Longtime ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has spent nearly 40 years covering the NFL draft and lending no shortage of colorful takes when discussing the newest crop of professional football players. Nothing quite captures the draft like Kiper dissecting a 6-foot-2, Division II cornerback and why he could be a steal despite being selected early in the seventh round.
The good news for football fans is Kiper, who turns 62 in July, will work all three days of this year’s draft, just as he and the network intended all along. However, unlike in previous years, the longtime draft analyst will work remotely from his home studio in Maryland rather than provide insight onsite.
Kiper announced on April 18 that he would not attend the 2022 NFL Draft, which will take place in Las Vegas, because he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Disney, which owns ESPN, announced last July that all salaried and non-union hourly employees needed to receive a vaccination.
Kiper cited his personal medical history for why he is unvaccinated.
“I appreciate my colleagues, particularly the production staff and my fellow commentators, for their support and flexibility,” Kiper wrote. “NFL fans are the most passionate in all of sports, and I can’t wait for another great NFL Draft.”
Mike Greenberg, Louis Riddick, and Booger McFarland will all work the 2022 NFL Draft onsite for ESPN.
Several sports networks, including those with a vested interest in baseball, have continued allowing unvaccinated employees to remotely contribute to broadcasts. Former New York Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill, who is unvaccinated, called games for the YES Network earlier this season from his home in Ohio. Atlanta Braves great John Smoltz, who lost his position with MLB Network because of his vaccination status, is expected to work the All-Star Game and World Series for Fox later this year.
Kiper won’t be the only marquee name missing from ESPN and ABC’s draft coverage. Adam Schefter, who is attending his son’s college graduation, will not work any of the draft’s three days.
Longtime college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who would have contributed to ABC’s simulcast, announced on Monday, April 25, that he would miss the draft after his physicians discovered a blood clot. The former Ohio State quarterback said he is in good spirits and intends on covering the 2023 draft, which will be held in Las Vegas.
ABC, ESPN, and the NFL Network will all begin their 2022 NFL Draft coverage on Thursday, April 28. For more on this year’s draft, check out our comprehensive page here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than 520 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through January 10, 2022. … COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”