A small sampling of some hits and misses for Mel Kiper Jr., who began analyzing college football players and NFL drafts in the 1970s and made his ESPN draft-day debut in 1984:
— Kiper rated Purdue QB Jeff George as the 84th-best player in the 1990 draft; George was chosen No. 1 overall by Indianapolis; he went 46-78 as a starter plus a 1-2 playoff record, in 12 seasons with five NFL teams. As on-screen graphics were being prepared for 1990 draft show, someone at ESPN asked Kiper why George wasn’t on the list of top prospects. “He said, ‘Well, I can’t put up a Top 40 list and not have the No. 1 guy.’ I said, ‘Well, put him 40th. If you have to put him somewhere, put him 40th,”’ Kiper remembers.
— Kiper rated Notre Dame QB Rick Mirer as the 30th-best player in the 1993 draft; Mirer was chosen No. 2 overall by Seattle; he went 24-44 as a starter, with 50 TDs and 76 INTs, in eight seasons with five NFL teams.
— Asked to cite a player he was more impressed by than NFL teams were, Kiper points to Towson State running back and kick returner Dave Meggett, who lasted until the fifth round in 1989 before being drafted by the New York Giants. Meggett wound up as a two-time Pro Bowl selection and ranks 37th in league history in all-purpose yards.
— Kiper rated TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson as tied for the 25th-best player in the 2001 draft, and only the third-best running back that year, behind Mississippi’s Deuce McAllister and Wisconsin’s Michael Bennett. Tomlinson was chosen fifth overall by San Diego; he ranks second in NFL history with 126 TDs rushing and 14th with more than 11,000 yards rushing. McAllister has run for 49 TDs and 6,096 yards; Bennett has run for 13 TDs and 3,627 yards.
— Kiper had QBs Dan McGwire and Brett Favre rated evenly heading into the 1991 draft; San Diego State’s McGwire (brother of baseball’s Mark) was chosen No. 16 overall by Seattle; Southern Mississippi’s Favre was taken in the second round, No. 33 overall, by Atlanta. McGwire made five NFL starts, the last in 1995; Favre was traded to Green Bay before the 1992 season and retired in February with one Super Bowl championship and league records for career TD passes (464), completions (5,720), yards passing (65,127) and regular-season victories (169).
— Kiper is the first to acknowledge he has a history of misses in both directions on high picks by the Detroit Lions, who have the No. 1 overall choice Saturday.
He thought Houston QB Andre Ware “was going to be a great NFL quarterback. Didn’t turn out that way.” Ware was chosen No. 7 overall by Detroit in 1990; he retired after six career NFL starts. Kiper considered Ohio State LB Chris Spielman “a decent-to-good player. I thought he was a fourth- or fifth-round pick.” Spielman was taken 29th overall by Detroit; he was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. “Had a great NFL career,” Kiper says. “Chris always tells the story: When he woke up at 3 in the morning, he’d look at a picture of me he put on the wall and would do 300 sit-ups, 300 push-ups. It motivated him to say, ‘This moron, this idiot, said I couldn’t get it done.”’
More recently, Kiper was high on Southern Cal WR Mike Williams; Detroit took him 10th overall in 2005, Williams made seven starts, had 44 catches and two TDs, and was out of the league after three seasons.
“Mike let his weight get up there. Another Detroit Lion. When the Detroit Lions take a player,” Kiper says with a self-effacing smile, “I’m not going to hit that player too good.”