Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Methods: Understanding Draft Day Nonsense
As I sat and watched the NFL draft, I was reminded why the whole production has become so intolerable. I love the drama of which player goes where, who’s going to drop and which teams are going to trade up or down. But the so-called analysis part of the coverage is absolute garbage. The featured five-man broadcast team that ESPN decided to employ for the 2010 draft consisted of Mel Kiper Jr, Jon Gruden, Steve Young, Tom Jackson and Chris Berman.
Let’s quickly review the qualifications of each man.
Jon Gruden – He landed his first head coaching job at the age of 35 with the Raiders and went 40-28 over four seasons with them and went to the playoffs three times. He moved on to Tampa Bay and became the youngest coach at the time to win a Super Bowl. He went on to lead the Bucs to a 57-55 record over seven seasons with three playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl title.
Steve Young – A two-time NFL MVP, Steve Young also was named the Super Bowl MVP in 1994. He is a highly decorated football legend that spent the majority of his career with the 49ers. But while he was a great player, he has no experience in a football front office, which means he’s not overly learned in the art of assembling a winning football team.
Tom Jackson – He enjoyed a 14-year career with the Denver Broncos and was a three-time Pro-Bowl selection and a two-time All-Pro selection. Like Young however, Jackson has no front office experience, and although he makes for a passable game commentator, he’s prone to babbling and rarely adds any insight on draft day.
Chris Berman – He is nothing but a self-indulged broadcaster. Some people find him charming and amusing, but in reality, he’s nothing but a nonsensical parrot. You quickly tire of his phonetic anecdotes and he masks his lack of football knowledge with a lot of literary fluff.
Mel Kiper Jr – Since 1984, Kiper has been covering the NFL draft and the prospects that are involved. You’d think because of his profession and the longevity he’s enjoyed that he’d be good at it. He most certainly is not. Kiper has been widely criticized by front office football officials due to his lack of football experience at any level, professional or amateur. He’s little more than a hairsprayed blowhard who absolutely loves hearing himself speak.
One out of five commentators is qualified to analyze what’s going on during the draft. One of the five have ever been involved in the process of selecting amateur players for a professional football team.
In light of this, I thought it would be fun to go back and check out some of the ESPN chats that Mel Kiper Jr hosted leading up to the drafts and see if I could identify all four of the Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Methods that have enabled him to make a living based off one weekend a year.
Mark (Indy): Mel, any clue as to where the Colts go in Round 1? Any chance of Jerry Hughes there?
Mel: I think right now, maybe not. For my final projection, I think I’ll have him off the board. Odrick might be there. Price. I could see them going DT. A sleeper could be Linval Joseph from East Carolina.
Here, we see Kiper employ Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #1 – The List. He loves to use these methods to cover his many shortcomings when it comes to reporting. Pay attention because we’ll cover them all before we’re done.
In this case, when he has no idea what he’s talking about, his solution is simply to name names. He don’t even have to use them in a complete sentence, and if he forgets the first name, he’ll just throw the guy’s last name in the middle somewhere.
And with the 31st pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Colts selected Jerry Hughes, Texas Christian.
Bill (Buffalo): If Clausen drops, do you see any team trading up from the second round into the mid-late first round to draft him?
Mel: He’s not dropping. I thought maybe after the Redskins traded for McNabb, that would hurt him. But the question is, do the Redskins still look at a QB? That’s the big question. Do they still have interest at number four? McNabb won’t have them drafting number four. He’ll have them at worst 8-8. This might be their best chance in a while to get an elite QB.
First off, let me draw your attention to the use of Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #2 – The Talk-Around. Not once in his response does he even come close to addressing the question.
Question: If Clausen slips does anyone trade up from the second round to the late first to get him?
Answer: The Redskins are at worst an 8-8 team with McNabb, so do they want two high-priced quarterbacks?
What the heck?
Secondly, Jimmy Clausen has done nothing to warrant anyone tabbing him as an “elite” quarterback. And the Redskins just jumped at the chance not more than a month ago to get an elite quarterback when they traded for Donovan McNabb. McNabb is an elite quarterback and still has several good years left in him. There’s no reason for Washington to even look Clausen’s way, and they didn’t, choosing instead to select an offensive lineman to protect McNabb.
