Who in the hell Is Mel kiper anyway?

By George Somerville

George continues his dive into the draft vault to find some more great moments in draft history.

Mel Kiper is a name which is synonymous with the NFL Draft and he is considered a pillar of the Draft community. You might almost say he is the grandfather of the Draft.

Ever wondered how Mel Kiper got to where he is today? Well, when Commish Goodell declares the Draft open from his house in April, it will be 26 years since Mel Kiper’s most infamous moment. The moment which launched him to be a nationwide household name.

The Beginning

In 1994, Mel Kiper was a relatively unknown analyst working  for ESPN. This relative unknown tag was not to last much longer.

That year the Indianapolis Colts had two first round picks (#2 and #7) as a result of having traded starting quarterback, Jeff George to the Atlanta Falcons. This left the Colts with one rostered quarterback, Michigan’s  Jim Harbaugh.

Trading away their starting QB seemed to signal the Colts intention to draft a replacement and Kiper had been vocal that the Colts would draft one of Tennessee’s Heath Shuler or Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer.

Trev Alberts

With pick #2, the Colts selected future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk which prompted criticism from Kiper that the Colts needed to first and foremost address the QB position. 

With pick #3, Washington selected  Heath Shuler prompting speculation that the Colts would need to trade up beyond Tampa Bay to secure the quarterback they desperately needed. Or so the football fraternity thought.

Right on cue the Colts did trade up two spots to pick #5, ahead of Tampa. However with pick #5 of the 1994 NFL Draft the Indianapolis Colts did not select quarterback Trent Dilfer. Instead they selected Nebraska’s  linebacker Trev Alberts.

That's a typical Colts move....

Kiper who was working the live ESPN feed along with Chris Boomer Berman was none to happy with this pick and immediately told the watching audience exactly what he thought of this move,

“I think it was a typical Colts move. The Colts needed a quarterback. To pass up a Trent Dilfer when all you have is Jim Harbaugh – give me a break. That’s why the Colts are picking second every year in the Draft and not battling for the Superbowl like other clubs in the National Football League”, said Kiper live on ESPN.

This in itself was box office, however shortly after this no holds barred assessment of the Colts picks, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen asked Colts GM, Bill Tobin for his response to the Kiper criticism. Tobin’s response was the stuff of Draft legend and instantly made Mel Kiper that household name. Live on TV, Tobin said this of ESPN’s draft analyst,

“Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway? Here’s a guy that criticises everybody, whoever they take. He’s got the answers to who you should take and who you shouldn’t take. And my knowledge of him: He’s never ever put on a jock strap, he’s never been a coach, he’s been an administrator and all of a sudden he’s an expert”.

Tobin’s rant continued…

“We don’t have to take anyone Mel Kiper says we have to take. Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbour, and my neighbour’s a postman, and he doesn’t even have season tickets to the NFL”.

What could have been.

Of course with the benefit of hindsight we now know that the Colts pick of Alberts was a bust and Trent Dilfer went on to win a Superbowl with the Baltimore Ravens.

But 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we could all be GM’s three years after each pick. And talking of GM’s – what happened to the Colts GM who jousted with the young Mel Kiper?

GM Bill Tobin lasted another three years before getting fired.

And Mel Kiper? Yes, as I said at the top of this article, he went on to become a household name as a result of this confrontation. Mel Kiper continues to be a feature of the Draft and is now in his 36th year with ESPN.

And the greatest irony about the 1994 draft? Kurt Warner was undrafted. But that’s another story for another time…..

Mock Draft

george somerville

College football writer