One of the most talked about events during the NFL offseason is always the upcoming draft. That is the same case with most teams coming into the 2018 draft. There are some big names that are expected to be taken early and help losing franchises take a step in the right direction. There are a few quarterbacks looking to change a franchises’s misfortunes such as Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and USC’s Sam Darnold. We cannot forget the running backs either with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Stanford’s Bryce Love, and Georgia’s Nick Chubb leading the pack. With all of these names in mind, there are experts and analysts out there trying to figure out which players will help struggling franchises, which prospects will be taken off the board early, etc. But there is one man who loves to throw out his mock draft boards and prospect analyses more than anyone: Mel Kiper Jr.
Mel Kiper Jr. is one of the most respected NFL analysts in the business (depending on who you ask) with his “big board” and constant reporting of all of the top college players trying to make it into the NFL. Considering he has to look at more than just the players from the big schools like Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma, etc., he has had to do his fair share of reports. But was he always right with them? Sometimes the experts are wrong and Kiper Jr. is no exception to that. With that being said, let’s take a look at eight recent players Mel Kiper Jr. was wrong about and seven he was actually right about.
15. Wrong: Dion Jordan
It was easy for scouts to fall in love with Dion Jordan’s explosiveness as a pass rusher coming out of Oregon and clearly Kiper felt the same way. In Kiper’s final big board before the 2013 draft he had Dion Jordan ranked fourth overall, saying; “Elite speed and range for his size, and he shows a knack for playing in space even as he profiles first as a “fear factor” pass-rusher, the kind of guy a quarterback is always accounting for when he gets to the line.”
That must have been why the Dolphins traded up to no.3 with the Oakland Raiders to get him. Well, in the end, Dion Jordan ended up a big time bust, as he’s rarely gotten regular snaps and even missed a season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He’s now trying to revive his career in Seattle after fizzling out in Miami.
14. Right: Deshone Kizer
The first pick correctly predicted by Mel Kiper Jr. comes in the form of the new Cleveland Browns quarterback, Deshone Kizer. Kizer was known as a winner at Notre Dame and the Browns figured he could bring some of his winning ways to Cleveland. But sadly, the Browns had a season in which they didn’t win a single game and own the number one pick once again.
Kiper Jr. thought that Kizer shouldn’t go in the first round and even thought maybe he should stay in school for another year to mature and develop. As it turns out, Kiper was right.
Kizer beat out the competition to become the Browns starting quarterback as a rookie. He definitely had his struggles as a rookie as he threw 11 touchdowns, but has 22 interceptions. Cleveland thought Kizer could potentially be the answer they finally were looking for since the Bernie Kosar days. That did not happen though and now the Browns have to wonder if their quarterback of the future is in this year’s draft if they don’t want to continue with Kizer. Good job, Mel.
13. Wrong: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
The next prospect that Mel Kiper Jr. was just off the mark with is a free safety that plays for the Packers and has one of the most unique names in the NFL. He was projected to be taken just out of the top ten in the 2014 draft. He ended up being selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 21st pick, eight spots below where Kiper expected him to go. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and his career with Green Bay definitely hasn’t been bad so far though.
He was also a Pro Bowl guy in 2016 when he had five interceptions. Overall, he has 11 career interceptions in four seasons. The Packers haven’t had the best of luck come playoff time, but look for them to get back to the postseason next year. Another wrong prediction for the draft expert known as Mel Kiper Jr.
12. Right: Christian McCaffery
The Carolina Panthers needed an all purpose running back to complement Jonathan Stewart. They already had the quarterback in Cam Newton, tight end in Greg Olsen, and good wide receiver in Devin Funchess. All they needed was that running back that could catch passes in the backfield and also gain yards on the ground.
Kiper Jr. suggested taking Stanford running back Christian McCaffery would be a great pick and he was right on with that prediction.
McCaffery is looking like a great pick for the Panthers. He had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season. He also caught a big touchdown in their divisional game against the Saints which unfortunately ended up in a loss. But the Panthers future looks bright with McCaffery continuing to excel in the backfield. Mel Kiper Jr. got another one right and the Panthers are probably glad Kiper wasn’t wrong about this one.
