We all like to get after Mel Kiper any time he’s wrong about a draft prospect. But the legendary NFL analyst deserves some credit for the picks that he calls correctly, too! And trust us, this man has hit the jackpot on a lot of them.
Here’s a look at one draft pick for every NFL team that Kiper was actually right about!
Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson
Kiper released his final first-round mock one day before the 2011 NFL Draft. This class was loaded with future superstars and Hall of Famers, and Kiper hit the jackpot on several prospects.
Among them: Kiper had the Cardinals taking LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 pick.
Peterson spent 10 seasons with Arizona, racking up eight Pro Bowl and three first-team all-pro selections during his time in the desert.
Atlanta Falcons: Brett Favre
Favre was drafted 33rd overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1991. In his draft report, however, Kiper listed Favre as the No. 17 prospect and noted that he “has a strong, powerful arm,” his “Delivery is outstanding,” and he “has the natural ability and overall attitude to make the successful transition to the NFL.”
Three MVP awards, a Super Bowl ring and a Hall of Fame induction later, and I’d say Kiper was bang-on with his assessment.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Matt Ryan was the first QB drafted in 2008. Kiper had suggested that if Delaware product Joe Flacco had gone to a bigger school, there’d be a greater debate as to which quarterback would go first.
“When you have an arm that is that big, all you need is an audience,” Kiper stated.
Flacco may be at the down-point of his career, but there was definitely a time when he threw arguably the NFL’s best deep-ball: For proof, see the Mile High Miracle.
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen
The 2018 NFL Draft consisted of five highly-touted QB prospects. Everyone seemed to have “their guy,” and for Kiper, his was Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.
Kiper promoted Allen as the best QB of this class, ahead of guys like Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson…even when people like Stephen A. Smith doubted him:
Well, three years into their respective careers, it’s looking like Kiper was right about the Bills QB!
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey
Everybody knows that it’s risky to draft a running back early. But Kiper had no issues with the Panthers taking Stanford running back seventh overall in 2017. In fact, he LOVED the selection.
Great call by the Panthers AND Kiper, as C-Mac became just the third running back in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing AND receiving yards in a season in 2019.
Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller
The Bears took the Virginia Tech corner 14th overall in 2014, and Kiper’s take on Fuller was near 100 percent accurate. In his draft grades, Kiper wrote that “Kyle Fuller may not be a star at CB, but the floor is probably a really good player for a long time.”
EXACTLY! Fuller has never been elite, but he did earn two Pro Bowl selections in his seven seasons with the Bears.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green
The Bengals hit home runs with their first two picks in 2011. They took AJ Green fourth overall before landing Andy Dalton in round two.
Kiper wrote that Green would “make all the plays” and is “as ready as any player in the draft to help a team.”
Correct. Green caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns and helped the Bengals claim the final wild card spot in the AFC as a rookie. It marked the first of five straight playoff seasons for the long-struggling franchise.
Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel
Manziel was one of the most polarizing prospects ever. We all know how much Skip Bayless believed in his ability to succeed at the NFL Level. But on ESPN First Take, Kiper warned Bayless about his giant bust potential.
Well, Kiper’s take sure aged well.
Dallas Cowboys: Zack Martin
Jerry Jones wanted to take Manziel here, but the Cowboys wisely settled on Notre Dame guard Zack Martin at No. 16 overall.
Kiper credited Dallas for passing on Manziel. He stated that the Martin selection made the Dallas o-line “arguably among the top few units in the NFL”. Kiper also saw Martin as a top-10 talent, which he undoubtedly has been.
Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow
Prior to the 2010 draft, Kiper said that Tebow was an H-back, and that he never thought of him as an NFL QB. Kiper also suggested that a team draft him in round three or four.
Well, the Broncos should have taken Kiper’s advice. They drafted Tebow 25th overall as a quarterback. And while he did win them some games – including a thrilling overtime playoff victory against the Steelers – he only lasted two seasons in Denver and looked much more like a running back than a quarterback during his time under center.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
We can keep this one short and sweet. In 2006, Kiper was quoted as stating the following on ESPN Radio:
“Matthew Stafford eventually will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Write that down.”
