No matter what you think of him, Mel Kiper is one of the reasons the NFL Draft is as big as it is. Before the NFL Network and the internet, some of us back in the 1980’s got draft info from Kiper’s previews in the Sporting News or on quick ESPN segments.
The NFL draft, back when I started my business in 1978, and in 1983 with ESPN, it was totally different. When I started with ESPN, we were only covering the first round and into the second round. We would get to maybe the middle part of the second round and then sign off. It went from that, to eventually covering every round and then from a two-day draft to a three-day draft, and then from being on Tuesday morning to being on a weekend. I can tell you, as somebody who was in this from the beginning, when people were asking me, Why are you putting out draft reports, why are you wasting time doing something that nobody cares about? To see it get to this point, and know that you really proved all of those doubters and skeptics wrong, it is a source of great personal satisfaction for me. A lot of people asked me, Why are you wasting your time? Get a real job. Nobody cares about the NFL draft, nobody cares about your opinions. So when you see it now, I am glad to see that everybody has an opinion, there are bloggers out there and websites out there for the draft all over the place. I am glad to see the millions and millions of people watching and to see the interest all year. We start talking draft in August and we go all the way up until May. It is really a 10-months-a-year thing, where you are talking the draft on a regular basis, it is pretty amazing. I thought it could be, and it’s the one thing I have been right about. I thought back when I started that there has to be a way to get information to the fans. They couldn’t see these players, they weren’t televising many games then on a Saturday and your team is drafting these players and you don’t know who the heck they are! So my job was to provide that information and let everybody know who these players were. I really thought there was a market for this when I started this, so I was correct in that regard, because I had a heck of a business for a lot of years and that led to me being at ESPN. The business when I started it in 1978 was something that proved everybody wrong, that you could build a business by doing this and certainly the draft on ESPN could be a huge success.
I don’t follow Mel much anymore, but I do appreciate everything he’s done for the draft. And I hear he’s a great person off camera.