The evolution of NFL Draft television coverage is one of the most interesting, confounding things in all of sports. To think that ESPN has turned people reading names off cards into not just a television event, but one that people obsess over year round is truly astounding. The draft boom continues to climb higher and higher with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, the draft and the appetite for all things related to it, is only expanding.
Front and center of it all is Mel Kiper. The pioneer of draft experts everywhere. Anyone who can make a living off prognosticating the transition from college athletes to the pros certainly owes him and his immaculate hair a debt of gratitude.
But being a draft expert wasn’t always a lucrative profession. Bleacher Report had a lengthy profile of Kiper this week that contained this very interesting nugget. Kiper made just $400 working his first NFL Draft for ESPN back in 1984.
Then, four years ago, he purchased a second home on the waterfront of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It features chestnut hardwood floors, custom stonework and cabinetry—not to mention a deck with a hot tub and a private pier enjoyed by Kiper, his wife and their daughter, a freshman in college.
Oh, and an elevator inside the home serves all three levels.
“We’re living the American dream,” Kiper said during a recent interview with Bleacher Report.
But he also noted that his first ESPN contract, signed when the network hired him to work the 1984 NFL draft, paid him a grand total of $400.
He declined to say what he makes now but noted that his salary from ESPN did not reach six figures until about a decade ago. He also relayed that his annual draft book and related publications long generated most of his income.
It’s not bad when a small freelance gig turns into a six figure salary.
Kiper’s incredible rise mirrors that of the television presence of the draft. Not only does he make an appearance every spring for a few days, he’s heard and seen constantly in the weeks and months leading up to the draft. His rankings for 2015 will be talked about the day the 2014 draft is over.
There’s plenty more interesting details about Kiper including his relationship with Todd McShay, reaction to skeptics, and how he just recently started using a cell phone. And of course, the fortune he has made from being the nation’s preeminent draft expert.