Tagged: nfl draft

Character Issues and the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is next week, which means we’re right in the thick of the “stupid, baseless character assassination and rumor-mongering” phase of pre-draft hype. Take quarterback Robert Griffin III, Heisman Trophy winner and presumptive No. 2 pick. I don’t know Robert Griffin the Third. Maybe he’s nice, maybe he’s not. All I know is that for months now, the impression of Griffin that has been coming across via the media has been that of a good guy, a good teammate and a good player.

But because the NFL Draft is days away, and because people will report just about anything that relates to the draft (including the endlessly leaked, eminently meaningless Wonderlic scores), now we have our first report of Griffin’s — wait for it — “character issues.”

This happens every year, like clockwork. Last year, Cam Newton was basically hauled into the public square and shamed in the months leading up to (and following) the draft. It didn’t matter. Even thanks to a lockout-shortened offseason that briefly kept him from joining his team, he still had a phenomenal record-setting rookie season. That’s because almost all of the blather is, was and always shall be irrelevant and just a way for teams and agents and players to try and get an edge, any edge, by driving up or down draft stock and salaries, trying to scare off other teams, trying to lobby one team over another and generally do anything they can to get whatever outcome they desire. And because there’s this inexhaustible desire for coverage of anything to do with the NFL and a corresponding paucity of actual news to report much of the time, you get media reports that are about basically nothing.

Meanwhile, an interesting new study suggests that some character issues — the ones that are obvious and out there, because they involve players who have been arrested — don’t matter, so teams should take the chance and draft someone with a criminal history. (It should be noted that “character issues” very often don’t actually relate to actual criminal records, by the way, but rather express generalized concerns that often have nothing to do with anything.) The study looked at every player drafted between 2005 and 2009 and found that the best players to draft were those who were arrested but never charged with anything. This is the result of looking at lots of players, and obviously teams should evaluate each player on a case-by-case basis. But at least these findings come from a study, rather than the simpleminded blathering of a hairdo killing time on ESPN.

The NFL Draft is tonight, and wow I couldn’t care less

The NFL Draft is tonight. (Well, technically speaking, it only begins tonight, because the NFL is a relentless profit-seeking monster that would charge fans per down if it were somehow deemed possible and able to be endlessly promoted on the NFL Network.) Normally, I would care more, I would be vacuuming up draft predictions, because it’s the NFL Draft and it’s always fun to see grown men and women in the league and in the media devote endless hours to the study and dissection of a group of young men and inevitably wind up getting so much of it wrong. Also, it’s just an entertaining thing to watch, because it is part of the greater NFL experience.

The NFL has long ceased to be about teams playing between 16 and 20 games per season. It has become a year-round circus, something perpetually interesting because one particular aspect of it (professional football) is so interesting. Not this year, though, at least not for me. This year, I find myself lacking real interest. Sure, I’m curious how the very weak quarterback class will be divvied up among the haves and have-nots in the league. The Carolina Panthers are considering taking Cam Newton first overall, which is both a terrible idea and an inevitable one. I should care. I should care about if the Dolphins draft Ryan Mallett and his “troubled” “character,” and which team snags game-changing future ROY Patrick Peterson, and which quarterback-needing teams drafts A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the best one-two receiver class in years, so that they can make miracles out of overthrown passes.

But I don’t care. Maybe it’s because so much else is going on in the world? No, that’s not it. But for the most tumultuous periods in the lives of sports fans, sports always exist as a release valve, an outlet, a perpetual source of amusement, entertainment and diversion from the things that otherwise demand our attention.

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Cam Newton declares for the NFL Draft

Cam Newton, the Heisman-winning quarterback of the BCS Champion Auburn Tigers, is declaring for the NFL Draft. Well, duh. Why would the dude stay for another season that would, inevitably, be a letdown from their undefeated 2010 outing? Why would he stay for another round of insinuations, investigations and whispered recriminations? The guy was the player in college football this season, and he was also the embodiment of everything that is right and wrong with the sport.

(Besides the whole “Yeah, somebody, somewhere, probably did something improper to get him to Auburn” thing, there are so many factors here: the fact that he played for an undefeated team that earned a championship through a flawed BCS system; the fact that he had to sit out a season of Division I ball because of a preposterous transfer system that penalizes players but not coaches; the fact that he earned Auburn, the SEC and the NCAA quite a few bucks, but him earning any sort of money was a pearl-clutching degradation of the sport; the fact that he played for the SEC, so he was bigger and faster and better than the other guy, but all people kept talking about was his off-the-field stuff; the fact that he was, in essence, the new Tim Tebow, but due to his off-the-field stuff and, sadly, some racial factors he wasn’t feted as the be-all, end-all in the sport; the fact that he excelled in college ball but people kept coming back to the “But can he play in the NFL?” question; and the fact that his Heisman, his undefeated season and his championship are all, ultimately, viewed as temporary, at least until all of the investigations are concluded several years hence. Whew.)

So, yeah, the guy dominated the sport this year, both in terms of play and headlines, and of course he should go pro and cash in while he can. As long as the NCAA persists in the preposterous notion that college players should not be paid, and should not have a legitimate financial stake in a very successful enterprise, there’s nothing wrong with that. And now we get to play the “Where will he be drafted, and can he play in the NFL?” game! Can he translate to a pro system? Expect to hear that question asked 1,232 times over the next few months. It’ll be just like last year with Tebow, except with people swapping out “leadership and charisma” for “off-the-field issues and charisma” in their summaries of what he brings to the table.

The presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft decides to stay in school

Okay, this is pretty shocking: Andrew Luck, Stanford’s star quarterback and the likely No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, has decided to stay at school for his junior season. He wants to earn his degree in architectural design, and he will complete that by next spring. The Carolina Panthers own the No. 1 pick in the draft and have already said they want to take him, figuring — like everybody else did — that he was going to come out.

It’s shocking not because it’s crazy to suggest somebody stay in school and earn their degree, but because this guy is giving up crazy money. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Sam Bradford, earned $50 million guaranteed. And there’s a recent history of guys staying in school and only hurting their draft status: Matt Leinart and Jake Locker come to mind (though Locker isn’t going to wait around too long). On the other hand, Bradford and Tim Tebow hung around a year longer than they could have, and both took home first-round pick money. Anyway, this is thoroughly surprising.