Reflections on the NFL “character” draft

As a college guy, I’ve never taken more than a passing interest in the NFL Draft. But last week I got a chance to work the draft in New York for CBS College Sports and really immersed myself in the process. It is fascinating and now I know why people are so locked into it.

And strictly from a college guy’s perspective I really believe that in this draft NFL teams, thanks to the shenanigans of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick and Pac Man Jones, were looking at character more than ever. Four examples:

Dez Bryant, WR: The Oklahoma State star has Top 10 talent. There was simply no debate on that. But he fell all the way to No. 24 (Dallas) because other teams questioned his character (he lied to NCAA investigators about his involvement with Deion Sanders) and work ethic. He played only three games as a senior before being suspended by the NCAA. We can debate whether or not that was the proper punishment. The fact is Bryant’s reputation cost him millions of dollars.

Tim Tebow, QB: Denver not only traded up but gave up several draft picks in order to take Tebow at No.25.  Even Tebow fans will tell you that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will play very little quarterback for a least a year—if not longer. The wisdom of this pick won’t be known for several years but Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is willing to tie his future to Tebow, a guy who needs all kind of work on his mechanics before he is ready to be an every-down NFL quarterback. Why? Because he wants Tebow’s positive presence in the locker room. That puts a lot of pressure on Tebow to earn the respect of the grown men on that team. They don’t go for the rah-rah stuff. You’ve got to show them.

Jimmy Clausen, QB: I talked to a lot of guys who know the NFL and they all said the same thing. Clausen was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft. He ran a pro offense at Notre Dame. So why did Clausen fall all the way to the No. 48 pick (Carolina)? A lot of teams who needed a young quarterback (like Minnesota) passed on him. There were all kinds of questions being raised about his ability to be a leader and a quality teammate. So what happened?

I said this at the time and I will say this again.

As my friend Spencer Tillman always reminds me, we live in a world of images and impressions. On April 22, 2006 Clausen and his “entourage” took a police escort to the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. It was there that Clausen, a high school JUNIOR, stepped out of a white Hummer limousine and announced his intention to sign with Notre Dame the following February. It was a bad decision then and created a negative template about Clausen that he never shook. And once the negative template is set, people are then more willing to believe negative things about you even if they are not provable. Is that fair? Probably not. But it matters. Jimmy Clausen has first round talent but he’s going to get second round money.

Carlos Dunlap, DE: This was one of the great tragedies of college football in 2009. Florida’s Dunlap was easily a first-round talent but on the Monday before the SEC championship game was stopped by police in Gainesville, Fla. and arrested on alcohol-related charges. Florida is getting ready to play for the SEC title and a spot in the BCS championship game. Everything the team had worked so hard for in order to repeat as national champions was on the line. Coach Urban Meyer would never say it publicly nor would his teammates, but it was the worst kind of betrayal. Dunlap was suspended, Florida was not mentally ready to play the game and Alabama crushed the Gators. I think Alabama would have won the game anyway but you get the picture.

Here is the most telling thing about Carlos Dunlap. New England coach Bill Belichick and Meyer are pretty tight. Belichick comes to Gainesville at least once a year. Belichick had three picks in the second round and I believed he would take a couple of Gators.  I thought Belichick might take Dunlap because he knows how to handle players with issues (Randy Moss). But he passed on Dunlap with the No. 53 pick and took Florida’s other defensive end, Jermaine Cunningham. Cincinnati, the NFL’s home for problem children, then took Dunlap with the next pick.

If you are a college football player with aspirations of playing in the NFL, this year’s draft should be a cautionary tale. Ben Roethlisberger was not charged with a crime but will sit out perhaps as many as six games this season for stupid, self-centered behavior. This commissioner (Roger Goodell) ain’t fooling around.

You may be talented but if you engage in stupid and self-centered behavior it will cost you more than your reputation. It will cost you millions of dollars.

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157 comments Add your comment

14TH--ON THE WAY

April 26th, 2010
9:13 am

Tony,

Suprised you didn’t mention Legarrett Blount of Oregon and sucker punch fame. Cost him plenty.

Jacksonville Jaguars Fan

April 26th, 2010
9:13 am

Stoney

April 26th, 2010
9:17 am

this is a good message for anyone in any field. In the NCAA tournament I found I was rooting for the team with the fewest tats as much as any other reason.

