Draft Value Part 3: Character Matters

Since this is draft season we have been going around, and around, over different players.  The debate often centers on whether the player represents a good "value" at a certain position in the draft.  I think it might be interesting to hear what our posters think that "value" actually means.  So I will explain what I look for in draft value and we can talk about it for a bit

I have a problem with this little project.  There is a ton of things to talk about concerning evaluation of players for value.  I am going to make it a bit easier by breaking up the evaluation into pieces so that we can talk about each aspect individually.  That will make it easier to digest and help keep the discussions more on track.  It also has the effect of making them seem like separate issues, when in fact they are all part of the same problem.

This article talks about how character issues impact draft value.  As always, your opinions are not just welcomed, they are required if we are to have a good discussion.  If you have something to say, then go ahead and toss it out there for us to read.

Character Matters

As fans of the Detroit Lions we have seen several players bust based on their character. One of the cruel realities of life is that one or two bad decisions can cancel years of effort.

I feel the character issues fall under two different categories: head and heart.  Head issues are about how the player makes decisions on how they act, while heart issues are about how the player reacts to adversity.


What the Hell Were You Thinking?

Some character issues that involve the thinking process are easy to evaluate.  They are situations that show a profound lack of judgment by the player.  These are things like repeated drug use, DUI arrests, assaults, felony charges, etc.    They are demonstrated by the players that have problems outside of football that can limit, or even end, their ability to make an impact for their team. 

Charles Rogers is probably the ultimate example of this issue for Lions fans.  He had talent.  In fact, Rogers' first few games for the Lions were very impressive.   The problem came when Charlie could not keep himself from rollin' up a fattie and partying down.  That was a serious lack of judgment when the NFL does randon drug testing for marijuana and gives out serious suspensions when they find it. 

Some players will get slapped once and then realize they need to straighten up their act.  Others will never learn until it is much too late.  Since It is impossible to tell whether a player will respond positively to a single incident most teams have started to flag players that have a history of making bad decisions.   Other examples of this type of problem are Adam "Pacman" Jones, Ben Rothlisberger, and Plaxico Burress.


Hey Everybody, Look At Me!

There are some character issues involving the thinking process that are less clear.  These are the ones where players love to make a spectacle of themselves and generate controversy.   Their actions might lessen their impact on the field from suspensions.   Even worse, they might harm the overall chemistry in a way that makes the entire team less effective. 

We label these problem players as "primadonnas."   Some have been able to operate effectively for their teams despite their problems.  In truth, some "showmanship" by a player can benefit the team.  It can pump up the fans and create enthusiasm for the team.  

What is hard to evaluate is whether the player will cross the line into being a problem. I feel that line is crossed when the players begins to make special efforts to draw attention to themselves as an individual rather than promoting the team as a whole.  The classic examples of this issue are Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.

Sometimes the primadonnas are so stuck on stupid that they cannot separate their ego makes them combative with coaches and fans.  These type of players will often crash and burn very quickly because their ego prevents them from accepting the critical feedback they need to become effective players.  Think guys like Jeff George and Ryan Leaf when you consider this problem.


But I Don't Want To Do That!

The character issues involving heart are players that will quit on the team.  They are unwilling to fight through adversity and do what is necessary to make a positive impact for the team. This problem comes in a lot of different forms and it can even overlap into the effort evaluation that we talked about in a previous article.

The classic example of this problem, for the Detroit Lions, has to be Mike Williams.  The guy just could not find enough self-discipline to come to camp in shape.  When he got to camp he would not do what was needed to get into shape.  We can categorize this as laziness, or immaturity, or any one of several other things.  But it really just comes down to the player not having the heart to do what is needed.  Other examples of players with this problem were Joey Harrington and Shaun Rodgers.


Show Me The Money!

There are several players with character issues in the upcoming 2011 NFL draft.  One of the more publicized examples of character issues is the suspension of high profile football players for the 2010 season at the University of North Carolina.  These suspensions included Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn.

The issues that led to the suspension of the players at North Carolina revolved around them accepting gifts from an agent.   This is a different kind of issue from many of the other character issues because it is not a problem for a professional athlete.  A professional athlete gets paid very well and there is no issue with getting gifts from an agent in the NFL.  So I do not grade down a player for violations involving contact with an agent when they go pro.

There is a somewhat similar situation that would be a serious problem.  Recently four Auburn football players were arrested for armed robbery.  This is similar because the players are looking for some cash in both situations.  But the difference is how far they were willing to go in order to get some cash.  Armed robbery is a criminal offense and will still be illegal if the players were to go pro.  This incident would completely eliminate these four players from my draft board, even if they do not get jail time.


People Deserve a Second Chance, Maybe.

You have to be careful when evaluating character issues.  Some players learn the lessons that are needed to straighten out.  Character issues involving immaturity can often be overcome. 

Sometimes you can learn a lot about a player by talking to them.  Players with character concerns will often get team visits before the draft.  Sometimes they get multiple team visits to address different questions.  Certainly that indicates that the team has some interest in the player.  But it also indicates that the team is struggling with getting comfortable about drafting that player. Multiple visits are often a danger sign.  Players in which the team is very comfortable will rarely get more than one visit.

You have to take statements of support by coaches, teammates, and especially agents, with a grain of salt.  They are often biased and misleading.  When it comes to character, the player's actions speak louder than words.  An extended period of good behavior is really the only thing that can really tell you that a player has matured. You really just want to see that the player has put those problems behind them.


Deja Vu, All Over Again!

Here we are at the point we have been on my previous articles.  I have said what I wanted to and it is time for you to chip in.  Don't be shy.  Get it out there and let's talk about it.  I will try to treat every comment with respect in my responses.  So let's get this show on the road!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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