BRISTOL, CT—NFL officials and ESPN executives made an emergency announcement Tuesday stating that the 2007 NFL Player Draft may have to be postponed indefinitely, as draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board, the index-card-laden bulletin board used to catalog, rank, and track every single player in the draft, was accidentally knocked over late Monday night.
"I just got up from my seat at the table to get a cup of coffee, and I must have hit the Big Board with my shoulder," said Kiper, holding up a loose stack of cards bearing players' names, positions, and schools printed in his distinctive block letters. "Now, the entire draft has been jumbled all together and no one is sure what player should go when. We might have to wait until July for me to get everyone back where they belong."
"Look at this," Kiper said, gesturing to a table where his Big Board lay uncharacteristically horizontal and bereft of player rankings. "It's not supposed to be like that. Not supposed to be like that at all."
Since the Big Board's introduction in 1984, it has served as the ranking medium for all top NFL draft picks. In its entire 23-year history, the Board has never before been knocked completely all the way over.
"This is much worse than the 1995 'bobble' of the Big Board that saw five players' names from the mid-first round come unpinned and flutter to Mel Kiper's floor," said Buffalo Bills general manager Marv Levy, who was woken by aides and told of the knock-over only minutes after it occurred. "We weren't sure whether we were supposed to draft Warren Sapp, Ruben Brown, Mark Fields, or Ellis Johnson. In the end, we had to guess, and Sapp went to Tampa Bay. I don't want this to happen again, to anyone."
Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a call for calm from an NFL office besieged by frantic phone calls from journalists, scouts, teams' front offices, and the agents of almost every player on the board, all of whom insist that their client was listed toward the Big Board's top.
"While this is a huge setback for football, we will still be holding the draft in an orderly fashion," Goodell said. "We may have to delay it for a number of weeks, but one way or another, we will work with Mr. Kiper to recover as much information as possible related to player rankings. The full resources of the NFL are, as usual, at Mr. Kiper's disposal."
Meanwhile, Goodell says he has requested that ESPN search through recent footage to see if the intact Big Board can be seen in the background of any shots or if Kiper appeared on the network discussing draft rankings at any time.
"We're in bad shape, but all is not completely lost," said Kiper, shuffling through the stack of rumpled index cards he managed to salvage from the area of his floor where the board fell. "I'm reasonably sure that this 'Calvin Johnson' fellow was up near the top, for instance. He's a wide receiver, though, and I'm not sure I'd rank a wide receiver first. And there's a young man named Okoye here whose name I remember… 19 years old, though, can that be right? Damn it, how could I do something so stupid?"
Kiper added that he would be working around the clock to restore order to the Big Board "up until the eve of the draft, if necessary," and hopes that some clue to the Board's former state can be found in his recently published draft guide, the 120-page Mel Kiper Jr's 2007 NFL Draft Report.