GaGa4Gators

April 26th, 2010
9:19 am

The University of Florida gave the NFL a potpourri of “character”. We sent Tim Tebow and Carlos Dunlap in the first two rounds. Tebow a devout Christian and all around good guy and Carlos Dunlap who was charged with DUI after being found asleep behind the wheel at an intersection in downtown Gainesville. I wonder if Carlos Dunlap stayed with the agent that got him drunk at the party held Monday before the SEC Championship game? Guess we’ll never know because Billy Gonzales sure isn’t talking about it.

collegeballfan

April 26th, 2010
9:20 am

Tony, please comment on the Dwyer fall from first round to sixth round.
Any inside info to share?

GaGa4Gators

April 26th, 2010
9:25 am

Dwyer failed a drug test at the NFL combine.

Gator Alum

April 26th, 2010
9:26 am

Tony:

Thought you might like to that Florida has announced their 2011 out of conference schedule:

September 2: Charleston Southern

September 9: Inert State

September 23 : Agnes Scott

October 17: Whatsamatta U.

I think it’s the most demanding schedule Foley has ever put together. Go Gators!

Jeremy Foley

April 26th, 2010
9:31 am

The Gators do not need to schedule tough out of conference opponents, the SEC schedule is tough enough.

GaGa4Gators

April 26th, 2010
9:36 am

Look how many players the Gators have sent to the NFL in the last 10 years. Sure, not many are at the skill position and the Gators are known as an offensive juggernaut. Quarterback and wide receiver University? Maybe we should be known as defensive line and linebacker University?

goalinestalker

April 26th, 2010
9:49 am

Tebow cannot see the field if he is listed as the #3 QB on game day. He can however play if he is listed as the #2 Qb on game day. So for him to play in any form of the wildcat he must be listed at another position or the #2 Qb. My question is do any of you guys see him being the Broncos #2 Qb this season? McDaniel’s on the record has stated TT will not play any other position than Qb.

Percy Harvin

April 26th, 2010
9:50 am

Good character is WAY overrated. I failed a drug test at the NFL combine by testing positive for marijuana in 2009. I was chosen in the 1st round and went on to become the Offensive Rookie of the Year. NFL GMs only care about one thing wins and losses.

Denver Broncos

April 26th, 2010
9:52 am

We’re really the only team where Tim Tebow could play closer to God.

RxDawg

April 26th, 2010
9:56 am

The fans of football (pro and college) will like seeing the NFL take a tough stance on these guys. They play a fun sport for a living and they are filthy rich. There is no reason to act the way some of them do.

Mikey

April 26th, 2010
9:56 am

Who drafted the eye gouger?

JB

April 26th, 2010
9:58 am

Any Tech poster on here will tell that the Dwyer rumor is just that…………I guess that’s why the NFL sent him from a sure first or early second ( set for life being drafted that high) to the sixth round. Those streets around Tech are no good. It’s a shame really. He’s always got that fine Tech education to fall back on with Ruben, Reggie Ball and Eddie Lee Ivery.
LOL

T3

April 26th, 2010
9:58 am

“Character” and “NFL” mentioned in the same sentence? Strange.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:04 am

Character?

I guess UGAg will never had another 1st round draft pick.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:04 am

will never have…sorry

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:07 am

will never have had…sorry

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:10 am

we will never have had…sorry

1971

April 26th, 2010
10:11 am

Eddie Lee Ivery did graduate from GT after his carrer with Green Bay.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:11 am

While I am a character, little I write on the AJC shows I have any.

Tris

April 26th, 2010
10:12 am

Dwyer fell becuase he lacks elite speed, and there were concerns about his production and abilities to read defenses coming out of Paul Johnson’s offense.

Failing a drug test for ADD medicine at the combine was not the reason he fell (the NFL exempted the failed test and he will not enter the league’s substance abuse program); he fell because 4.6 40 RBs are a dime a dozen in the NFL, and he will be a short yardage and role playing back in the pros.

GaGa4Gators

April 26th, 2010
10:14 am

How did Knowshon Moreno get drafted in the 1st round last year with “dime a dozen” speed on his 40?

