Like almost anyone else who has parlayed the impact of television and his own forceful personality into king-of-the-hill success, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper probably is everything both his supporters and detractors think he is.
Whether or not he's the best or the worst NFL draft expert in the world, he has two things going for him that are undeniable: He does his homework and he's been doing it for a long time -- since 1979 to be exact.
No matter how often he might strike out, he's hit enough home runs to be respected. He had Jerry Rice going fourth overall in 1985 (the 49ers took him at No. 16), Randy Moss seventh in 1998 (the Vikings took him at No. 21) and Aaron Rodgers third in 2005 (the Packers took him at No. 24). Even on his worst day, Mel is at least Adam Dunn.
So while there literally are hundreds of mock drafts available on the internet, Mel Kiper's is worthy of more respect than most. And he has the Bears taking Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus with the 19th pick of the first round.
''I don't like one-year wonders,'' he said, referring to Mercilus' breakout junior season with a nation-leading 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles. ''But you're not taking him in the top 10-15. He would look good in a Bear uniform.''
What's to like?
''[He's] 6-3 1/2, 260-265 pounds, strong in the upper body [and] closes well,'' Kiper said Wednesday in a teleconference with reporters. ''I like the fact that he's a natural pass rusher. He's got natural pass-rush instincts and natural pass-rush moves, which is critical moving forward in the NFL. He plays the run adequately.''
Kiper, like many NFL scouts, would like to have seen more from Mercilus. But he also sounded like he had seen enough. ''If he would have played one more year at Illinois, he'd have been up there where Simeon Rice was, in the top five.''
That's an interesting reference, because Kiper actually thought Rice stayed a year too long at Illinois. He said Rice would have been the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft had he come out after his junior year, when he had 16 sacks.
Rice, a Chicagoan from Simeon High School, stayed at Illinois for his senior year, but his draft stock appeared to drop after he had 12 sacks, but a subpar second half of the season. Kiper had him going 15th overall in his initial 1996 mock draft, then seventh just prior to the draft. He went No. 3 overall to the Arizona Cardinals. A four-time all-pro, Rice had 122 sacks in 12 NFL seasons -- 13th on the NFL's all-time list.
Mercilus doesn't rate as highly as Rice did, but he has many of the attributes that made Rice the No. 3 pick in the 1996 draft: a great athlete with natural pass-rush skills, long arms and closing speed. And he has one attribute that scouts didn't see in Rice: ''Motivated.''