers.
- Kiper had Jimmy Clausen being drafted 4th in the 2nd round (36th overall) by the Chiefs. As noted above, he went 48th to the Panthers.
- Kiper had Everson Griffen being drafted 22nd in the 2nd round (54th overall) by the Bengals. He would eventually be drafted 100th overall, in the 4th round by Minnesota.
I'm certainly willing to hear Kiper out, but he has some explaining to do.