Donnie (Oklahoma): You mentioned you didn’t think Bradford would be a Ram, who do you think will end up with him?
Kiper: You have to think about teams that look at him as the guy. Seattle, Cleveland, Oakland, Buffalo, Washington. Any one of those teams.
Seriously, the Rams had passed an half a dozen franchise quarterbacks in the past few years and have just seen themselves get worse and worse. To be a good team in the NFL you need a guy behind center who can control a game. Marc Bulger wasn’t that guy and Kyle Boller certainly isn’t.
In a draft where everyone was looking to trade down, did Kiper really expect any of the teams he listed to put together the ridiculous package it would have taken to move up to one? Bradford has exceptional NFL tools and was far and away the best quarterback prospect in the draft. And a team with a serious need at that position was picking first.
Please note the use of Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #1 again. No explanation or insight, just a list of names.
Brian (Baton Rouge): Do you think the Saints will take a linebacker in the first round and if so, who?
Mel: If they want a LB in the first round they’ll probably look Sean Weatherspoon. If they don’t go there, then they could go for a DE.
Maybe he didn’t realize that the Saints won the Super Bowl and therefore held the 32nd overall pick. Sean Weatherspoon was never falling that far, there were too many teams that needed linebacker help that were picking in the mid-to-late first round. But I think Kiper may have had all of those teams selecting Jimmy Clausen. The Saints ended up not going with a linebacker in the first round. They also failed to take Mel’s advice about a DE and went with a cornerback.
Brad (Colorado): Were you higher on McFadden a few years ago than you are on Spiller now?
Mel: They’re about the same. McFadden was versatile, but Spiller is a dynamic pass receiving option and dynamic return man, punts and kicks. Spiller’s the best all-purpose back to come out since Reggie Bush. Bush has a Super Bowl ring. One of the reasons they did win was because of his versatility. I said all along that even when he wasn’t making plays, teams were focusing in on him. That’s what Spiller will do.
Please notice the italicized sentence. It’s Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #3 – the Random Fact Drop. He drops in this beauty about Bush having a Super Bowl ring, which has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand, and regardless, isn’t an accurate reflection of Reggie Bush’s NFL performance. The Saints championship wasn’t won by Reggie Bush’s versatile abilities. But by telling you this, he’s diverted your attention from the fact that he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.
Benjamin (The Colony, TX):I’m seeing Trent Williams projected #6 overall. That would make three OU picks in the top-6! (assuming Bradford and McCoy go 1 and 3 as planned) When was the last time you can remember three picks from one school going so high in the draft? (at least top-10).
Mel: Two of the players from OU didn’t play at all – Gresham and Bradford. OU didn’t get what they thought they would this season. It’s amazing that they have all of these prospects. Williams, at 313 pounds ran a 4.81 at the combine. That’s amazing speed. You’re thinking about guys like TEs running in the 4.8s. 34.5 vertical. He needs to work harder in the weight room in the offseason. A number of the OTs did 30+ reps and he didn’t. You definitely want 25 or more and Williams only did 23. Anthony Davis did only 21.
Here’s a perfect example of the Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #4 – The Complete 180. He takes the question, completely ignores it and answers something different. In this case, the reader asks about the last time one school so dominated the top of the first round. The normal fan’s mind expects to hear about the recent classes to come out of schools like Miami and Florida State ten or fifteen years ago, or to a more recent extent, USC.
But Kiper mentions none of these. He just lists off combine numbers that ultimately aren’t all that important and that any interested fan probably already knows.
Those are the Four Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Methods that you should always be on the lookout for when the NFL draft starts hijacking all of the ESPN networks. Keep them tucked away in your mind, and you’ll eventually be able to sift through Kiper’s nonsensical babbling and realize that the only way to truly understand the draft, is to watch it unfold.
Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #1 – The List
Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #2 – The Talk Around
Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #3 – Random Fact Drop
Mel Kiper Topic Avoidance Method #4 – The Complete 180°