There are few jobs more difficult in the world of sports reporting than that of a draft analyst. History is filled with examples of athletic prospects who looked like they were ready to take the world by storm and instead burned out almost instantly, as well as players that were essentially laughed out of the draft discussion entirely and went on to become all-time greats. You can have all the knowledge, all the tapes and all of the professional helpers in the world, but at the end of the day there is just no surefire way to guarantee that you can get that draft pick analysis just right.
Still, it’s a lot of fun to mock analysts over their mistakes. This is especially true in the case of ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who since 1984 has been using his fabled big board to tell us just what college players are going to become the very best the NFL has to offer. Perhaps it’s his figurehead position in the world of draft analysis, or maybe it’s just that ridiculous hairdo, but there is just no figure that is more entertaining to tear apart over their educated guesses than Mel Kiper Jr.
Most of the time, this fan ribbing is nothing more than just good-natured fun pointed towards a professional that is fully aware of his highly scrutinized position. However, there are select times when Mel Kiper Jr. overhypes players to such incredible degrees that you can’t help but shake your head in disbelief over how a veteran analyst held in such high regard could have ever made such an incredibly awful selection. We've all learned to accept mistakes from analysts, but these 16 players that Mr. Kiper couldn't stop hyping will surely haunt him forever.
Here are 16 NFL Prospects That Mel Kiper Completely Overhyped.
16 Ki-Jana Carter
Given that Kenneth “Ki-Jana” Carter was a physically gifted young running back who tore through the college ranks with seeming ease, nobody was surprised to see him go number one overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. Sadly, Carter never really displayed that same tenacity and big play ability that made him such a sensation at Penn State and eventually injuries would seal the deal on his already disappointing career.
15 Andre Ware
Though there are certainly plenty of times when Kiper’s love of bold statements and shaky analytical abilities have combined to make him look like quite the fool, there are other times when the popular draft guru simply gets caught up in the same wave of hype that everyone else was at the time. Such is the case with quarterback Andre Ware whose impressive Heisman run at the University of Houston had everyone believing the Lions had picked their QB of the future when they selected him in the 1990 draft. Sadly, Ware would only make six starts for the Lions before politics and mediocre stats eventually squeezed him out of the NFL.
14 Jim Druckenmiller
If the name Jim Druckenmiller doesn’t quite ring a bell, don’t feel too bad. This former Virginia Tech quarterback lit up the college world in his two seasons and even beat a stout University of Texas team in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. He went on to be picked as the 26th overall selection in the 1997 draft by the 49ers, who felt that Jim would easily be groomed as Steve Young’s replacement.
13 Vernon Gholston
Though Vernon Gholston certainly accomplished quite a bit on the field as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes, what really intrigued NFL teams regarding the young defensive end was his raw athletic potential. Gholston wasn’t just a sack machine, he was a sack machine that could do 37 bench reps of 225 pounds and run a 4.5 40-yd dash.
12 J.J. Stokes
J.J. Stokes was an interesting prospect coming out of college. Though he had displayed some serious skills as a wide receiver at UCLA, the bulk of his stats came in one memorable 1993 season where he went off for 1181 receiving yards and 17 TDs.
11 Akili Smith
At a time when the idea of a running quarterback was still something of a novelty, Akili Smith looked like a game changer. Not only did he display his cannon arm was capable of tremendous accuracy as starting quarterback for Oregon, but he showed that he was not afraid to tuck the ball in and run once in a while when the situation presented itself.
10 Brady Quinn
We now enter the portion of this list I like to call “reasons why Mel Kiper should stop analyzing quarterbacks.” Who can ever forget the site of Brady Quinn patiently sitting in the NFL Draft waiting room while his projected pick placement kept falling and falling?
9 Ricky Stanzi
8 David Carr
As an NFL draft analyst, there is nothing more dangerous you can do than compare a young player to an established star. While this maneuver is performed most of the time in an innocent fashion, it almost always ends blowing up in someone’s face. This was certainly the case in 2002 when Kiper looked at David Carr’s number eight jersey and couldn’t help but make a comparison to fellow no.8 Texas QB Troy Aikman.
7 Mark Sanchez
6 Joey Harrington
5 Dan McGwire
4 Jimmy Clausen
It’s one thing to be high on a player going into the draft, and quite another to bet your own career on the success of a player that has yet to take a professional snap. Yet, this is exactly what Mel Kiper did in 2010 when he famously said “If Jimmy Clausen is not a successful quarterback in the NFL, I’m done. That’s it. I’m out.”
3 JaMarcus Russell
If you take a look at these quotes from Mel Kiper when the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007, these same quotes can now apply to Derek Carr.
"JaMarcus Russell is going to immediately energize that Raider nation. That fanbase, that football team, on the practice field, in that locker room. Three years from now you could be looking at a guy who's one of the elite, top five quarterbacks in this league."
While that may be true for Carr, it most certainly was not for Russell. Three years from that draft day, not only was he not elite, he was out of the NFL. Many experts completely whiffed on Russell, who despite showing promise out of LSU, was perhaps the biggest bust in NFL history.
Okay, one more mad quote for you from Kiper:
"The skill level he has is certainly John Elway like."
2 Mike Williams
1 Ryan Leaf
You should never fault a draft analyst for going beyond the usual canned statements and really digging into the reasons why a player is going to stand out above the rest. For instance, in 1998 it was rather refreshing to hear Kiper praise number two overall pick Ryan Leaf for his maturity, attitude and mental stability rather than his power or accuracy.
Of course, this choice of words would go on to haunt Kiper after Leaf completely lost it during an infamous locker room rant and other assorted press outbursts. At least Kiper and the San Diego Chargers can always console each other over the fallout of this one.
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