Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Apr 2013

Character, Media, and the NFL Draft: A Sour Cocktail

Outside of well-documented problems involving drugs, alcohol, and violent crime, any members of media passing significant judgment on an NFL prospect’s character that changes the outcome of his evaluation - even if they are eventually proven correct – are making a foolish decision on principle.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 08 Apr 2013

12 comments, Last at 16 Apr 2013, 1:58am by Jerry


by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 1:08am

"Physically, Hearst could have made this run early in his career but I believe the adversity he overcame made him mentally prepared to finish a 96-yard run in overtime."

For a scout it seems odd to make this statement without any evidence. If you're pronouncing that adversity increases your ability to stiff arm or break tackles then you're in sub-ESPN territory.

Hire Plaxico Burress, he might be old and slow but he's been through adversity. Doesn't make sense does it?

And I really don't remember Kirby being regarded as the starter and I've been rather tragically obsessed with the niners for too long. It was in the air but most reasonable observers had seen how good Hearst had been with the Bengals.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 8:52am

What bizarre nonsense. So it's fine to draw conclusions that random aspects of a person's personal background inspire them to play well, but not to draw negative judgments on the same basis?

The limitation to "documented problems" such as drugs is also bizarre. There are plenty of high-achieving hard-working NFL players who smoked the odd joint in their time in college. Equally there are plenty with toxic and lazy personalities who never had those problems.

by jackiel :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 2:25pm

Regarding recreational drug usage, using and, more importantly, getting caught shows poor judgment given the stakes.

Unlike the rest of us, top prospects actually have real, quantifiable costs associated with illegal drug usage via draft position. A prospect who can legitimately make the claim that a 7 figure job is waiting for him upon leaving school has way too much to lose to be careless with drugs.

IMO, using is a mistake for these guys. And getting caught is plain idiocy.

by AB (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 3:07pm

Agreed, it's a mistake. But I'd rather take a guy who had a "documented" legal issue like that than a guy who was lazy and had no interest in playing football.

by Dan L (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 5:05pm

I think the issue is that the documented legal trouble is based on objective events, while the determinations of laziness and bad body language and attitude are very subjective.

This is in line with a theory that scouts are effective, but only in their areas of expertise. If they have seen thousands of quarterbacks throw a ball, then a snap judgement that "his motion doesn't look right" may be reflecting some of their expert knowledge, whereas their knowledge of psychology is not as great as they think it is. As a result, thinking someone acts lazy is not an expert opinion, yet someone who failed a drug test has objectively made a careless mistake.

by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 11:17am

Cam Newton still went first in the draft, even though some wag described his smile as fake. The issues that will cause players to fall in the draft are either not getting along with coaches, or actual off field issues, like the pending legal cases Dennard (Patriots) and Kenrick Ellis (Jets) went through. If NFL GMs choose to pass on Geno Smith because some fool who didn't like RGIII last year decided to insult him, then they will be fired sooner rather than later. Not that aren't legitimate reasons to pass on Geno in the first round, but that scouting report written for publicity sure isn't one of them.

by Borkowskowitz (not verified) :: Tue, 04/09/2013 - 2:32pm

I seriously doubt that the scouting negative report on Geno is taken seriously by team scouts. It seems like a lot of draft material is disseminated for the fans to latch on to. It is interesting, with all of the promotion that the NFL does, I think its greatest asset right now is the thousands of bloggers and sites that are making everyone feel more a part of the game.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 4:38pm

I would agree with that, particularly given the nature of the negatives in the report. I did a good job debunking it, as they found plenty of insiders who were scratching their heads. It very much sounds like it was some combination of amateur psychoanalysis combined with either poor sources or flat-out making stuff up.

by Mike O (not verified) :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 9:02pm

Isn't the point of football outsiders to show that quantifiable measures have a correlation with football performance? A scout would report sleeping through class as a potential predictive variable if it has been found to gain competive advantage in scouting. Maybe no college player whom had a GPA below 2.0 has been an all-pro; hiding or ignoring any data that could have predictive value is irresponsable. If you worked for an investment bank and decided to ignore little known information that a ceo for a company does hard drugs when investing the banks money because 'people can change', then you should get fired. The NFL is a corporation with players being a form of investment; it is highly unlikely that past behavior has minimal pedictive value towards future success.

by Independent George :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:10pm

The paranoid part of my brain wonders if a clever organization might plant false information in order to increase the odds a pick will fall to them (as Shula was rumored to have done with Marino's alleged cocaine habit).

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 7:20pm

Sure, it can happen, but that kind of psy-op campaign is probably too expensive for an NFL team operatimg umdet league constraints. Too many people would have to be paid off for it to work.

by Jerry :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 1:58am

FWIW, Shula wouldn't have had anything to do with the rumors I heard around then. And whatever Dan did or didn't do while he was in college, his pro career worked out.