This was a story I typed up for consideration on a site - it was rejected by an "editorial board", so I figured I'd rather just toss it up here and let you guys have a go at it too.
Here Comes Kiper
If you’re ever lost in the great outdoors and need to find your way north, don’t worry about looking for the tree-side moss to show you the way home. Simply look for the slicked-back hairline helmet head of Mel Kiper emerging from the depths of his season long hibernation. Whichever rock he pushes aside as he surfaces for air will no doubt possess enough moss on the north side to help you regain your direction. Just make sure you run; and run fast, lest you fall to the sounds of yet another know-it-all Mel Kiper draft prediction.
With the draft in New York City nearly a month away, expect to hear your fair share of Kiper predictions surface over the next few weeks. Since 1984, Kiper has posed as ESPN’s NFL draft expert. His stellar predictions have ranged anywhere from publicly stating JJ Stokes as a “sure thing” (1995) to predicting the New England Patriots would post a winless 0-16 record in 2001 (the Patriots won the Super Bowl with an 11-5 record). Not to be missed in the years between, Kiper also suggested the 1998 draft would bring Ryan Leaf to the forefront as a future star of the game over a similarly highly-desired quarterback by the name of Peyton Manning.
Similar to the likes of movie critics Ebert and Roeper, it takes a lot of gall to stand out as voice of a niche market. However, Kiper faces a different crowd than that of the highly acclaimed movie critics. While Ebert and Roeper’s predictions may cause a rustle in the movie-goer world, their judgment of a Hollywood flick is not contingent on how the movie will pan out in the future. Their rating for a movie is finite from the second they move onto the next one. The movie will not change for the better (or worse), the actors can’t alter dialogue to enhance the movie and there is no way a director can re-shoot a blotched up scene. In other words, their rating poses as the final word. People looking to save ten-dollars will resist seeing a poorly rated movie, watching the cinematic debacle slowly fade into the realms of Hollywood obscurity.
But that is not the case with player predictions. Saying a player like JJ Stokes is on course to be the next Jerry Rice is an entirely plausible statement. It’s a strong statement that is based entirely on Stokes’ performance. Unlike a cinematic rating, Stokes’ play can change – for good or for bad. In a hypothetical situation where Kiper could (and most likely would) hype a player for his speed or lead-blocking abilities, any and all of the positive criticism can change once the player makes it to the big-time.
Consider a top draft pick. For the sake of this article (and to not single out any particular player in this year’s draft for the sake of making my own Kiperism) we’ll call this player Prospect A, a running back out of a recent Random Bowl winning school. Now Prospect A had an amazing college career – he was fast, he was lean and he could jam the ball for two yards up the middle just as easily as he could break tackles on a pitch out for a gain of ten. Prospect A goes first overall and has the backing of every critic and ‘expert’ alike. Prospect A is going to be good, and no one seems to think otherwise.
Yet in the first game of the year, in a horribly tragic accident that can only exist in a sports writer’s column, Prospect A’s knee explodes on impact on the first run from scrimmage. He’s no doubt out for the season and will immediately go into surgery to repair his knee. Amazingly, Prospect A will return to the lineup the following year but training camp footage will show that he has clearly lost a step. Within five years Prospect A finds himself on the outskirts of the NFL, opting to play in Canada for the remainder of his short career before taking a coaching job with a local high school in his hometown.
The could’ves, would’ves and should’ves will all be replaced by a new prospect that carries with him new expectations in the upcoming draft. Prospect A is no longer the talk of the town.
Or is he?
You’ll always have people (like me) who will bring up past instances of players like Prospect A. More often than not this prospect will be linked to a critic (Kiper) who claimed Prospect A would be the next (insert Hall of Fame player name here).
While Mel Kiper may very well be one of the worst things to happen to college football, or possibly even the NFL in general, fans and players alike need a guy like Kiper. Because of Kiper, players like Andre Ware and Akili Smith will forever be remembered, if only by name, as college superstars and NFL busts.