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.
Please follow me on Twitter: