Kiper or McShay? NFL Fans Pick Their Favorite Draft Personalities
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have had a mostly friendly (and occasionally heated) rivalry as the network’s two longtime draft gurus. Similar to debates around the best quarterback of all time, NFL fans will often argue over which ESPN personality is the better analyst as draft day approaches each April.
According to a new Morning Consult survey, the answer is: They’re basically equal. McShay edged Kiper in fan enjoyment by a single percentage point — within the survey’s margin of error. Both personalities were considerably less popular than quarterbacks-turned-analysts like Kurt Warner and Robert Griffin III.
The survey also found that half of self-identified NFL fans said they plan to consume live coverage of the draft on ESPN, compared with 38% who said they will watch the event on ABC. Meanwhile, about 1 in 3 fans (32%) said they plan to watch NFL Network, which since 2006 has provided on-site TV draft coverage led by Rich Eisen, the longest-tenured draft host in sports media.
NFL Fans Ranks Their Favorite Draft Personalities
NFL fans’ favorite draft commentators
- Nearly 3 in 4 NFL fans (73%) said they at least “enjoy somewhat” listening to Super Bowl XXXIV champion Kurt Warner for his draft coverage, making the NFL Network analyst fans’ most preferred draft commentator, followed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, sports fans’ most beloved NFL insider, and ESPN analyst Robert Griffin III. About 7 in 10 NFL fans said they either “enjoy a lot” or “enjoy somewhat” listening to draft analysis from Schefter (70%) and Griffin (68%), who played with the Baltimore Ravens in 2020.
- McShay narrowly edged out ESPN colleague Kiper, with about 3 in 5 NFL fans (59%) saying they enjoy listening to McShay’s draft commentary, compared with 58% who said the same for Kiper. The 1-point difference is well within the survey’s margin of error. Kiper had more fans say they enjoy his analysis “a lot” (32%, compared with 30% for McShay) but also had a higher share say they do not enjoy his work than that of his colleague.
- More than 1 in 10 NFL fans (13%) said they either “do not enjoy much” or “do not enjoy at all” watching Kiper, 1 point less than ESPN’s Booger McFarland, the least-liked NFL draft commentator included in the 23-person survey.
NFL Fans Don’t Watch the Draft Primarily for the Commentary
Why NFL fans watch the draft
- NFL fans overwhelmingly tune in to the draft to see which players their favorite teams’ pick, according to the survey, which found that 71% of the cohort said that was a “major reason” they watch. About half of fans said they watch to learn more about the upcoming NFL season (51%) and to see where players from their favorite college get drafted (48%).
- Of the seven NFL draft rounds, more than 3 in 5 NFL fans (65%) said they plan to watch the first round on Thursday night in primetime, compared with 50% who said they will watch rounds 2 to 3 on Friday evening.
- Fewer than 1 in 5 NFL fans (17%) said they plan to follow the draft on Twitter, which has severed some of its deep-rooted connections to the sports industry amid the chaotic Elon Musk era.
State of the NFL draft
Decades ago, the NFL draft was not even televised. Today, it’s a marquee event on the sports calendar, averaging over 10 million viewers on opening night. Cities now bid to host the three-day spectacle, with prior draft stops including Chicago, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Nashville. NFL draft analysts like McShay and Kiper have built careers by studying draft prospects to become popular sports media figures almost solely for their analysis.
This year’s draft, in Kansas City, has more uncertainty than usual: It’s unclear if the Carolina Panthers will select Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud with the first overall pick. For what it's worth, McShay and Kiper joined forces in their latest combined mock draft, predicting the Panthers will select Young.
The April 12-14, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,199 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Mark J. Burns is a senior data reporter at Morning Consult covering the business of sports. @markjburns88