SaintsLSU

April 26th, 2010
10:15 am

Hey Tony, what do you think about the Saints moving up to get Al Woods DT from LSU? He was a 5 star recruit coming out of HS, but never seemed to break through. Maybe Greg Williams can light a fire under him that the LSU coaching staff couldn’t.

1eyedJack

April 26th, 2010
10:19 am

The majority of the people who buy tickets are sick up and fed with the “Manny’s being Manny” primadonnas. The one’s who go in for that don’t have the money to purchase sky boxes or season tickets.

Damage control

April 26th, 2010
10:25 am

Dwyer’s low level run through the NFL draft has irreparably harmed tech’s ability to attract big time running backs.

Alphare

April 26th, 2010
10:31 am

Dwyer got quite a few things against him, not just one or two: injury for the combine, drug test, and Tech offense style.

But I’d say Tech offense style is the least or no problem to the NFL. Morgan and Bay-bay both are high-draftees.

But the drug thing must be the biggest issue. First his agent did not properly alert people, then they have to clarify thru the media, which is a big no-no if you ask me, which at least shows you cannot manage well your draft process, which is the biggest thing in your life. If that’s the case, how can people believe you can manage your future career–that’s the doubt implanted in the pickers’ mind.

JB

April 26th, 2010
10:31 am

It also hurts OL at Tech…..That system Johnson uses does not prep OL for the pros. They want lineman who know how to Pass Block. Don’t see much of that at Tech.

McDawg

April 26th, 2010
10:32 am

the Clausen character thing is bogus-i wish he was drafted by an AFC team

i think Tebow will do fine in the NFL but 1st Round??? and what they gave up to get him-hope McDaniels is still around in a couple of years

GatorMatt

April 26th, 2010
10:35 am

Well said as usual, Tony. Great stuff. You’re completely right about Dunlap. I was a huge fan of his right up until the incident before the SECCG. Just stupid and irresponsible. And just like you said, a real betrayal of all the hard work and effort the team had put forth until that point. Again, great article.

murfdawg

April 26th, 2010
10:40 am

I think part of the “character” issue in the draft is a negotiation ploy by the NFL clubs to keep salaries down. The NFL would get Charles Manson out of prison if they thought he could win a Super Bowl or improve tv ratings.

GaGa4Gators

April 26th, 2010
10:42 am

I wonder if Knowshon Moreno is worried he’ll lose carries next year to Tim Tebow running the “wildcat” offense?

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
10:46 am

Let’s make some allowance for Carlos Dunlap to earn his way back into the good graces of all. Yes, he screwed up, and, yes, he hurt his team, but let’s keep in mind that 21 year-olds do make mistakes. Dunlap had no prior history of being a problem child. Nobody died, nobody was threatened with physical violence, nobody went to prison. He was appropriately punished–he missed the SEC championship game, and he probably lost several million dollars in the NFL draft as a result. We don’t need to pile anything more on the kid. If he can redeem himself in the NFL, I for one will cheer for him.

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
10:49 am

And, yes, I’m still cheering for Tim Tebow to make it in the NFL. Good kid, solid character, great athlete, and a gamer. If there isn’t a role in the modern NFL for an athlete like Tebow, I’ll just stick to football on Saturdays.

Dumbo

April 26th, 2010
10:53 am

TB….you know, maybe ole Coach Paul Brown was on to something….he wanted smart, educated, honest and hardworking football players not primadonnas or morally suspect players….everything that goes around comes around, sooner or later. Even Richt’s learning no more coddling.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 26th, 2010
10:53 am

aww, JB, are you my imposter?

I didn’t think you’d stoop to being an imposter…oh well, have at it. I’m out for the rest of the day.

GT two 1st round, UGAg zero, yes character does play a part.

See ya!!!

Tris

April 26th, 2010
11:03 am

Moreno ran a 4.45. Big difference between that and Dwyer’s 4.6. Past that, if you can’t see the differences between Moreno’s vision and agility and Dwyer’s, I’m not sure what I can tell you.

And again, the NFL exempted Dwyer’s drug test, as it was for perscription ADD medicine. From ESPN:

“Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer’s positive drug test falls under a “therapeutic use exemption,” a source tells ESPN’s Joe Schad. According to Dwyer’s agent, all 32 NFL teams knew that his client’s medication would cause a positive test. “We provided the necessary medical documentation,” said Dwyer’s agent.”

