After compiling, printing and mailing his 150-page signature blue-cover “Draft Report” for the past 35 years, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has gone digital. Beginning in 2014, his detailed and comprehensive NFL Draft analysis can now be found online exclusively at ESPN Insider.
In the Q&A below, ESPN Insider senior editor Chris Sprow, who has worked with Kiper for five years, discusses the “best of the book” – the new offerings on ESPN Insider and his favorite Kiper posts of all time.
What “Draft Report” content will fans now see on ESPN Insider?
With his print book going away, the goal is to take some things that have exclusively been in print and add them online. I think we’ll go deeper into the rankings, we’ll go deeper into sleepers — which are small-college players technically in his book. We’ll go deeper into players who are rising and falling going into the draft.
What are your favorite posts of all time?
I had a lot of fun doing the top 10 prospects Mel ever graded at each position. It took forever to put together, but he was literally going through 35 years of books. Also, to have the draft grades manifest itself as a TV show the day after the draft. . . Anything we do that maybe started in the book and now is in Insider and becomes a TV property is fun to see. It’s kind of an organic media process, but those are important divides to cross even within your own company.
What makes Mel so good at what he does?
I get a kick of out talking about next year’s punters with Mel in July or August, and I appreciate the nonstop sense of “have to be ahead” that Mel carries with him. Mel does things his own way. When he started doing this, he couldn’t call up the tape on a prospect; he had to call 10 coaches to know about a prospect. I think what’s underrated about Mel is he’s still a great reporter.
What is something fans wouldn’t know about Mel’s contributions to ESPN Insider?
We re-grade last year’s [NFL Draft] grades. As I told Mel, to go back and say where you made mistakes doesn’t diminish you, it gives you credibility. When you go back and you say, ‘Wow, that kid’s better than I thought,’ that’s a huge thing to do. And you don’t have to be lying on a leather couch to do that. You just have to be willing to do it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sprow hosts the weekly First Draft podcast with Kiper and Todd McShay. To listen, click here.