He didn't get paid to be controversial initially, which is what is interesting about his story. Not much was known about the draft. The NFL decided to televise the thing, and people thought they were crazy. The baseball draft was a huge process, but was done over the phone over the course of days and days because of the literally hundreds of rounds (I think at least half of my high school baseball team got selected... just not me!) haha!.
But what Kiper's angle was that he was a pioneer in tracking players and grading them. He created this system, and basically was using ESPN to run his informercial for him to get teams, scouts who wanted into the business, and hardcore fans to buy his newsletters and books. He really worked his butt off at it. I'll give him credit. He marketed his stuff like crazy.
The problem we're seeing now with Mel is that you've got tons of people doing the same thing, and many amateurs who are doing it for free, and are right more often (by a LOT) than Mel.
The controversy stuff really started and became sort of Mel's shtick that he rightfully ran with and made part of his persona was when he got in a verbal altercation on tv on draft day over the fact that the Colts drafted Trev Alberts instead of Trent Dilfer. He called it a wasted pick, and said that the Colts management was incompetent. Of course there was immediate fireback from the colts GM (was it Polian?) and it was quite entertaining. I think that is when Kiper either became the villain who was saying he was smarter than NFL GM's, or he was the good guy for calling a GM out on passing on a potentially elite QB prospect for a LBer who was seen as a guy that came around about 5 times a draft.
As it turned out, Dilfer had a much better career, because Alberts got hurt, and I think he was pretty overrated personally and players just as good could have been had later in the draft. The Colts were in the position to get their QBOTF. Hindsight is 20/20 and folks like to blast Kiper for what he said considering that the Colts ended up with Manning 4 years later, but in this one case I think it was an example of Kiper talking about "value" and really making sense. They needed a QB badly, and Dilfer was the best one there, and they passed (no pun intended). There is no reason to think that they made a conscious decision that they knew they were going to get the best QB of all time in 4 years time. They probably should have taken Dilfer and seeing how Dilfer's career started they likely still would have had a shot at Manning, but in general when running a team, you probably should (according to most) go safe with your first round pick.
Now.... I'm going to give the reverse of this, and that's the Pete and John philosophy, because Ruskell was very much a Kiper-style GM. He went and got the best (meaning safest player). Dilfer was to QB's coming out of the draft what Aaron Curry was for LBers. He was considered a pretty safe pick. He was a strong leader. Had all of the measurables. Had a strong arm. Had played in something very close to an NFL offense at Fresno. Was universally regarded as a guy who would have success..... maybe not the next John Elway, but there were more than a few Marino comparisons. The guy had a quick release, a strong arm, and made good decisions for the most part and got the ball to his playmakers. He wasn't considered a "does very little wrong" type of guy until he was in Baltimore. He was more like a Ryan Leaf fiery team leading winner, without the attitude problems.
The Seahawks management is so anti-Kiper in the way they do things that I wouldn't expect him to agree with what they do. He is all about getting the best value at each position and not taking unnecessary risks, and typically going with big school guys from the big school conferences, and then snagging a couple of "sleepers" in late rounds with your Marques Colston types, but you never go and snag a guy like that prior to the 4th or 5th round in his mind, because it's not "good value".
It's just a difference in philosophy. Do I think Kiper could run a draft for a team and field a team that could compete? Probably for a year or two. Same as Ruskell did. Do I think he could do it for an extended period having all of the nuances and importance of redoing contracts a couple of years down the road and making sure you are always having some depth at each position? No. That's not his job. As they said on Dragnet... "Just the facts ma'am" and that's what he does. He provides the 'facts' in a formula that is created based on his opinions of what's valuable. He works hard at it and has kept himself somewhat relevant for a long time and you have to appreciate that. For me personally, he's like the bad guy in wrestling. I tune in and hope he's wrong. I put him right up there with whoever is GM for the Jets and Jerry Jones. I just want to see them look like dummies on draft day. It makes it fun, and ESPN recognizes that and keeps him there.
Kiper does a lot of work and for that I give him credit. I think his system and general ideas are inherently flawed though, but he came from nowhere just doing his own thing and turned it into a job. Much like you see bloggers we all know getting snapped up and making a career out of it now, Kiper was sort of an early version of that and kudos to him for doing so. I still don't have to like the guy though.