Connect with us

BSM Writers

Anatomy of an Analyst: Mel Kiper Jr

“When you hear the name Mel Kiper Jr, you know it’s time for the NFL Draft.”



“Who the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?” – Bob Irsay Indianapolis Colts

“I just don’t think the Jets understand the draft.” – Mel Kiper Jr.

When you hear the name Mel Kiper Jr, you know it’s time for the NFL Draft. Toiling in relative obscurity in the early days of the televised draft, Kiper’s sharp criticisms, befuddled looks after picks and cynicism have made him more of a household name recently. He’s appeared on ESPN’s draft coverage ever since 1984. His signature widow’s peak, gruff exterior and sharp tongue, have become as much of the experience as Jets fans booing whatever pick their team makes in the first round. 


The story of how he came to be is pretty amazing. Kiper is a self-made man. The football scouting bug bit him early. While in high school he began writing scouting reports on players and he was so confident in them, he handed them to an NFL Executive. Ernie Accorsi, who was then with the Baltimore Colts, saw the first reports and encouraged Kiper to stop giving away his research and start selling it to fans. Accorsi told him that there was a market for draft information and suggested that Kiper convert his analysis into a business.

So, while in college he started a business and now Kiper is president of “Kiper Enterprises”, which he founded in 1981. He spent numerous hours on the phone with college coaches and NFL GM’s trying to soak up information on players as he could, and in front of televisions to glean every last tidbit about a defensive lineman’s hip swivel and an offensive tackle’s motor. 

Kiper was one of the first, if not the first to do a mock draft.  These aren’t just done a week before the draft begins, they are done months ahead. These “mocks” that are so commonplace now and done by so many writers and publications, were unheard of when he started evaluating players. 

What he didn’t realize then and what America was about to find out, is that the information he gathered would eventually play on TV. Early on there wasn’t as much attention paid to the draft as there is now. It wasn’t even televised until 1980. ESPN was trying to expand and give credibility to its coverage and wanted experts to join the telecast. That’s were a 23-year-old Kiper got his break at least in the broadcasting world. He was paid $400 bucks to appear on the network in 1984. He brought that credibility in his research and knowledge. It wasn’t always as polished as it is now, but the info was amazing. 

Mel Kiper on the first televised NFL draft | Watch ESPN


Kiper has had some pretty well-known run ins with some organizations. He’s made comments about who they picked or didn’t when their turn came up. Perhaps the most famous was in 1994 between Kiper and then Colts executive Bill Tobin. 

It all started when a discussion began about what the Colts should do with their 2 first round picks. The Colts owned the #2 pick and after a trade of Jeff George to the Falcons they acquired the number 7 pick. That trade left only Jim Harbaugh on the roster, so naturally Kiper believed the Colts should draft a quarterback, either Heath Shuler or Trent Dilfer.

When the Colts made their first selection, Tobin chose future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. Kiper offered a little light criticism, insisting that the Colts needed to take a QB. Tobin then chose to trade up to the #5 pick, Shuler was off the board, so naturally everyone thought it was going to be Dilfer. The Colts chose linebacker Trev Alberts and Kiper lost it. 

“I think it was a typical Colts move,” Kiper said to host Chris Berman that night. “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 Super Bowl like other clubs in the National Football League.”

The telecast then brought in reporter Chris Mortensen who was covering the Colts. He asked Tobin for his response to criticism during a post-draft interview, the Colts GM came ready to fire back.  “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?” asks Tobin. “Here’s a guy that criticizes 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 never been a scout, he’s been an administrator and all of a sudden he’s an expert.”

The best part was as the rant from Tobin was going on, Kiper was listening in to the insults. 

“We don’t have to take anyone Mel Kiper says we have to take,” Tobin continues. “Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor’s a postman, and he doesn’t even have season tickets to the NFL.” Talk about free attention for your draft analyst! Tobin was clearly trying to embarrass Kiper but the plan didn’t work. In fact, it only led to a rise in fame for Kiper. It actually helped to solidify Kiper as the authority when it came to the NFL Draft. Tobin was fired after the 1996 season.

The other one of the most well-known rants came in 1989. That’s when the Jets chose defensive lineman Jeff Lageman with the 14th overall pick. Kiper went on to say, “It’s obvious to me right now that the Jets just don’t understand what the draft is all about.” Those comments of course made it back to the Jets and sparked a mini-feud (by comparison to the Colts).  Then the Jets director of college scouting Mike Hickey made Kiper a phenom by saying “‘Basically, who is this guy who works out of his basement in Baltimore?” Hickey was replaced the following year, and Kiper is still doing the draft on ESPN. 


He is the OG when it comes to draft analysis. This is his gig. He puts in the work and it shows. The research he does is meticulous and includes watching up to 25 college football games a week. This gives him a leg up on everyone, because he gains in-depth knowledge by actually getting eyes on the players he’s writing and talking about. He also spends a lot of time in talks with coaches, players, NFL team executives and folks in the league offices. Kiper creates his “big board“, which he ranks the top 25 players every week. During ESPN’s coverage of the draft, his board appears on the ticker and then updates as players are selected. 

He is a frequent guest on radio and tv shows in the months and weeks leading up to the NFL draft. His information is so valuable that he does a conference call with members of the national media a few days before the first pick is announced. It’s that kind of authority that makes him the number one pick of every draft, since his first in 1984. 


While he may come off as a know it all sometimes, there’s no denying he’s the best at what he does. I really can’t imagine draft coverage without him. It would be an empty broadcast. There’s nothing better than watching Kiper lament a terrible pick or gloat in his own way when a prediction comes through. He’s just intense and it works. 

5 Times Mel Kiper Jr Was Embarrassingly Wrong About NFL Draft Prospects

I can’t wait to hear Kiper and some of his buzz words. Beast mode runner. Burst. Coach killer. Fast riser. First kid off the bus. Mauler. Playmaker. Quicks. Space eater. Specimen. Throwback player. Velcro corner. Weightroom warrior. Finally, of course, best player available. 

Kiper is atop the “Big Board” of draft analysts and that’s not a reach. 

BSM Writers

Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different

I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Brian Noe




Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.

With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?

I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?

Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.

It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.

A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?

Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?

Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.

It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”

The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.

It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.

Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.

Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.

Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.

One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?

That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years

Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.



In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.

It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.

“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”

I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.

The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).

The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.

The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.

I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.

Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.

ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.

The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media

Brady Farkas



Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.






Continue Reading

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.