Sure teams might still have had lingering concerns, but his fall had much more to do with his NFL ability than his character. All that being said, I think he was a steal for Pittsburgh in the 6th round, and can easily become a capable back in the NFL IMO.

MADD

April 26th, 2010
11:07 am

Atlanta Gator

April 26th, 2010
10:46 am
Let’s make some allowance for Carlos Dunlap to earn his way back into the good graces of all. Yes, he screwed up, and, yes, he hurt his team, but let’s keep in mind that 21 year-olds do make mistakes. Dunlap had no prior history of being a problem child. Nobody died, nobody was threatened with physical violence, nobody went to prison. He was appropriately punished–he missed the SEC championship game, and he probably lost several million dollars in the NFL draft as a result. We don’t need to pile anything more on the kid. If he can redeem himself in the NFL, I for one will cheer for him.

Yeah, it’s not like he was Gary Brown, Ronnie Wilson or Marcus Thomas. DUI’s aren’t a very serious crime, they don’t hurt anybody at all

SC Steeler

April 26th, 2010
11:16 am

Dwyer will be a very capable 2nd punch in a 2 punch RB set. the NFL is about systems, and any player will look good or bad depending on the system. just as the Browns found a steal in James Davis, the Steelers are going to find a bigger steal in Dwyer, for what they are going to ask him to do… as long as he sticks to prescribed medications…

PTC DAWG

April 26th, 2010
11:17 am

I think this just goes to show that the Coach, no matter how famous or successful, cannot control all their players.

Dumbo

April 26th, 2010
11:24 am

MADD…..said “DUI’s aren’t a very serious crime, they don’t hurt anybody at all”….you are the biggest Turd alive if you believe that…I hope you don’t have anyone you know or care about hurt by a drunk in a automobile.

MADD

April 26th, 2010
11:37 am

Dumbo

April 26th, 2010
11:24 am
MADD…..said “DUI’s aren’t a very serious crime, they don’t hurt anybody at all”….you are the biggest Turd alive if you believe that…I hope you don’t have anyone you know or care about hurt by a drunk in a automobile.

Please read my comment in a sarcastic tone in response to Atlanta Gators comment. It will make more sense then. Thank you, Dumbo.

MADD

April 26th, 2010
11:38 am

I actually thought the name MADD would be enough to let you knew the tone of the comment. But then again, I would be giving someone named Dumbo a little too much credit.

LizDawg

April 26th, 2010
11:45 am

Thanks Tony and you could see the NFL teams pass on the character issues of Johnathon Dwyer as well. Once the AJC broke the story about Dwyer’s failed drug test his draft stock plummeted like a rock, from round 1 all the way to round 5.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

April 26th, 2010
11:56 am

So I guess Gator fans were right that Dunlap would get drafted ahead of AJ! LMAO! The kid was a punk in high school, a punk as a Gator and no can be a punk as a Bengal. A waste of physical talent because he feels entitled. AJ will show the Lowcountry how a 1st Round pick plays College Ball.

Sven Ottke

April 26th, 2010
11:59 am

LizDog, Dwyer doesn’t have character issues. His meds are acceptable for the NFL. An NFL doctoro erroneously left his name off a list and the ommission resulted in it appearing that he failed the test. Get a grip and don’t let your hate blind you.

Reptiles Rule

April 26th, 2010
12:22 pm

Nine UF players drafted (tops in this draft) and 3 additional who signed free agent contracts. While certainley I’ll take a championship over that ANY day, it was nice to see some of the false statements I had read about your NFL chances being somehow less if you went to UF. It was like some of you out there think that college coaches are somehow sub-contracted by he NFL. Of course, as we all recognize now, that was just a bunch of negative recruiting talk by rivals and their fans. Not gonna work, expect another great recruiting classin Gainesville this year…And……… to you Tebow haters out there who were predicting third or fourth round…well, I don’t even have to say it. And whether or not he makes it…well he’s gonna get his chance now, isn’t he??

Felix the Cat

April 26th, 2010
12:29 pm

Glad to see NFL clean up and look for character over talent.. Roger Goddell should be commended for his swift directions and orders..

Paul Finebaum

April 26th, 2010
12:30 pm

I was wondering whether my crack cocain habit could fall under a therapeutic use exemption.