11. Wrong: Mike Williams
This next wide receiver was supposed to be taken within the 11-15 range in the 2017 draft. He was a part of the Clemson national championship team and was a big part of the offense along with Deshaun Watson. This wide receiver was Mike Williams. Kiper suggested the best spot for Williams would be at 13 to team up with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. He ended up going seventh overall to the Los Angeles Chargers, however.
Williams had a bit of a tough rookie season at the start as he was injured and didn’t make his debut until week six. He didn’t catch a single touchdown pass the entire season and only ended up with 11 receptions on the year. But, he definitely has a bright future in Los Angeles if he stays with the Chargers. With Philip Rivers throwing to him and Keenan Allen drawing a lot of defensive attention, Williams numbers should drastically go up. Better luck next time, Mel.
10. Right: Amari Cooper
In the 2015 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders knew they didn’t need a quarterback, and also knew they needed a deep threat receiver to balance out their offense. There was a receiver coming out of Alabama that seemed to fit the bill.
Mel Kiper Jr. predicted Amari Cooper would be the first wide receiver off of the board and taken fourth overall.
Cooper has definitely made a great impact for the Raiders offense.
He is a two time Pro Bowl receiver in 2015 and 2016. This year, his numbers were a bit down as the Raiders didn’t make playoffs this past season. However Kiper at least was dead on in saying Cooper deserved to be drafted ahead of Kevin White, who many felt had more upside than Cooper. Well, White’s struggled to stay healthy in three seasons, while Cooper has at least shown superstar flashes.
9. Wrong: Le’Veon Bell
Le’Veon Bell was overlooked by many NFL teams coming out of Michigan State, despite having been the most productive back coming out of college in his 2013 class. Kiper however, felt Bell would struggle at the NFL level.
Bell had an impressive rookie season, but Kiper left him off his All-Rookie team, which Bell saw as a huge slap in the face.
Bell has never forgotten that and he went on a very long social media rant a few years ago, slamming Kiper. He accused the ESPN guru of pushing his favorites, or prospects whose agents he shares a close friendship with. With Bell emerging as perhaps the best running back in the NFL, Kiper sure looks foolish on this one.
8. Right: Marcus Mariota
The 2015 NFL Draft came down to essentially two quarterbacks: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Everyone, including Mel Kiper Jr., assumed that Winston was going to Tampa Bay with the first overall pick. He did. That left a quarterback coming out of Oregon up next with the second pick, projected to go to the Tennessee Titans. Kiper projected Mariota to go to the Titans.
Prior to the draft, Kiper made it clear he didn’t feel the class had a true high-ceiling franchise QB: “There is really no franchise quarterback in this draft,” Kiper said on a conference call. “
Even though Mariota could go No. 1 [overall], he’s not Andrew Luck. He’s not in that elite-of-elite category.”
So far, there is some concern on whether Mariota will ever reach his potential. He had a little bit of a down year in 2017, throwing 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. But, at the same time, he led the Titans to an upset playoff victory at Kansas City. However Kiper’s concerns have proven to be valid.
7. Wrong: Blake Bortles
The 2014 draft wasn’t a heavy draft when it came to the quarterback position. Sure, there was Johnny Manziel coming out of Texas A&M, who we will get to later. The other big quarterback to give Manziel any competition was Blake Bortles coming out of UCF.
He was projected to slip into the 20s, but ended up being taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bortles was putting up numbers, but the wins were not coming. This year, he had 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he also helped lead Jacksonville to a playoff appearance and an AFC Championship. We don’t know what happened here, but Mel Kiper Jr. definitely miscalculated something or didn’t see something the Jaguars saw for them to take him at number three overall.
6. Right: Jadeveon Clowney
The Houston Texans have been producing a reputation as one of the toughest defenses to go up against in the NFL (when healthy). They have J.J. Watt who when healthy, is probably the best defensive player in the NFL. They also took a guy with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft at defensive end that would give Watt a bit of help in Jadeveon Clowney. Mel Kiper Jr. correctly predicted his going number one overall to Houston and has been correct about Clowney being an incredibly gifted pass rusher.
Clowney has definitely improved every season that he has been in the NFL. He is a two time Pro Bowl player in 2016 and 2017. He has registered 20 sacks in four seasons, including 9.5 this past season alone. He definitely has taken the role of a leader, especially when Watt has gone down due to injury. Mel Kiper was right with Clowney going number one overall and right in his evaluation of Clowney.
