After ESPN’s foremost NFL Draft analyst criticized Indianapolis’ decision to select Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts over Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer in 1994, former Colts general manager Bill Tobin infamously retorted, “Who the hell is Mel Kiper?!” The 56-year-old Kiper is a Baltimorean who, while attending the Community College of Baltimore County in the late 1970s, began creating extensive evaluations of collegians eligible to enter the league’s draft. Kiper sent his assessments to Ernie Accorsi and the Baltimore Colts’ executive urged the wannabe scout to sell his reports to fans. Following three years of reading the youngster’s comprehensive analyses, Accorsi offered Kiper a high-ranking front office position with the Colts. Regrettably for the ambitious Marylander, shortly thereafter, the Colts unexpectedly relocated from Baltimore to Indianapolis in March 1984 and Kiper’s prospective role was voided.
However, fate intervened and the suits at the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” asked Kiper to join its coverage of the 1984 NFL Draft. Kiper remains with the renowned company and he also frequently contributes to SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com. The founder of Mel Kiper Enterprises Inc is widely lauded for his foresights and his website claims that he “accurately predicts as much as 80 percent of first-round draft selections.” Kiper’s impressive résumé notwithstanding, the drafting guru has made a slew of dreadful projections and he’s been accused of intentionally overhyping some of his friends’ clients.
With that noted, let’s look at the top 15 NFL Draft mistakes that should make Mel Kiper mull quitting his job in shame.
15 MATT HASSELBECK
"What's his name,” Matt Hasselbeck, 41, rhetorically asked, “Mel Kiper? Yeah, when I was picked, with pick 187, I think his exact words were something like, 'That's a waste of a pick.' At 187! So, you know, whatever." The Green Bay Packers chose the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Hasselbeck out of Boston College in the sixth round of the 1998 draft. After serving three seasons as Brett Favre’s backup, the Packers traded Hasselbeck and the 17th pick in the 2001 draft to the Seattle Seahawks for that year’s 10th overall selection and a third-round choice.
Over 10 seasons in Seattle, Hasselbeck was a three-time Pro Bowler who made the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary Team.
Hasselbeck completed 60.5 percent of his throws for 212 touchdowns, against 152 interceptions, and 36,638 yards in 209 games as a Packer, Seahawk, Tennessee Titan and Indianapolis Colt before retiring in March 2016.
14 RICKY STANZI
Mel Kiper confidently predicted that University of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi would mature into the best signal-caller taken in the 2011 draft. The Kansas City Chiefs selected the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Stanzi with that draft’s 135th pick. Stanzi disappeared in the Show Me State and was released by the Chiefs in August 2013. The former Hawkeye subsequently gained employment in some capacity with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, New York Giants and Detroit Lions. Although still seeking an opportunity in the NFL,
Stanzi hasn’t been a member of a professional football organization since he was a 27-year-old in 2015. Unlike the glittering statistics compiled by the first selection in 2011, Cam Newton, Stanzi never played a single down in a regular season game in the NFL.
13 AARON CURRY
Mel Kiper compared Aaron Curry to three-time All-Pro Keith Bulluck and said that “he's a complete OLB with great character and work ethic, which is why it was no surprise when he nailed his combine workout.” The Seattle Seahawks took the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Curry out of Wake Forest University with the fourth choice in 2009. Curry crashed as a Seahawk and Seattle traded him to the Oakland Raiders in October 2011 for a 2012 seventh round pick and a conditional selection in 2013. Regrettably for the Raiders and former Demon Deacon, Curry was also completely unproductive in The Town. Curry competed for the New York Giants’ practice squad in May 2013 before he retired approximately three months later at the age of 27.
12 BRADY QUINN
“If the Lions pass on (Brady) Quinn, it would be yet another in a long line of questionable decisions,” said Mel Kiper. “I think they will, although not for (Calvin) Johnson. They'll take Clemson DE Gaines Adams, a Simeon Rice-type edge rusher. For the same reasons the Lions should take Quinn, Cleveland actually will. They need a franchise face.” The Oakland Raiders, Lions and Browns all bypassed Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the first few picks in the 2007 NFL Draft. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Quinn wasn’t taken until Cleveland nabbed him with the 22nd selection. The past Irishman was a toothless Brown and he descended into a career journeyman. Quinn ultimately failed as a member of seven different franchises before agreeing to become a Fox Sports college and NFL analyst at the age of 29 in July 2014.
11 LADANIAN TOMLINSON
Mel Kiper notoriously ranked Texas Christian University running back LaDainian Tomlinson as tied for the 25th-best player in the 2001 draft. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Tomlinson, a 2000 consensus All-American and two-time WAC Offensive Player of The Year as a Horned Frog, was chosen by the San Diego Chargers with the fifth pick in 2001. Tomlinson flourished in America’s Finest City and became a five-time Pro-Bowler, three-time First-Team All-Pro, and the winner of the 2006 NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year award. A member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, L.T. carried the pigskin 3,174 times for 145 touchdowns and 13,684 yards as a member of the Chargers and New York Jets. The 37-year-old Tomlinson will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
10 WES WELKER
“Wes Welker is not worth a second round pick,” said Kiper. “I don’t care how much you like his work ethic, he has done nothing to show a value that high.” Kiper made the aforementioned remark in response to the New England Patriots’ decision to acquire the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker from the Miami Dolphins in March 2007 for a second and seventh round pick. Undrafted out of Texas Tech University in 2004, Welker became a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro selection after the Dolphins traded him to the Patriots. Welker sustained a slew of concussions and mercifully retired at the age of 34 in 2015. Altogether, with the Dolphins, Patriots, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams, Welker caught 903 passes for 9,924 yards and 50 touchdowns.
9 ANDRE WADSWORTH
“I compare Andre Wadsworth to Bruce Smith in terms of his natural instincts and athleticism, getting after the quarterback,” said Mel Kiper. “He is as close to can't miss as you can get.'' The Arizona Cardinals took defensive end Andre Wadsworth out of Florida State University with the third pick in the 1998 draft. Wadsworth, a consensus All-American and the ACC Player of the Year in 1997, was a dim figure in the Valley of the Sun. Plagued by knee injuries, the former Seminole recorded 96 tackles, eight sacks and one interception in 36 games with the Cardinals before the organization released him in March 2000. Following a seven-year sabbatical, Wadsworth signed a minimum base salary contract with the New York Jets in March 2007. Gang Green cut the then 32-year-old Wadsworth approximately five months later.
8 DAN MCGWIRE
Mel Kiper rated Dan McGwire and Brett Favre as equal quarterback prospects entering the 1991 draft. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound McGwire was taken by the Seattle Seahawks out of San Diego State University with the 16th pick that spring. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Favre, a gunslinger out of the University of Southern Mississippi, was chosen by the Atlanta Falcons 17 selections after Seattle took McGwire. McGwire, the younger brother of notorious slugger Mark, completed 50 percent of his passes for two touchdowns, against six interceptions, and 745 yards as a Seahawk and Miami Dolphin.
McGwire was out of the league by the age of 27. Conversely, following a storied, 19-year career, Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
7 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS’ 2011 & 2012 DRAFTS
Mel Kiper gave the Seattle Seahawks a C-Minus grade for drafting Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson in 2012. He also gave them a D+ grade to the 2011 class that featured Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith.
Back to the 2012 draft, The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Irvin, taken 15th, enjoyed a solid, five-year career in Seattle. Irvin recorded 188 tackles, 29 sacks and three interceptions over 74 games as an outside linebacker for the Seahawks. The 6-foot, 240-pound Wagner, chosen with the 47th pick, has developed into a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro in Seattle. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Wilson, previously considered too diminutive to play quarterback in the NFL, is a three-time Pro Bowler who was the 2015 NFL passer rating leader.
Irvin, Wagner and Wilson were all vital members of the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl championship team. Imagine being proven wrong that badly in less than two years.
6 JOHNNY MANZIEL
Mel Kiper initially foresaw Johnny Manziel as the first overall selection in the 2014 draft. However, if that didn’t occur, Kiper said he “couldn’t see Manziel sliding out of the top eight.” Kiper was simply wrong and the Cleveland Browns finally took the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Manziel with the 22nd pick. Mainly due to substance abuse and irresponsibility, Manziel was an unmitigated disaster in Cleveland before he was released by the beleaguered franchise in March 2016.
The polarizing 2012 Heisman Trophy award winner completed 57 percent of his passes for seven scores, against seven picks, for 1,675 yards in 14 games as a Brown. The 24-year-old Manziel is currently a free agent without any known potential suitors. It's doubtful he'll ever play in the NFL again.
5 ANDRE WARE
Mel Kiper was certain that University of Houston star Andre Ware "was going to be a great NFL quarterback.” The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Ware dominated as a Cougar and was a 1989 consensus All-American who won that year’s Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award. The Detroit Lions chose Ware with the seventh pick in the 1990 draft. Ware struggled in Motown and completed an anemic 51.6 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, against eight interceptions, and 1,112 yards over 14 games as a Lion.
Detroit cut the 24-year-old Ware following the 1993 campaign and the College Football Hall of Famer never stepped on an NFL gridiron again. Although a colossal bust, Ware found some success north of the border with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts.
4 MIKE WILLIAMS
Mel Kiper told skeptical ESPN analyst Merrill Hodge that he planned to one day attend wide receiver Mike Williams’ “Hall of Fame induction.” The Detroit Lions selected the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Williams out of USC with the 10th pick in the 2005 draft. Although Williams overwhelmed secondaries in La-la-land, the 2003 consensus All-American was amateurish in Motown. After two forgettable seasons as a Lion, Williams was sent to the Oakland Raiders in April 2007. Williams was an unthreatening Raider and he descended into a journeyman. The feeble Trojan was released by the Seattle Seahawks in July 2011 and he was removed from the league altogether by the age of 27. Williams concluded his NFL career with 127 catches for 1,526 yards over 56 games with the Lions, Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Seahawks.
3 AKILI SMITH
The Cincinnati Bengals chose raw University of Oregon quarterback Akili Smith with the third pick in the 1999 draft. Mel Kiper thought the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith would be “a great NFL player” who “would finally provide the Cincinnati Bengals with the passer they’d lacked since Boomer Esiason.” Completely unable to grasp the Bengals’ playbook, Smith was fired by the organization in March 2002. The former duck never played in another regular season contest and he was out of the league by the age of 29. Smith completed an abysmal 46.6 percent of his passes for five scores, against 13 picks, and 2,212 yards in 22 games as a Bengal. Much to the astonishment of Kiper, Cincinnati remained stuck searching for “the passer they’d lacked since Boomer Esiason.”
2 JAMARCUS RUSSELL
“Nobody has an arm like JaMarcus Russell,” said Mel Kiper.
"Three years from now, you could certainly be looking at a guy who is certainly one of the elite top five quarterbacks in this league. Obviously, he'll need a little time. But you're talking about a 2-3-year period. Once he's under center, look out, because the skill level he has is certainly John Elway-like." The Oakland Raiders drafted the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Russell first overall in 2007. Russell lasted three seasons in The Town before he was cut as a Raider in March 2010. An obese mess of a human being, the past LSU Tiger has developed a full-fledged codeine addiction. In 31 games as a Raider, Russell completed a pathetic 52.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns, against 23 interceptions, and 4,083 yards.
1 RYAN LEAF
Mel Kiper comically thought that Ryan Leaf’s prickly attitude would “be an asset in the NFL and give him a mental advantage over other players in his draft class.” The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Leaf, drafted by the San Diego Chargers out of Washington State with the second pick in 1998, is widely considered the league’s most notorious bust. Leaf was atrocious on the gridiron and a miserable individual off the field. The Chargers axed the 1997 First-Team All-American in March 2001 following three hideous campaigns in America’s Finest City. Leaf briefly found employment with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks before permanently shelving his cleats in July 2002 at the age of 26. Leaf has been sober for four years and he works as a program ambassador for a recovery community center.
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