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Dick Harmon: Kiper is merely human

Published: Tuesday, May 1 2007 12:08 a.m. MDT

Now that smoke from the weekend NFL Draft has cleared, the drama created by ESPN on this annual affair is an interesting study in hype, TV production and reality.

You need no bigger pile of evidence than the situation draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. placed Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn in last Saturday.

You could rank it as entertaining or cruel. Like watching a NASCAR wreck ... .

Kiper had Quinn a top-five talent. And after team after team failed to pick Quinn, Kiper squirmed and appeared defensive. Camera shots constantly showed Quinn losing $17 million dollars in 15-minute increments, a slow free fall.

ESPN's on-air talent had to fling out reasons for Quinn dropping. They criticized and evaluated. And Quinn, watching and listening to every word, was front and center on TV with his white-faced girlfriend. Quinn did a great job of not flinching while bamboo shoots were pounded up his fingernails ... .

For hours, ESPN's graphic kept placing Quinn as the highest rated available talent, and as the broadcast lumbered on and more teams kept passing on Quinn, the iconic Golden Domer, saying to Kiper, "Nope, he isn't."

It was sick.

I've got nothing against Quinn. He might end up being a star for the Browns.

Same with Kiper, although he's proved to be a real lightning rod. I respect anyone who works as hard as Kiper, studying film, talking to so-called experts, memorizing the 40 times and lifts of 300 college players.

But Kiper isn't infallible. He's no better or worse than your average guesser. Who can forget when he had BYU's John Walsh close to a first rounder in the early 1990s? Or in 2000, when he had Ute Mike Anderson "overrated." The Utah stud ended up a star in Denver. To his credit, Kiper isn't one to get caught up in Notre Dame clouds; in 1993 he didn't fall for the Rick Mirer hype.

An organ grinder monkey with a little hat can probably be 50 percent right most of the time.

But the situation Kiper and ESPN put Quinn in Saturday was stupid. Of course, Quinn did choose to be there.

As it turned out, in the eyes of NFL folks that counted, Cleveland and Miami both passed on Quinn, as did Detroit and Minnesota and 17 other "chance" picks in the first round. Then the Browns frantically traded to get a shot at Quinn for a far less value than Kiper had set him up for.

Perhaps a dose of reality?

Meanwhile, Dolphin management, booed by Miami fans who appeared taken in by Kiper's "value rating" of Quinn when they picked Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr. instead, frantically tried to trade up to take BYU's John Beck and failed. Miami finally got it done at No. 40, eighth in the second.

Like the Browns, Miami saved money.

What the NFL said was, "Sorry Mel, there isn't that much difference in Quinn and Beck," or Houston's Kevin Kolb, who went between those two QBs to the Eagles.

Hype aside, you had to feel sorry for Quinn. He was set up to tumble without a chute. Thanks, Kiper.

When asked about the drama of last Saturday — the story of the 2007 draft, Beck said he understood how Quinn felt, and it wasn't Quinn's fault.

"It's a tough situation to be in because he had no control over it," said Beck. "He paid his dues, worked hard, has done well in his games and then people said he slipped, he wasn't as good a quarterback as he's supposed to be, I think that's wrong. I think Cleveland is the best fit for him."

On Sunday and Monday, this story of the draft continued to roll on.

In a press conference Sunday in Miami, Beck was asked if he thought he was better than Quinn, or how they compared.

Beck versus Quinn?

"I'm not even going to get into a comment about that," Beck said. "I think as a quarterback you have to always be confident, but I think for a comparison right now that's something that I don't even want to get into."

It's a debate that won't be settled for years, if not after two careers are over.

And in the NFL, getting with the right team with proper supporting cast is 90 percent of the battle.

Ask Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 pick.

No. 1 JaMarcus Russell could become a very expensive pinata for the Raiders — a very bad football team.

That's reality, something Kiper and Company could surely emphasize a bit more.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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