Judging an NFL prospect's character

North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins is

North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins is "Mr. Character Issues" heading into this year's NFL draft. (JOE ROBBINS/Getty Images/AFP)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

So how exactly does an NFL club determine if a potential draftee has those dreaded "character" issues as a result of a run-in with the law?

And what kind of crime qualifies for that discussion? A DUI? An arrest for pot possession? Or does it have to be a much more serious crime?

Or is it all about repeat offences?

This past week, with the entry draft days away, I asked Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix, a longtime NFL front-office talent evaluator, if he uses specific criteria for making such assessments.

"I wish I could tell you it's scientific, but it's not," Nix said at the Bills' pre-draft news conference. "It's more of a gut feeling."

Nix, though, underscored that there are some transgressions that can be written off merely as "immaturity," and which are wholly different from serious crimes.

"They do it their first year (or) sophomore years, and then you say, 'Well, he's changed.' But most of that comes from learning about life and how to act, so we think that that doesn't really eliminate a guy. But if it's a repeat offender and it's the wrong kind of trouble, then we stay away from it."

One such player that many teams are now staying away from is cornerback Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama. Virtually every analyst had him as an upper first-round lock a couple months ago, but his stock has slid.

Why? Because he's Mr. Character Issues this year.

Once a star at the University of Florida, Jenkins was kicked out of that school after his second arrest for marijuana possession and after being Tased and arrested for ceasing to back off during a street fight. At North Alabama he tested positive for marijuana and later admitted to using it there.

Plus, he has four kids from three different mothers.

He's 23.

Reports say that while some team might just ignore all that and take Jenkins on the basis of his supreme cover-corner talents, others wouldn't take him with the last pick in Round 7.

"You get enough trouble without getting one that you know is a problem," Nix said, in reference to players such as Jenkins.

Another top corner, Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama, was arrested in January for misdemeanor pot possession, but charges were dropped. It was a one-time incident for Kirkpatrick, thus he's still regarded as a likely Top 15 pick.


With regard to pot and alcohol, repeat offenders are the ones who turn the sirens on.

"It's like testing positive at the combine," Brian Billick, former Ravens head coach, says of repeat lawbreakers. "You're too stupid to play for me ... It's more of an intelligence issue than a character issue."

Timing is everything. It came out last week that Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams tested positive for pot two months ago at the combine. That was on the heels of having been suspended for a big chunk of his senior year at OSU for his role in the tattoos-for-equipment scandal that rocked that school's football program.

Bad decisions now seem to be a trend with Adams, and his stock is falling accordingly. Probably right out of the first round.

Alcohol is the black mark against wide receiver Michael Floyd. He had three alcohol-related brushes with the law in his last three years at Notre Dame — two in his home state of Minnesota for underage drinking, and the third last spring, a DUI.

While the latter incident, which nearly got him kicked out of Notre Dame, can't be chalked up to the "immaturity" Nix referred to, the first two probably can. That and the fact that Floyd is so good a wideout — tall, speedy, great hands — means that some team is still likely to take him in the top half of the first round. Maybe Buffalo.

As for the old alcohol-vs.-pot debate, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says times have changed.

"I don't think marijuana usage is as big a deal as it was 10 years ago in the eyes of most NFL teams," Mayock says. "I think habitual usage of any narcotic, including alcohol, is (the) concern."

Bottom line: repeat offences of just about anything illegal are a sure-fire way to have NFL teams, at best, question whether to take a supreme talent so high in the draft. At worst, it might cause them to avoid a player like a leper.


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