The draft is just two days away and for the 28th year, Mel Kiper, Jr. will be involved with ESPN’s coverage. Kiper is the NFL Draft. Only recently has he had to share the throne with ESPN Scouts, Inc. wunderkind Todd McShay. Together they are the core of ESPN’s draft coverage. But who exactly are these guys and what paths did they take to sit atop the NFL Draft’s Mount Olympus? We examine.
Who is Todd McShay?
McShay grew up in Swampscott, MA, a former summer resort town that was considered one of the 20 wealthiest cities in Massachusetts two years ago. He began his football career in Pop Warner, where he played with Peter Woodfork, the current assistant general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. McShay went on to start behind center for Swampscott High School.
Without any interest from major schools to play football, he enrolled at the University of Richmond in 1995 and walked on as a quarterback in Division I-AA (now the FCS). He was switched to defensive back and as he once described it, he mostly “ate dirt” in practice. He didn’t stop playing until a back injury forced him out for good in ’97. Yet McShay still wanted to be around the game. So he got a position cutting game film for the team, which is where he first learned how to scout.
His experience came at just the right time. His grandfather, a former scout for Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, connected him with former NFL scout Gary Horton who was starting a scouting service meant to cross-check NFL scouting reports for every team. Horton named it “The War Room” and McShay interned in the summer of 1998. The internship went so well that after McShay graduated a year later, he had a full-time job with Horton waiting for him. He was paid just $1,000 a month and lived on a friend’s sofa in Manhattan. But a job’s a job.
“The War Room” began providing information for CBS Sports and had a deal with the Sporting News. But in 2006 it was absorbed by ESPN and redubbed “Scouts, Inc.” From there his career skyrocketed. He became ESPN’s director of college football scouting at Scouts, Inc. and began providing draft-day analysis immediately in 2006. He’s transformed into Mel Kiper Jr.’s foil during ESPN’s extensive lead up coverage to the draft, relentlessly sparring on-air over Jimmy Clausen’s draft stock in recent weeks.
McShay, now 33, currently resides in Boston, MA, and is married with no kids. Even away from Bristol McShay is tirelessly looking at game film. He turned an extra bedroom in his home into a film-breakdown room.
He told the Boston Globe in a recent profile: “For a while, it was just Mel Kiper, but now you’ve seen dozens of different draftniks spring up, and I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. As they say, luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”
Who is Mel Kiper, Jr.?
McShay’s rise to stardom is interesting, but not quite as remarkable as Mel Kiper, who essentially invented his own career. It’s one thing to be in the right place at the right time. It’s another to create the right place altogether.
Kiper was never a football player – it should be no surprise since he wouldn’t want to mess up that hair. But he was a draftnik before it existed and as a teenager living in the Baltimore area, he began compiling scouting lists to send to NFL teams across the country. His parents even got him a satellite dish and he racked up long distance calls by contacting schools for any and all information he could get his hands on.
Kiper’s initial plan was to get hired by an NFL team and work in scouting. With all those draft lists, he hoped somebody would be willing to hire him. One place he tried hawking his list was at Baltimore Colts training camp. It was there that then-assistant GM Ernie Accorsi suggested that Kiper make people pay for this list. So at 19 while attending the local Essex Community College, Kiper published his first draft book in 1979 for NFL teams and a handful of subscribers. He likely would’ve landed with the Colts, but they picked up and left for Indianapolis before anything ever happened. But Kiper’s radio work to plug the book attracted ESPN execs, and he was hired in 1983 for that year’s draft at the age of 22.
Kiper still needed a catalyst to launch him into national fame and that came in the form of Colts GM Bill Tobin. During the 1994, Draft Kiper criticized the Colts for not taking a quarterback with either of their first two picks (Nos. 2 and 5) and called them a laughingstock. When told of the criticism, Tobin – who was in his first draft as the GM – railed on Kiper on ESPN’s live air and ended with this gem: “Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor’s a postman.”
Although it was negative publicity at the time, Kiper finally mattered nationally in relation to the draft. As the draft grew, it was only natural that Kiper’s presence at ESPN grew as well. He’s been a part of the network’s draft coverage for 28 years now and it’s almost impossible to mention the draft and not talk about something Kiper has said. When he’s not on SportCenter arguing with Todd McShay, he’s on ESPN radio doing interviews for various shows and co-hosting his own show on weekends leading up to the draft.
Now 49, Kiper lives in Jarrettsville, MD, just outside of Baltimore. He and his wife, Kim Kiper, run Mel Kiper Enterprises, through which he still publishes his draft book. The two have a daughter, Lauren. And Kim’s in charge of Kiper’s most valuable asset – cutting that famous head of hair.