As the 2017 NFL season begins to come to an end, another very exciting period of the NFL calendar is approaching for football fans around the country. After each season ends, fans get excited as the road to the NFL Draft begins. Reporters and fans from all around the globe start breaking down the play of college football’s best stars, and try to put together mock drafts of where each player will end up. Now, going from college football to the NFL isn’t as easy as it seems. In the NFL, you’re playing with the best of the best, and the smartest of all players. Sometimes, players aren’t able to perform at a high level in the NFL like they did in college.
One of the most popular reporters who analyzes college players from every university, is Mel Kiper Jr. He’s been covering ESPN’s annual draft coverage every year since 1984. Now, a lot of fans take his information to heart because he’s been known as such a reputable source. But sometimes, even Mel Kiper Jr can’t get it right. As draft season approaches, we like to look back at players that Kiper predicted would be stars, and poved him right, as well as the players he was wrong about.
15 Wrong: JaMarcus Russell
The picture says it all. All the way through the 2007 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper Jr. was extremely high on JaMarcus Russell. When Russell got drafted, Kiper actually said, “three years from now, you could be looking at a guy who’s one of the elite, top five quarterbacks in the league.” Kiper even managed to mention John Elway in the same sentence as Russell, but he definitely regrets those words.
All the Raiders had to do was wait two to three years, to release him instead. Due to JaMarcus Russell’s poor play, he is labeled as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL Draft history. Through three seasons, he had a record of 7-18, throwing for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. Those terrible numbers are numbers you could see of a struggling starting quarterback in one season. Russell found his way in and out of the NFL, very quickly.
14 Right: Jourdan Lewis
A lot of times, you see troubled players easily fail in the NFL. Well, Jourdan Lewis was supposed to be one of those guys, but instead never was, so far. Lewis was supposed to be drafted later on in in the draft, due to domestic violence charge for which he was proven innocent. Mel Kiper Jr. explained how the only thing holding Lewis back was his height, but despite that, that he had all the abilities to become an elite cornerback in the NFL. He talked about how Lewis would be a day two type of draft pick, and that is exactly what happened.
The Dallas Cowboys selected the cornerback from Michigan in the third round. Lewis ended up being a shockingly great draft pick, and got a lot of playing time throughout the 2017 season. For when he was drafted, Lewis played like he could be a future star on that Dallas defense.
13 Wrong: Joe Mixon
Anything can happen at any moment, which can easily affect your draft stock. Well, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon had that happen to him. A video was released of him punching a woman in the face, which spiraled around the Internet, which led the star running back’s draft stock to diminish. Mixon ended up getting drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile, Mel Kiper Jr. said that Mixon had more talent than any other running back in the draft.
Now of course, there’s always others to blame. And he's just a rookie, so the jury is still out. But let’s compare Mixon to other running backs in the same draft. Mixon fell short of 600 rushing yards this season, while Leonard Fournette broke the 1,000 yard mark and averaged around four yards a carry. And through only four games, Dalvin Cook rushed for 354 yards, two touchdowns, and 4.8 yards per carry. Clearly, Mixon did not have the most talent in this draft.
12 Right: Matt Ryan
Many are torn on whether Matt Ryan is truly an elite NFL QB. Yes, he just had a banner year in 2016, winning the MVP award and nearly bringing the Falcons their first Super Bowl title. Then again, many don't feel elite QBs would ever be part of such an epic collapse the way Ryan was in Super Bowl LI. Nevertheless, Ryan's been in the league for nearly 10 years and he's had plenty more good moments than bad ones. Kiper had high hopes for Ryan and it turned out he was right. Ryan got one of the highest grades Kiper has ever given to a quarterback and looking back on the 2008 draft, Ryan likely should've been the no.1 overall pick. Kiper can tip hit cap on this one.
11 Wrong: T.J. Watt
Like most analysts, many people weren’t the biggest fans of linebacker T.J. Watt. Even though he is related to the beastly J.J. Watt, he was frowned upon because of his lack of size and ability to play against NFL offensive linemen. Well, Watt proved all those experts wrong, including Kiper, who actually admitted that he was wrong. This season, Watt has 46 tackles and 6.0 sacks. And that is just the beginning for T.J. Watt, as he hopes for more playing time with years to come, and more experience to become more of a threat. Watt also had an interception in which he returned in back for 17 yards. Watt proved that even at his size, he can be a versatile player that can make plays all over the field.
10 Right: Jamal Adams
Jamal Adams was projected to be drafted high in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he did, just maybe a little later than expected. Adams was drafted with the sixth overall draft pick to the New York Jets. Before the season started, this Jets team looked like it had no chance to win a football game. Now, this team has improved a lot and blew away their expectations for this season, and a big part comes from the defense, led by Jamal Adams.
Kiper said that Adams had the ability to be one of the most versatile safeties in the game. He also talked about how he would be great in the box and making tackles around the edge. Adams was in the top five on the team of tackles, with 73 so far, this season. To add to that list, Adams also has two sacks. He looks like a prime example of what the Jets want their future to look like.
9 Wrong: Le'Veon Bell
Le'Veon Bell somehow got overlooked back at the 2013 NFL Draft, despite his ridiculous college production. In three seasons at Michigan State, Bell accumulated 3,346 yards rushing as well as 531 yards receiving. However, in his assessment of Bell, Kiper had doubts that Bell's skills would translate to the NFL level. Even after an impressive rookie season, Kiper left Bell off his All-Rookie team.
A couple of years ago, Bell went on a fairly long Twitter rant, ripping into Kiper and accusing him of playing favorites in his draft assessments. All Bell has done in his career is emerge as one of the elite RBs of the NFL and has introduced a running style unlike anything we've really seen before. The Steelers are definitely glad they weren't listening to ESPN.
