Mel Kiper Jr. makes a boatload of money covering the NFL Draft.
AP Photo/Steve Luciano

Mel Kiper Jr. Made $400 His First Year Covering the NFL Draft Before Making Bank

In the basement of Rheta & Mel Kiper Sr.'s Baltimore home, Melvin Adam Kiper Jr. built something no one ever had. Starting his senior year at Calvert Hall College High School, Mel Kiper Jr. produced an annual NFL Draft book that was preceded by a draft preview in October, monthly newsletters, and complete free agent report. If Draft Day was a holiday, this was the moment it became religious, and Mel Kiper's salary is the gridiron tithe.

Kiper dropped out of Essex Community College to build Mel Kiper Enterprises, Inc. into a recognized and highly-valued tool for front office personnel, general managers, and scouts of the National Football League hoping to get the inside track on every college football player headed for the pros. Previewing the nation's potential draft picks, determining the first-overall pick, and providing in-depth analysis, has not only become a way of life for Kiper, it's been a moneymaker since his very first draft. If only the New York Jets had hindsight and Kiper's advice, they could've landed Aaron Rodgers much earlier and not have spent years wasting valuable Super Bowl years with Geno Smith and Zach Wilson.

In fact, it was former Baltimore Colts general manager Ernie Accorsi who suggested Kiper become a full-time football analyst who specialized in the draft. The Baltimore County native never looked back.

During an appearance on The Action Network's "Favorites" Podcast, Kiper revealed that during his first year as an NFL Draft analyst working for ESPN in 1984, he earned $400 — not like $400 a week or even $400 a month; he made $400 for the entire year.

"You gotta pay your dues," Kiper said. "When I started out, we were losing money. We lost money for the first four years in this business, in terms of putting out draft reports. We never knew if we'd make a dollar, but you keep going."

Rating potential draft picks and paying his dues certainly paid off, too.

It Pays to Predict

RELATED: Todd McShay's NFL Draft Coverage Helped Make Him Rich

Selling his draft books and publications helped Mel Kiper Jr. earn a livable income before his jump to ESPN.

In 2012, Kiper signed a six-year contract extension with the company, but it's unclear how much he earned during that stretch. Kiper told Bleacher Report in a 2014 interview "that his salary from ESPN did not reach six figures until about a decade ago."

With that in mind, we can assume Kiper's been making at least $100,000 per year since the mid-2000s.

Kiper also revealed in that same interview that his family lived in a 6,500-square-foot house in Maryland. A built-in radio and TV studio helped him work from home, obviously. Kiper had also purchased a second home on the Chesapeake Bay, which included a deck, hot tub, private pier, and an elevator reaching every level of the home.

That should be plenty of space for wife Kim Kiper and daughter Lauren to stretch their legs.

Several online estimates suggest the NFL Draft expert has an annual salary north of $400,000 today, which isn't bad for someone who lived his parents' basement until he was 30 years old.

A Net Worth Worth a Trove of Draft Picks

Screenshot from YouTube

With five decades of experience dissecting NFL Draft hopefuls and creating annual mock drafts, Mel Kiper Jr. correctly predicted which players would be first-round picks 85 percent of the time in NFL Drafts from 2009-13, according to data from The Huddle Report (via Bleacher Report).

The sportscaster's consistent big boards and NFL Draft coverage also earned him voice spots in video games like ESPN NFL 2K5NFL Head Coach, and two versions of Madden NFL 07.

Sustained success lands Mel Kiper's estimated net worth around $7 million, which is likely to increase as the 61-year-old draft analyst continues in his current role alongside fellow expert Todd McShay.

This article was originally published February 26, 2020.

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