In Moneyball terms, it seems that “character issues” are another opportunity for the wise teams to get more value out of a pick. The Patriots are better at choosing personnel than anyone, and they seem to add a character risk every year now (Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Brandon Meriweather, etc.). This year they chose North Carolina WR Brandon Tate, who reportedly failed a marijuana test at the combine, in the third round. If a team has strong enough leadership, adding character issue players is clearly not a problem.
This thought occurred to me as I was doing a grocery run on Saturday afternoon and was subjected to John Kincaid ranting about the Bengals making a terrible decision taking Andre Smith. Kincaid is an extreme example of the sports radio tendency towards moral judgments in place of actual sports analysis. It's not easy to evaluate Andre Smith as a left tackle. It's easy to get up on the soap box and attack him for showing up to the Combine fat.
There are two possibilities here. One is that certain NFL teams (but not the Patriots, who are one of the three best-run franchises in football) have become obsessed with the moral judgments that are normally the province of media personalities who are seeking to push emotional buttons for ratings or clicks. The other is that NFL teams have not gone in that direction, but any time they say something remotely related to the character issue, the media picks it up and runs with it. I'm going with the latter explanation.
The whole "he's got bad character!" thing drove me especially crazy with two players this year: Andre Smith and Percy Harvin. Both were huge recruits when they came to college. Both started from day one, the latter at a program full of talent. Both performed at an extremely high level in the best conference in the country for three years. Both were subject to criticism on grounds that had nothing to do with their resumes as three-year starters at major programs. In the end, both went higher than most mock drafts had them going, which is evidence that the "he smoked weed! He's not in great shape!" hyperventilation is more media creation than actual factor in decision-making. It's almost like NFL teams remember that Warren Sapp and Randy Moss both plummeted out of the top ten for character issues and are both going to end up in the Hall of Fame.
2. I'm not enamored with this statement from Perloff:
Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco were able to transcend expectations as rookie quarterbacks because they had strong running games and defenses around them. The three first-round QBs in this year's draft (Stafford, Sanchez and Josh Freeman) don't have that luxury. Sanchez is the only one with even a slim chance of playing for a playoff team.
At this time last year, no one thought that Matt Ryan was going to be in a good situation in Atlanta. The offensive line was a disaster and the receivers were underwhelming. Is there any reason why the Jets or Bucs won't be similarly surprising on offense? And Perloff is overstating the case a little bit when he says that the Falcons put a strong defense around Ryan last year.
3. NFL teams are catching onto the fact that Big Ten running backs are not a great investment. You would have thought from the in-season hype last year that Beanie Wells and Javon Ringer were the best running backs in college. In the end, Wells barely made the first round and Ringer went with the last pick of the fifth round. If I were to pick a diamond in the rough among the running back picks, I'd go with James Davis, a good athlete and big recruit who suffered at Clemson because of a bad offensive design, a suspect offensive line, and a carry-splitting situation.
4. I like the Falcons' Peria Jerry pick. I was not wild about William Moore over Rashad Johnson, mainly because the rap on Moore seems to be that he's a safety who makes bad decisions and that's a little like a surgeon with the shakes.
5. Based on my current theory that NFL teams should be very careful spending high picks on quarterbacks from elite college programs because those quarterbacks never have to learn how to throw to covered receivers under intense pressure, I'm not overly enthusiastic about the Stafford or Sanchez picks. I don't think that either guy will be terrible, but they won't be top shelf in the NFL. Then again, I thought that the Falcons were making a colossal mistake taking Matt Ryan last year, so what do I know?
6. The NFL Network's coverage of the Draft was WAY better than that of ESPN.