5. Wrong: Deshaun Watson
Typically, quarterbacks on National Championship teams out of college get a lot of recognition. This is the similar case with Deshaun Watson out of Clemson. He led the Tigers to a National Championship over powerhouse Alabama and was ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Mel Kiper Jr. had concerns about Watson’s accuracy:
“The questions about Deshaun Watson are accuracy and precise passing. So Watson, when you watch Mike Williams you gain more of an appreciation for the receiver and less so the quarterback because he is making great catches when the ball isn’t accurately thrown.”
Watson only played in seven overall games for the Texans before suffering a season ending injury. He had 19 touchdowns in seven games, so imagine the year he would have had if he played the full year healthy. This Texans team is going to be good with Watson fully healthy and under center the entire year next season. Mel Kiper was just slightly off with the landing spot of Deshaun Watson.
4. Right: Jared Goff
The Los Angeles Rams needed a quarterback out of the 2016 draft that had the total package. They wanted a guy that could be mobile in the pocket, create plays, have a strong arm, and be able to move the ball down the field. There was a quarterback coming out of California that seemed to fit the bill by the name of Jared Goff.
He was predicted by Mel Kiper Jr. to go number one overall to the Rams and he was right on in saying he felt Goff was a worthy franchise quarterback.
Goff played a full season in 2017 and didn’t disappoint. He threw 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions and led the Rams to a three seed in the playoffs. They eventually lost at home to the Falcons, but they look to be a team on the rise in the future. With those stats, Mel Kiper Jr. had a great prediction of Goff going number one and the Rams are happy they got him for the long term. And Kiper had him near the top from the get-go.
3. Wrong: Todd Gurley
Yes, the Rams needed a quarterback in the 2016 draft. But in the 2015 draft, they were in dire need of a big, powerful running back. Todd Gurley was deemed as a virtual slam dunk running back coming out of Georgia. Kiper Jr. predicted Gurley would slip to a mid 1st round pick because of missing some time his junior year at Georgia due to an injury. He made his way into the top 10 with him being selected 10th overall by the L.A. Rams.
Gurley had a huge rookie campaign, rushing for over 1,000 yards and being selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. He had a bit of a “sophomore slump” in 2016, but regained form in 2017 with over 1,300 yards and getting strong considerations for NFL MVP. For a guy that was projected to just be a mid first round player, he certainly is doing a good job showing Kiper Jr. that he made a mistake when analyzing Gurley’s value to NFL teams.
2. Right: Carson Wentz
So Jared Goff was taken with the first overall pick in 2016. After that, there was a quarterback from North Dakota State on the board and the Philadelphia Eagles on the clock. The Eagles needed a franchise changing quarterback and Carson Wentz was the answer to that. Kiper Jr. correctly had Goff at one and Wentz at two. The Eagles had something special in this young man that Kiper got right.
While many were skeptical on Wentz, Kiper defended the kid: “The main knock on Wentz is he played for a school in the Football Championship Subdivision instead of college football’s highest level, the Football Bowl Subdivision. But he completed 64.1 percent of his career passes with 45 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Great attitude, great approach, hard worker … nothing bothers the kid, nothing rattles him.”
Wentz definitely has shown that Kiper and everyone else was right about him. With a fully healthy Wentz next season, the Eagles can prove that everybody was right about him in the sense that he can lead a team to the promise land.
1. Wrong: Johnny Manziel
This by far could be the most far off that Mel Kiper Jr. has been on any pick in recent years. Looking back on it, it is understandable why Manziel was high on a lot of people’s lists. He won a Heisman trophy, had a ton of talent and potential. But his character and questions in work ethic brought some doubt to whether or not he could make it in the NFL.
Kiper felt Manziel was worthy of being a top 10 pick and mocked him going to the Buccaneers at 7th overall.
“When you talk to people in the league, he’s kind of the consensus No. 1 quarterback,” Kiper said a few months before the draft.
Manziel ended up going 22nd overall to the Cleveland Browns. He lasted two seasons in Cleveland before they finally said goodbye to Johnny Football. He’s is a bust and Mel Kiper Jr. was way off in terms of where and how Manziel would end up doing in his brief NFL career.
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