Every year there are several players in the NFL draft that see their stock rise or fall based on their character and off-field issues. Sometimes teams overlook off-field problems and character concerns in order to add talent at a position of need on their rosters. Sometimes players see themselves taking a draft day free fall due to certain off-field incidents. The 2010 NFL Draft was full of examples that will surely be mentioned during the player evaluation process in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Early this morning, Ravens rookie LB Sergio Kindle was arrested for DUI. However, it’s hard to say that the Ravens shouldn’t have seen this coming. Kindle’s career at Texas was almost overshadowed by two off-field incidents. In July 0f 2007, Kindle was arrested for DUI. In 2009, Kindle drove his car into an apartment building, fled the scene and returned later, telling the police that texting while driving was the cause of the accident. Kindle’s stock did take a hit on draft day. In fact, our scouting report for Kindle indicated that he had first round talent but his character would drop him into the second round. Turns out we were right.
In the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Kindle was selected by the Baltimore Ravens, a team that is well known for finding steals in overlooked players. This one didn’t work out too well for Ozzie Newsome and company. Before the 2010 NFL season started, Kindle was placed on injured reserve after he fell down the stairs in his home, fracturing his skull. Due to Kindle’s alcohol history, many speculated that the fall was a result of being intoxicated. However, later reports indicated that Kindle suffered from narcolepsy, a condition causing individuals to randomly fall asleep. Kindle may have sealed his fate with this latest DUI arrest and more than likely, the Ravens will be parting ways with him.
Had the Ravens payed closer attention to the red flags surrounding Kindle and his off-field issues, they might not have wasted (that’s right, I said wasted) a pick on Kindle. While character concerns are serious and have to be examined closely in the drafting process, they aren’t always indicators that they will fail in the NFL due to these concerns. Also in the 2010 NFL Draft were several players who possessed tremendous talent, yet heard their name called much later in the Draft than their talent level indicates.
A great example of this comes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A young team with a young head coach took some risks in the 2010 NFL Draft and most of them appear to be paying off. For example, the Bucs took a chance on a talented yet troubled WR from Syracuse in Mike Williams. Spending only a 4th round pick on Williams, the Bucs have certainly made the most of this investment. Williams made the news before the NFL Draft by quitting the Syracuse football team before his final season was over and rumors of character concerns swirled around him during the draft process. However, Williams has remained focused and stayed out of trouble this season and the results on the field are hard to ignore; 61 catches for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Bucs also cashed in on another troubled player that saw their stock plummet even further in the draft process; LeGarrette Blount. Blount, the bruising running back from Oregon, saw his stock fall after he punched a Boise State player after a loss. Blount’s stock was affected to the point where he was not drafted at all. Shortly after the draft, reports indicated that Blount agreed to sign as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, only to chance his mind and sign with the Tennessee Titans. Blount’s troubles continued with the Titans and reports of him throwing another punch during practice circulated throughout the media and the NFL. Blount was eventually released by the Titans and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since signing with Tampa, Blount has been repeatedly been in the news, but for a much different reason. In only 11 total games played with just 5 starts, Blount has racked up 777 yards and 6 touchdowns.
So what is it that determines whether or not a player will continue to have off-field issues once in the NFL? The answer is, there is no correct answer. While scouts rely heavily on what they see on film, perhaps they should spend more time talking to players and those who know them well. Many other job fields require background investigations and the bulk of that is done by conducting interviews with the individuals applying for the job and their associates. Perhaps if the Ravens looked closer at Sergio Kindle the person and not Sergio Kindle the player, they would have a productive player on their roster right now instead.