8 Right: DeShone Kizer
Many times, draft analysts change when they think a player is going to get drafted, but for the most part, Mel Kiper Jr. did not believe that quarterback, DeShone Kizer, was a first round draft pick. And he wasn’t, as he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round. Kiper said that Kizer was considered “weak” when compared to other quarterbacks. Kiper went on to talk about how his decision-making and late throws were among is weaknesses. He also spoke about how if Kizer couldn’t succeed in Notre Dame, he can’t succeed in the NFL.
Well, we have seen a lot of this translate to the NFL. In fact, Kizer hasn’t even won a game in his career so far, starting in 15 games. With Kizer throwing over twice as many interceptions as touchdowns and leading the Browns to a winless season, needless to say, Kizer has been an absolute nightmare.
7 Wrong: Jimmy Clausen
Jimmy Clausen should be the reason that Mel Kiper Jr. no longer covers drafts anymore. Back in 2010, Kiper said that he would quit if Jimmy Clausen didn’t become a successful quarterback in the NFL. Well, Mel, it’s time to quit.
For someone spoken about that highly, you would expect them to be an easy top draft choice. Well, Clausen didn’t end up getting drafted until the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. It didn’t really take long to realize that Clausen wouldn’t succeed in the NFL. In his rookie season, he threw three touchdown passes and 1,558 yards, plus nine interceptions. He finished that season with a record of 1-9. Clausen eventually got pulled from his starting position, and the Panthers used the first overall draft pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, to draft Auburn star QB Cam Newton.
6 Right: Jared Goff
It seemed like everyone knew Jared Goff would be the first overall draft pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Kiper ranked Goff as the fifth best player in that draft. He talked a lot about how both Carson Wentz and Jared Goff would both be excellent quarterbacks, which turned out to be true. Kiper also talked about how Goff was a better passer than Wentz, and also had the ability to move around in the pocket.
Well, even after a rookie season that looked like Goff was going to be talked about as one of the newer entries in the list of biggest draft busts in history, he shocked NFL fans around the world. Goff has helped the Rams finally have the breakout campaign many had been expecting for a long time. While he's not the MVP caliber player his RB Todd Gurley is, Goff has helped engineer the NFL's top offense and his rookie and sophomore years are night and day.
5 Wrong: LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson was definitely disrespected by Mel Kiper Jr. when it came to grading the prospects of the 2001 NFL Draft. Kiper ranked Tomlinson as the 25th-best player, and third best running back of that draft class. Both of the running backs that were also drafted in the first round of that draft were Deuce McAllister and Michael Bennett. Both had successful careers, but neither even compared to Tomlinson.
LaDainian Tomlinson will go down as one of the best running backs in NFL history. Tomlinson finished his career sixth in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns, in NFL history. Tomlinson was just recently inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Kiper was way off with these predictions, as he wasn’t able to pick out a legend to be the speedy running back that he was.
4 Right: Von Miller
Mel Kiper Jr. knew that Von Miller was going to be good, but he should have given offensive tackles a heads up on how good he was actually going to be. Kiper talked about how Miller has “dynamic upside” and has the ability to create chaos for other offensive coordinators. Well, that basically explains what ended up happening for the Broncos and teams that play the Broncos. Miller went on to become one of the best pass rushers in the game, and one that sets up scary matchups on the edge.
Throughout Miller’s seven-year career, he has had at least 10 sacks each season except for one. Chances are, Miller probably would have had over 10 sacks that season if he wasn’t suspended for the first six games of the season. Miller has become one of the best overall athletes in the game.
3 Wrong: Russell Wilson
No one really expected Russell Wilson to be anything like what he is now. When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, many analysts were disappointed with the pick. Mel Kiper Jr. actually believed that Russell Wilson would be holding a clipboard his whole career. Many analysts were upset with the draft pick, believing they drafted a guy who would never see the field. Well, little did they know, including Kiper, that Wilson would become the most successful quarterback of that draft class, which included Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Turns out, Wilson ended up taking the Seahawks to the Super Bowl twice, winning one of them. The negativity that was talked about Wilson before he was drafted must have motivated him, because he has singlehandedly carried this team for quite a few years now.
2 Right: Jalen Ramsey
Sometimes it’s a good thing when Mel Kiper Jr. is really high on players for drafts. When it came time to the 2016 NFL Draft, Kiper was a huge fan of former Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Kiper actually had Ramsey down as the second-best player of that draft class, which included players like Ezekiel Elliott, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Joey Bosa. It’s almost like Kiper knew that Ramsey would make it to the Jaguars, as he even explained how it could all happen that would send Jalen Ramsey over to Jacksonville. Kiper talked about Ramsey’s ability tackle, athleticism, and attitude, which added to why he was such a great player to draft.
Ramsey didn’t let Kiper down, as he now looks like he’s destined to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Through only two seasons, Ramsey has six interceptions already, 125 combined tackles, and 31 passes deflected. Ramsey may be one of the best draft picks we have seen over the course of the past few years.
1 Wrong: Johnny Manziel
Of course, why wouldn’t Mel Kiper Jr. have an interesting report on Johnny Football? Kiper must have been completely out of it when he was talking about Manziel, as he had him going as the first overall draft pick to the Houston Texans. Kiper talked about how Manziel “lives, eats, breathes football all year.” Kiper then went on to say that the worst scenario for Johnny Manziel is that he would get picked later on in the top 10 of that draft.
Well, Kiper was way off with both comments. Manziel ended up dropping down to the 22nd overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. And little did Kiper know, Manziel does not live on football, but rather on partying. In fact, he couldn’t stay focused on just the game, which ended up finishing his career. After all the drama with Manziel, the Cleveland Browns ended up releasing what was supposed to be their star quarterback of the future.