In his decades-long reign as the NFL’s premier guru, Mel Kiper Jr. has had his share of hits and misses. He judged the future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning higher than Ryan Leaf in 1998 (not everyone can say the same thing), but the top overall prospect on Kiper’s famous “Big Board” that year was Andre Wadsworth, a defensive end for Florida State, which was out of the league after three seasons. Kiper gave a first round to a live armed quarterback named Brett Favre in 1991 (the future three-time MVP eventually dropped to the second round), but Kiper was also very high on Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen in 2010. “If Jimmy Clausen isn’t a successful quarterback in the NFL, I’m done,” Kiper said at the time. “That’s it. I’m out.” Clausen finished his career with just seven touchdowns in 14 starts.
Meanwhile, Kiper is now in his 40th year as ESPN’s major design analyst. He is forgiven for the misjudgment, which in his chosen profession is not so much a job risk as an inevitability. actually general manager of a team – is to invite the chance to be proven wrong in spectacular fashion. One prediction Kiper undoubtedly got right is how the NFL version would become a fixture for football fans. “That’s one thing I was right about,” Kiper said. “You miss players. But the one thing I was right about, when I was a kid at 15, 16, 17 years old, I knew how big this was going to be. I had a vision of how big this was going to be.”
This year’s NFL version kicks off Thursday in downtown Kansas City, where hundreds of thousands are expected to be in attendance for a three-day event featuring a red carpet, celebrity cameos and musical performances, most notably Machine gun Kelly And Rick Ross will take the stage at Friday night’s “Kelce Jam,” hosted by the reigning Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce. Millions more will be watching on television as the draft now represents a tentpole event for ESPN and yet another testament to the NFL’s unwavering popularity in the United States. ESPN is pulling out all the stops, promising more than 30 hours of programming on its signature channel, ABC — which is also owned by the Walt Disney Company — as well as its radio, digital, and social platforms. The network sends a small army of hosts, commentators, and reporters to Kansas City to cover the festivals, including Adam Schefter, Suzy Kolber, Mike Greenberg, And Min Kimes.
The hype is already in full swing on the air, with frequent segments assessing this year’s outlook, along with others revisiting iconic moments from the past. “Who likes the NFL draft? America, that’s who,” Jeremy Sheep stated Sunday in one such segment. The design has “drama, suspense, the unexpected,” Schaap said, along with “moments that span the full spectrum of human emotion: humor, sadness, elation, and everything in between.” to switch to “room-to-wall coverage” on Thursday afternoons, with picks beginning to roll out in prime-time broadcasts that night and coverage continuing for two more days.
The television coverage is the most high-profile part of a year-round covenant for the DRAFT. Sports media is now the mock drafts and d. ETAILED Scouting reports of college football prospects, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kiper had cornered the market. He began scouting and analyzing prospects as a teenager growing up in Baltimore, and started his own draft report service in 1978. He was then doing as many as 25 interviews a day, breaking up the draft on radio shows across the country. were completed, Kiper said his phone lines were ringing with calls from people wanting to order his draft reports. Since joining ESPN in 1983, his pompadour hair and frantic delivery are now synonymous with the event. is his unparalleled ability to tear down any prospect – from the best quarterback to the fourth best center.
Kiper saw the draft burst out of smoke-filled hotel ballrooms and move to glittering New York venues like Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. And he’s stayed in his role as the tour evolved into something more like Coachella.” knew there was a lot of interest in this whole design process,” Kiper said. “People couldn’t get enough of this.”
If Kiper is the patron saint of mock drafts, Chet Simmons, ESPN’s first president, is the originator of the draft broadcast. Simmons, like Kiper, saw potential in the procedure, then known as the “annual player selection meeting.”
“He had this crazy idea that the design would make good television,” said former ESPN president Steve Bornstein said of Simmons, who died in 2010. June, or programmer for ESPN at the time, was at the league’s Park Avenue office at that meeting in early 1980.
“Commissioner Rozelle laughed. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world,” Bornstein recalled. “As far as he was concerned it was nothing more than a glorified press conference, and in those days people generally didn’t televise press conferences.” Rozelle didn’t need much arm twisting. He oversaw a major expansion of league television coverage during his tenure as Commissioner, most notably the creation of Monday night football. If anyone were receptive to Simmons’ quirky proposal, it would be Rozelle. The owners of the league, on the other hand, were not on board. “They didn’t want the draft to be televised,” said Kiper. thought it would be embarrassing for the league to only broadcast names on television.” The owners unanimously rejected the proposal, but Rozelle was not satisfied with an answer.
On April 29, 1980, just over seven months after its launch, ESPN aired the NFL version for the first time. For a network that was still in its infancy, the version had a practical function. “We filled the time,” Bornstein said. “We were trying to program sports 24 hours a day with a very thin library of material. Any time you could fill hours of programming, it was a good idea. If you filled it with the number one sport in America, the National Football League, that’s an even better idea.”