Spoiler alert: Three years later, in 2009, Stafford was drafted first overall by the Lions.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Even though they already had Brett Favre at quarterback, the Packers opted to choose Rodgers at No. 24 overall in 2005.
After the pick, Kiper said, “You just can’t pass on the opportunity to get Brett Favre’s heir apparent and give him some time to learn from one of the best passers ever, even though he won’t help them win this year.”
In his draft report, Kiper also said A-Rod could “Light up a defense,” and he described him as “tough, confident” and “incredibly poised.”
Check. Check. And Check.
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt
In his 2011 mock draft, Kiper had the Browns taking JJ Watt with the No. 6 pick. Kiper said, “you won’t find a more consistently disruptive and versatile player along the defensive line than Watt.”
Watt actually fell to the Texans at No. 11 overall. And Kiper’s take was accurate. From 2012 to 2015, there wasn’t a more consistently disruptive NFL player on the defensive line.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette
Kiper, to put it mildly, wasn’t the least bit smitten with the Jaguars’ decision to take the LSU running back fourth overall in 2017.
In his draft grades, Kiper gave the Jaguars a C+. He specifically questioned the Fournette pick, saying he’s “just not a fan of taking running backs early when other needs can be addressed.”
And, well, he was right. Fournette lasted just three seasons in Jacksonville, as the team passed on future superstars like Jamal Adams, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Tre’Davious White and Marshon Lattimore. Yikes!
Indianapolis Colts: Trev Alberts
With the No. 5 pick in the 1994 draft, the Colts took Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts. And it led to one of the most iconic NFL draft moments EVER:
Alberts played just three seasons in the NFL. He recorded only four sacks and three forced fumbles.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
A month before the NFL draft, Kiper explained why he thought Texas Tech star Patrick Mahomes was the best QB of the 2017 class ahead of Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson.
Kiper was perfectly accurate on his assessment of Mahomes a month ahead of the draft:
“He can sling it. He has a heck of an arm. He’s adept at throwing the deep ball. He can move around. He has very under-rated mobility.”
Well said, Mel.
Las Vegas Raiders: Amari Cooper
The Raiders spent more than a decade wasting high-end first-round picks. A year after they nailed the Khalil Mack pick, the Raiders took Amari Cooper fourth overall in 2015.
Let’s just say Kiper was ALL OVER the selection. He said he wasn’t sure if any other club “hit a bigger home run early in the draft.” He also said Cooper “is in some ways a pass-catching version of Mack — he does everything well.”
Cooper’s lived up to that high praise, not only during his three seasons with the Raiders, but during his ensuing time with the Cowboys as well.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon
The Chargers traded up to take the power running back 15th overall in 2015. And though Kiper noted he doesn’t usually like taking RBs early, the draft guru was fine with this one.
Kiper said Gordon was “a massive upgrade” in the RB depth chart and said Philip Rivers could be a little happier if the rushing game improves. Gordon rushed for over 800 yards in three seasons with the Chargers, totaling 36 touchdowns in his five years there.
Los Angeles Rams: Steven Jackson
With Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk nearing the end of his career, the Rams took his successor with the No. 24 selection in 2004. Kiper gave the Rams’ draft haul a B and shared this tidbit on Jackson:
“Marshall Faulk has made only 21 starts over the last two years, so Steven Jackson is a perfect fit as the heir apparent at running back.”
Jackson went on to make three Pro Bowls and record eight 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams.
Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker
Kiper gave the Dolphins a “B” grade for the 2015 draft, mostly because of the Parker selection. He said the Louisville wideout “has the chance to be special and fills a clear need for them.” Kiper also thought Parker could have gone several picks earlier.
It took a while, but Parker finally broke out with the Dolphins in 2019 to show his potential as a No. 1 receiver. And yeah, he probably should have gone earlier than 14th.
Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder
The QB-needy Vikings took a chance on Christian Ponder at No. 12 overall in 2011, but Kiper didn’t agree.
He said the Vikings “reached” for Ponder and wondered if he could have been had later, pointing out that Andy Dalton went 35th overall.
Right again. Mr. Kiper! Ponder was a mess from the get-go, and he was out of the league by 2016.
New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo went 62nd overall to the Patriots. And yes, he was the first QB taken after Carr and Bridgewater were selected. Just like Mel predicted.
New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore
If it weren’t for hamstring injuries, Lattimore could have been drafted in the top five. But the Saints happily took the Ohio State corner with the No. 11 selection, and Kiper was thrilled with the pick:
“Marshon Lattimore comes with what I’d call an orange flag — not quite red — because of lingering hamstring issues, but if he’s healthy, he’s the top cornerback in the draft.”
Marlon Humphrey and Tre’Davious White might have something to say, but yes, Lattimore has made a strong case as the best corner of this draft.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley
The Giants were widely expected to take Eli Manning’s successor with the No. 2 pick in 2018, but they couldn’t pass on generational running back prospect Saquon Barkley.
Kiper said Barkley “will probably be great,” but he criticized the decision to take a running back this early, especially with all the quarterbacks still available.
Well, he was right. Barkley has been a game-changing force when healthy. But the Giants passed on two top-notch QBs in Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. So yeah, taking an RB that early was probably not a wise move.
New York Jets: Jamal Adams
Adams was No. 3 on Kiper’s final top 300 big board for the 2017 draft. Kiper said Adams is “built for today’s NFL as a versatile safety who can play in the box effectively, make tackles against the run and move to the edges and track slot receivers.””
BINGO. The Jets took Adams sixth overall, and he’s come exactly as advertised by Kiper.
Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Steelers took JuJu Smith-Schuster 62nd overall in 2017, but Kiper believed he could have gone earlier in round two. He said JuJu has “No. 1 potential.” And he was right!
Juju flashed that number one potential when he led the Steelers in receiving yards as a sophomore…even while Antonio Brown was still there.
Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert
When the Eagles took the South Dakota State tight end at No. 49 overall in 2018, Kiper called it the steal of the draft:
Three years and 12 touchdowns later, it’s looking like Kiper was spot on.
San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore
Kiper said Gore was a first-round talent in 2005, but he slipped to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 65 overall. Boy was he right.
All Gore has done is piece together a Hall of Fame career, one that sees him sit third all time in career rushing yards.
Seattle Seahawks: Rick Mirer
The Seahawks drafted the Notre Dame QB with the second overall pick in 1993, but Kiper only had him ranked as the 33rd-best prospect in the class.
So who was right? It was Kiper by a long shot, as Mirer only won 24 of 68 career starts with 50 touchdowns against 76 interceptions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lavonte David
Nine years into his NFL career, it’s safe to say that Lavonte David has produced like a first round pick – despite being taken late in the second round by the Bucs in 2012.
Well wouldn’t you know it? Kiper predicted this would be the case all along. Prior to the draft, Kiper stated that he would ‘not be surprised to see David produce better results in the NFL than a number of first round picks.’
Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan
Kiper ranked Lewan as the No. 5 prospect in the 2014 draft. The Titans got him 11th overall, and Kiper remarked that you “Can’t knock the pick” while emphasizing his strong run-blocking game.
Well, just ask Derrick Henry about Lewan’s run-blocking skills, along with his three Pro Bowl selections. I think it’s safe to say the Titans AND Kiper got this pick right.
Washington Football Team: Brandon Scherff
Washington took Scherff fifth overall in 2015. Here we are more than a half-decade later, and look at just how accurate Kiper’s quote was:
“I know there are questions about whether Brandon Scherff can stay at tackle in the NFL, but even if he’s a guard, while the pick value loses a little, the guy is a true mauler, a player who makes the run game better the second he steps on the field”
Six seasons later, Scherff has already proven himself to be one of the best guards in the game.