NEW YORK - APRIL 28: Mel Kiper, Chris Mortensen and Keyshawn Johnson broadcast for ESPN during the 2007 NFL Draft on April 28, 2007 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Back in August when Kentwan Balmer went AWOL from San Francisco 49ers training camp, there was speculation among the Faithful that there could be another shoe to drop in regard to Balmer's mysterious, undisclosed "issues".
"Kentwan's got to make up his mind in terms of how he's going to handle some of the personal issues that he has to handle," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said at the time. "There's certainly a lot on his plate right now."
That other shoe might be hitting the fan now, and it appears to be wearing a toupee.
This week's Sports Illustrated published a bombshell story detailing a culture of corruption between NCAA athletes and their prospective agents, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper is alleged to have given bogus positive reviews to NCAA players represented by Balmer's agent, Gary Wichard.
The Sports Illustrated expose is written by Josh Luchs, an NFL agent for more than 20 years. "In the agent business, people know Gary (Wichard) and Mel (Kiper) are close," Luchs wrote. "Some people suspect that Mel ranks players more favorably if they are Gary's clients."
Did Kiper perhaps pull such chicanery for his buddy's client Kentwan Balmer back in 2008, just before the 49ers drafted Balmer? Muck-raking sports blog Sports by Books looks into it, and finds reason to believe he did.
"If you pore over Kiper’s mock drafts leading up to the NFL Draft in 2008, he ranked Balmer’s draft status well above where Balmer was projected by many other distinguished draft experts," Brooks finds.
In a jarring example, Kiper at one point had Balmer projected as the tenth-overall draft pick when other well-known draft analysts did not even have Balmer in the first round. Balmer was ultimately selected by the 49ers with the 29th pick in the first round.
Kiper defends himself to Sports Illustrated, saying, "My player ratings are not related to my relationship with Gary or any other agent. There are many examples of players Gary represented who I have not ranked highly."
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who lost faith in all NFL agents back in 1999 when they gave a license to Master P.