KIPER CARPS ABOUT CRITICISM
One of our loyal readers who was listening on Saturday to Mel Kiper's weekend show on ESPN Radio tells us that Mel spent some time rebutting the suggestion -- originating right here -- that he pumps up some players at the behest of certain agents.
Earlier this week, we questioned whether Kiper helps out the clients of agent Gary Wichard, whose roster of 2005 rookies includes cornerback Adam "Pac-Man" Jones -- currently the sixth-rated prospect on Mel's "Big Board," and climbing.
But as a source with knowledge of the Wichard-Kiper relationship explained to us, Kiper doesn't necessarily realize that he's subtly being manipulated to nudge Wichard's players higher in the draft.
One of Wichard's recruiting tactics, per the source, is to call Kiper before meeting with a potential client and to ask Kiper to call back Wichard during the meeting. Kiper complies, believes the source, not to help Wichard land the kid as a client, but to get access to the kid.
And because it's human nature, in any subjective exercise, to give the benefit of the doubt to people whom we know, Kiper's access to the kid often results in Kiper pushing the kid higher up on his board.
The kid, in turn, is often blown away by Wichard's relationship with the most recognizable name and face of the annual NFL draft.
So the kid signs with Wichard, Kiper (unwittingly or not) nudges the kid higher on his board, and nobody ever really notices or cares.
The only potential flaw in this arrangement is this: What if Kiper ends up putting the kid too high on the board? The source tells us that Wichard has on at least one occasion been concerned that, given the hype a certain player was getting from Kiper, the kid might be upset when he doesn't get drafted as high as Kiper is projecting.
And this is what puts the whole thing in perspective -- the extent to which NFL teams pay any attention to what Kiper says.
One league personnel exec tells us that teams generally don't pay attention to Kiper. Though some might think that Mel is a scout, he isn't.
"Heâ€™s never watched a tape in his life," said the source. "Heâ€™s all word of mouth and hype. Itâ€™s all word of mouth. Nobody cares about Mel during the season or before the draft. We really don't care about his rankings."
So is Mel completely irrelevant in the eyes of the NFL?
Even though he's merely a trumpeter of the things he hears from his own network of sources, scouting departments pay keen attention to his draft grades.
"Everybody pays attention to Melâ€™s grades of each teamâ€™s draft. Itâ€™s a little scouting competition. Every team wants to get an 'A.' A lot of times, the media, fans, even some owners, place a lot of stock in what Mel says. That being the case, you donâ€™t want to get a C or D."