Every year in the NFL Draft there are players who have been branded as having the dreaded ‘character issues’. When those players are talented and otherwise worthy of a first-round selection teams are faced with a real challenge. Is the player worthy of a gamble, or are their issues too much for them to overcome? With the overwhelming success of Cam Newton last year despite all the baggage he carried it’s going to be hard for teams to give up on a player even if he has some real issues.
Among potential first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft there are six players who have some character concerns that are getting some coverage, and which are going to cause some teams to pause and consider their willingness to take a risk:
Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins’ story is the one that is getting the most coverage so far, and there is no surprise in that — it’s a good one. He was a highly-recruited player when he ultimately chose Florida. He played well for the Gators early on — he was only the second true freshman CB ever to start opening day for the team — but as his fame rose his ability to deal with it declined.
He got into a bar fight and wound up Tasered and arrested. He was twice cited for marijuana possession as well, and he failed a drug test. Those issues were enough to get him booted from the Gators.
He had some personal issues as well — namely he has four kids with three different women. That’s not necessarily an issue in and of itself, but when combined with the discipline issues it is another cause for concern.
Jenkins landed at North Alabama last year. It was a lucky place for him to wind up — the head coach is Terry Bowden, so he got more attention there than he would have playing under a lower-profile coach.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick was one of the highest-rated recruits in his class, and the junior was a star at Alabama throughout his career. He capped his college career with a strong performance in the National Championship Game, so he went out on top.
The problem is that he chose to celebrate that title by getting arrested in the middle of January for marijuana possession.
It was an incredibly stupid thing to do for a guy headed for a sure first-round selection, and it has forced teams to look really hard at whether it was an isolated case or a sign of bigger issues.
Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
The cornerback theme continues with Harris. The former Oregon Duck lost most of last season to a series of bone-headed moves. First, he was suspended for the season opener after being cited for driving 118 miles per hour. Later he was caught driving with a suspended license, without a seat belt and without insurance. That got him first suspended and then dismissed from the team with seven games remaining.
He was also cited for marijuana possession — seemingly the thing for corners to do this year.
That’s a huge amount of baggage for the player to overcome, and he didn’t help himself at the Combine by not running particularly fast for his position. Of the six players listed here he has the best chance of dropping down draft boards between now and draft day.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Unlike the others on this list Burfict has stayed out of criminal trouble. His problem, though, is his attitude. You want players to have a mean streak — especially on defense. The problem is, though, that his mean streak can cause him to entirely lose control at times.
He makes plays that are totally unnecessary, and that gets him in trouble with officials way more often than he needs to. It also limited his effectiveness in his junior year as his actions became a distraction and led him to be far more inconsistent than a guy as talented as he is should be. He doesn’t limit his rage to his opponents, either — he also fought with a teammate of his own.
Burfict had a very bad Combine — he was unimpressive in drills, and reportedly didn’t interview well — so he is at risk of dropping, and could wind up as low as the fourth or fifth round if he doesn’t convince teams before draft day that he is worth a gamble.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Floyd was cited for drunk driving in March. For that, Notre Dame dished out the most ridiculous punishment in the sport this year. He was suspended indefinitely from the team on March 21, but that suspension was lifted on August 3. For those not paying attention, that means that he was suspended for all the time that there were no games to play, but was back in the lineup in time for Kelly to have his best offensive player in action.
That will teach him.
Floyd had a strong senior year, set many school records, and has seemed to show that what happened was more of an isolated incident than an ongoing one.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Adams has found himself in some trouble throughout his career. He was one of the players suspended in the tattoo incident that cost Jim Tressel his job. In 2009 he was suspended for two games for violating team rules. He was stopped by police that same year and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, though those charges were eventually dropped.
The issues aren’t as severe as some, but since he’s on the bottom half of the first round in terms of grades anyway these issues could be what forces him out of the first round.