Mel Kiper Digs Himself into Contradictory Hole In Evaluations of Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson


ESPN’s Mel Kiper has said it all comes down to accuracy and completion percentage — unless it doesn’t.

He has said a great pro day and combine performance can completely erase a prospects’ weaknesses — unless it doesn’t.

As he evaluates the 2018 NFL Draft, Kiper is crossed in contradiction, particularly when his analysis pertains to Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Allen has often been Kiper’s top pick in the mock drafts he runs on ESPN. Jackson has been lucky to inch his way into the first round.

Jackson played in a subpar conference, but still managed to win a Heisman Trophy on the way to finishing his career with 9,043 passing yards, 4,132 rushing yards and 119 total touchdowns (69 passing, 50 rushing) and 27 interceptions. But the statistic Kiper underlined on a February 21 conference call was Jackson’s completion percentage: 57.

That’s a fair criticism — except that he has been intent on glossing over Allen’s completion percentage: 56.2.

Allen finished his career with 5,006 passing yards, 767 rushing yards, 56 touchdowns (44 passing, 12 rushing) and 21 interceptions. And yes he’s the guy in the draft who is 6-foot-5, has huge hands and can probably throw the furthest and fastest. It’s something Allen openly joked about on the Barstool “Pardon My Take” podcast. He seems to know he’s a walking cliché for a draft bust.

But when it comes to Allen, Kiper doesn’t care about completion percentage. He said as much on March 28.

Allen did have a number of drool-inducing throws during his combine performance and at his pro day. I wrote a blog post about the throws at his pro day. If you put Allen in a skin-tight romper with some receivers, the NFL world considers the scene a popcorn-worthy event. But that doesn’t mean that event is more valuable than an entire season (or three) of game tape.

Just ask Kiper, who has said pro days don’t matter.

So for those keeping score:

  1. Completion percentage doesn’t matter for Allen but it does for Jackson.
  2. Pro days matter solely for Allen. For everyone else, they’re irrelevant and, frankly, unimportant.

Anyone else confused? Here’s a little context.

Even the “layups” comment is something that is subject to scrutiny. Kiper’s statement that Jackson’s completion percentage was buoyed by easy throws and Allen’s was not does not make sense with Jackson averaging almost two more yards per attempt last season, while they completed a similar percentage of passes. According to this research, Jackson had fewer throws that were at or behind the line of scrimmage (15% versus 19%).

Let’s not pretend Kiper’s job is easy. He develops evaluations on hundreds of prospects while surely managing input (off the record) from NFL general managers, coaches, scouts, agents, college players and NFL players, who all have different agendas. He compiles that information, then writes and talks about it ad nauseam.

But when Allen shot to the top of Kiper’s mock draft board, many — myself included — thought Kiper was a little crazy. A few months later, Kiper has yet to defend Allen’s resume in a convincing way. These contradictions on the conference calls show his unsatisfactory defense.

Allen may someday be an elite quarterback. Jackson may someday be a bust. And everything in between or opposite can happen. Allen and Jackson each have truly incredible tools to be excellent NFL quarterbacks. But just like Jackson, Allen poses a huge risk to any team that takes him, especially if the Cleveland Browns make him the first pick in the draft. It feels like Kiper hasn’t acknowledged or properly defended that possibility.