By:Kevin Jones. 7/15/2011. 1:08 PM.
What on earth is Mel Kiper Jr. doing in Chantilly, VA?
The critically acclaimed NFL Draft expert is hosting a 7-on-7 high school football camp in the DC area. Forget any preconceived notions that Kiper is some television primadonna. Mel was interacting with coaches, players, by-standers and employees; shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
Kiper even took some time for an aspiring sports journalist. He fondly recalled the days when his close friends and family members called him delusional for writing detailed books on NFL Draft prospects. Now, Mel Kiper Jr. is the second longest tenured analyst at ESPN.
Q: Will there ever be a time that college football players are legally paid?
Mel: That’s a tough one. My feeling is that you’re getting a scholarship, appreciate what you’re getting. You know you’re talking about a lot of money kids have to pay to go to college, a lot of resources that kids have to have. The parents and what they have to do, the sacrifices the average parents have to make to get a kid to a college. I’m really tossed on that. I can see all the money they are bringing in to the universities because of their abilities but I also know that they are getting that scholarship. Some parents have a tough time getting the money together for a kid to go to school. Right now, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
Q: We saw the MLB strike in 1994 and the NBA lockout in 1999. Both sports saw dire affects from the work stoppage. Do you anticipate anything like that for the NFL?
Mel: Everyone has their fingers crossed. That’s all you can really do. Because you have two sides they always call it the millionaires against the billionaires. The bottom line is that there is a lot of money at stake. I think you certainly can’t have a situation develop where you are hurting the game through missing opportunities for fans to be there. Fans are planning for these first few games. Both parties have compromised from what I understand. I am expecting a verbal agreement, let’s say in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Q: The rookie scale was agreed upon last night, what do you think will be included in that?
Mel: I’m not sure of the final decision, but what they are trying to do is get those rookie salaries down from where they are, so you aren’t paying all that money to unproven players. The veterans have proven what they can do and they have to battle for what they’re getting and then you get a rookie drafted in the top 15 making more. They are trying to level the playing field. And also, how about when an undrafted guy or a mid-round pick becomes better than a first round pick? It’s out of whack. Bottom line is we are going to have some balance now, where we didn’t have it before.
Q: Now for some X’s and O’s. The Broncos have a hell of a QB competition going on. Who should start up in Denver?
Mel: I thought he should be an H-Back but if Tim Tebow is your guy, you gotta’ let him play. You got to find out. He’s a great leader. He’s got to be your starting quarterback I believe.
Q: It’s hard to say right now without free agency, but who do you like winning the NFC East?
Mel: I’d say right now, if I had to make a pick, I’d go with the Eagles. They are very balanced on offense with [Michael] Vick being able to run the way he does. Andy Reid isn’t going to run much, but Vick gives you an extra running back. And then you got the receiving options, the great player DeSean Jackson is. The defense is going to be better with some of the youth they brought in via the draft. They have a good mix of youth and experience. I would go with the Eagles.
Q: It’s hard to tell which rookies have been working out, but you are the guru. Who do you think will come in and make an immediate impact?
Mel: That’s the thing, this rookie class will not have the impact like they had last year because they aren’t going to benefit from OTA’s and minicamps etc. I think you will see success from the running backs and attacking linebackers. You look at a guy like Ryan Kerrigan for the Washington Redskins. He’s a kid with a great motor, a high intensity player. You think about when the Houston Texans drafted JJ Watt as a 3-4 end, they need help on defense. On offense, obviously quarterbacks are going to have a tough time this year. I could see running back Mikel Leshoure for the Detroit Lions having a solid year.
Q: Who is an underrated prospect right now you are looking at in the college ranks?
Mel: I always look at the 1-AA ranks for some of those guys flying under the radar. Or even the Sun Belt conference. In the major schools you got some kids. Knile Davis from Arkansas, he doesn’t get talked about much. I think he is the best running back in the country. Tyler Wilson the quarterback at Arkansas, I thought he looked much better at times last year than Ryan Mallet. I think if you’re looking at a team this year with prospects, especially being in the SEC, I think I’d put Arkansas on the top of that list.
Q: Did Roger Goodell handle the lockout well? Would you have done anything differently?
Mel: You know, [pause] there is no way to handle it any differently because he tried to keep communication with both parties, even though he’s working for the owners of the NFL. De Smith and him seem to have a decent relationship, mutual respect on both sides. I think Roger Goodell backed off on his schedule of 18 games and reducing the preseason because he knows the coaches and players don’t want that. Goodell is a great communicator and is open to discussion.