The still relevant lesson in the classic beef between Colts and Mel Kiper

Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

28 years ago, Mel Kiper famously criticized the Indianapolis Colts for not drafting Trent Dilfer, and then general manager, Bill Tobin, had a classic response.

In the 1994 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts had the second and fifth-overall picks. They were coming off a 4-12 season and were just two years removed from a Draft where they had the top-two selections.

First, Indy selected Marshall Faulk. At No. 5, the Colts decided to select Trev Alberts, a linebacker out of Nebraska. This selection was to the dismay of Draft analyst Mel Kiper.

Kiper ripped Indianapolis for not drafting quarterback Trent Dilfer, who went one spot later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kiper delivered a classic rant on why it was such a bad move and Indy’s general manager at the time, Bill Tobin, responded with a classic rant of his own.

The exchange is a historical moment in NFL history that is relived every year around draft time.

Kiper, of course, is still doing his job as a draft expert and the Colts eventually became a dominant franchise. In the laughter of this classic moment is an often overlooked lesson that many teams need to learn.

That lesson is: it’s better to wait for a guy you believe in than to draft a player early that you aren’t sold on just because you have a need at the position.

The Draft lesson highlighted by the Colts and Mel Kiper

Marshall Faulk went on to become a Hall of Famer. Trev Alberts, on the other hand, didn’t pan out as he struggled with injuries. He ultimately played in just 29 games over three seasons before retiring.

However, Trent Dilfer didn’t become the quarterback that many thought he would be. He started in Tampa, making a Pro Bowl in 1997, and played in the league until 2007.

Instead of being a franchise-changing quarterback, Dilfer has become the cultural reference of a quarterback that is carried by a good team, alluding to the 2000 Ravens who won a Super Bowl behind an all-time defense with Dilfer as the starter.

The Colts, however, made the playoffs in 1995 and 1996, reaching the Conference Championship in 1995 with Jim Harbaugh at QB. However, the success was short-lived as Indy found itself at the top of the Draft again in 1998.

This time, the Colts did take a quarterback. That quarterback was Peyton Manning and he led Indy to dominance as he established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

If Indianapolis had selected Dilfer in 1994 just because they needed a quarterback, the Colts probably would have never ended up with Peyton Manning.

However, Indy knew it wasn’t in love with Dilfer as a prospect so the team didn’t reach because of need. Instead, the Colts went with who they felt was the best player for them at the time and waited until they had the chance to get a quarterback they loved.

As everyone knows, that worked out really well. That should be a lesson for teams as they prepare for this year’s Draft. Just because a team has a need at a position doesn’t mean they should use an early draft pick on a player they don’t believe in.