Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Character Crackdown Affects Draft

Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin reports that, “It’s been less than a month since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his crackdown on personal conduct, and already he has seen signs of progress.”

“I’ve heard from five Division I-A coaches who all say it’s having an impact at their level,” Goodell said, “not only in how they recruit, but in sending a message to their players that if you want to go to the next level, you’d better understand what they are expecting of you.”

Goodell also witnessed that impact last weekend at the NFL draft. There were a handful of players with character issues in the draft, including cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Eric Wright and safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive linemen Jarvis Moss, Marcus Thomas and DeMarcus “Tank” Tyler and former UT halfback Ramonce Taylor. Some had arrests in their past, others had team suspensions.

In my draft research, 15 teams told me they had taken Brown, a North Mesquite and UT product, and Wright completely off their draft boards. Character issues cost some players to slide a few picks, other players a full round and still others several rounds. Wright and Thomas were first-round talents as football players. But Wright slid to the middle of the second round and Thomas all the way to the fourth. Brown was rated as a second-round talent on some NFL draft boards, but he fell to the fifth round. Tyler’s value slid from late first round into the third, and Taylor went undrafted. Meriweather was rated as the No. 2 safety on some NFL draft boards but slid to the late first round and was the fourth safety selected. Meriweather, Moss, Thomas and Tyler were all off a handful NFL draft boards.
“If clubs take chances on players with character issues and it blows up in their faces,” Goodell said, “there will be negative public reaction, there will be [salary] cap consequences and potentially there could be the discipline that I instill from a league standpoint against the team. We’ll have to see how that goes.”


“If you are bringing in the wrong type of player – which I can’t control and don’t want to control, that’s a club decision – then you have to re-evaluate the kind of people you bring in,” Goodell said. “That’s the reason for having club discipline. At some point in time, you’re going to have to re-evaluate the type of people you bring into your organization.”

This was something that had to be dealt with at the League level. Passing up a Randy Moss type prospect, as the Cowboys and sixteen other teams did several drafts ago, is a great risk and one that seems to loom larger than the downsides of signing a Ricky Williams or a Lawrence Phillips. If the Commish steps in and bans the worst offenders from the League, though, that risk is mitigated.

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