Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mel Kiper, Jr's Draft Guide

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a draftnik. What fascinates me is how organizations make personnel decisions and how they project people to perform. The most transparent organizations are professional sports teams, because everything is public -- performance metrics, rosters and sometimes even compensation. What further fascinated me was an article in a recent edition of ESPN the Magazine, which suggests that first-round picks aren't what they seem, that it's better to trade down, that Jimmy Johnson had it all figured out and that Green Bay's GM Ted Thompson has been successful at finding value in the draft in recent years.

And then I took the plunge. Actually, I did so in March, when I placed an order for Mel Kiper, Jr's draft guide. It came in the mail yesterday, about the size of the average Vanity Fair magazine, and it's loaded with Mel's write-ups and his prediction as to how the draft will play out. Which is interesting because Mel's mock first-round in the book differs from what he says in the current edition of, yes, ESPN the Magazine. As a customer of Mel's, I certainly hope I've gotten the better thinking for having spent my $27 or so for his book.

Here's what I liked:

1. The profiles of the players are compelling and in depth. Mel is good at predicting who gets taken where.

2. The "old-school" presentation. If anything, this book could use more glitz, while ESPN the Magazine could use less. The presentation kind of reminds me of Penn State's uniforms.

3. Kiper talks about future classes, not in detail, although the lists where he ranks players in the classes of '09 and '10 are long.

Here's what I'd like to see:

1. A different book that compares Mel's prior predicted draft orders with how the players turned out actually, say, five years down the road (including an analysis of which undrafted free agents did well).

2. Some "celebrity" evaluations. For example, over the years I've listened to Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio, and Mike Golic has identified people he thought would be pretty good. The year that Dwight Freeney was drafted, Golic was so high on Freeney that I believe he singlehandedly upped Freeney's status from a late first-round pick to a top 10 pick. That, in turn, made Freeney a whole lot of money, so I hope he sends Golic the big gift basket from Harry & David every holiday season. Seriously, some of these guys are insightful, and it would be neat to highlight their views (assuming, of course, that their contractual commitments would permit them to comment in this forum).

3. The first page shouldn't reference possible picks after the seventh round anymore. Mel, there hasn't been a twelfth round in how many years? Yet, on the first page, some of the identified metrics talk about players drafted after the seventh round. Get yourself some more editors.

All in all, it's a fun book, especially if you're an NFL fan. There are plenty of factoids to keep you interested, such as the rating scale that's used to predict the type of pro a college player will be be, the assessment of the NFL teams' needs, etc. Enjoy!


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