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NFL Draft Top 10: Players with character concerns

04.25.12 at 5:11 pm ET
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If the Bill Belichick regime has emphasized any part of the NFL draft, it’s the idea that teams must evaluate a prospect’s character on and off the field just as closely as they need to monitor his physical tools and talents. Each year’s draft class provides plenty of potential draftees who have red flags that have little to do with their physical skills, whether it’s criminal charges or NCAA sanctions, not caring enough or lacking discipline. Here’s a look at the top 10 players in this year’s draft that teams will have to take a second look at when it comes down to their character.

Defensive back Janoris Jenkins managed to stay out of trouble after transferring from Florida to Division 2 North Alabama. (AP)

1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama Jenkins comes into the draft as this year’s winner of the unofficial “character concern” trophy (which could have been awarded to current Patriot Ryan Mallett prior to last year’s draft) after being booted from Florida following multiple charges and being forced to transfer to Division 2 North Alabama for a season. The father of four children under the age of 4 with three different mothers, Jenkins has three drug arrests on his record from his time at Florida, although he hasn’t had a single incident since leaving the school. However, Jenkins did part ways with his agent, Creative Artists Agency’s Ben Dogra, earlier this month, which raised some eyebrows.

2. Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina – After failing to record a start during his final season at UNC, Paige-Moss’ declaration for the 2012 draft acted as a confirmation of sorts regarding speculation that he had been at odds with the team’s coaching staff for much of his career. The conflict was made public when he came out on Twitter following the team’s loss to Missouri in the 2012 Independence Bowl and called the coaches horrible, called out UNC fans and capped off the tweet with the hash tag “#imout.” Before he even suited up for the Tar Heels, Paige-Moss was charged with assault after punching a fellow UNC commit before the start of the season. He also was suspended for the Tar Heels’ bowl game after pushing an NC State player following the team’s final regular-season game.

3. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon – Harris entered the draft after Oregon dismissed the junior cornerback for “violating team rules” while already on indefinite suspension. Prior to the 2011 season, Harris was pulled over while driving 118 mph on the highway, leading to his suspension for the season opener. He was pulled over again in October and was charged with driving without a license, failing to wear a seat belt and not having proper insurance, leading to the indefinite suspension.

4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska Just a week ago, Dennard didn’t have any major red flags, especially in terms of character concerns. However, after allegations that he punched a police officer early last Saturday morning, teams will be extremely tentative when looking at him on their boards. The timing is what makes the incident such a big issue, as teams won’t get much of a chance to look into it or talk to Dennard prior to draft day.

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State Once looked upon as a can’t-miss prospect, Burfict now has a reputation across the league as a can’t-take player. Though he had an extremely productive career for the Sun Devils and entered the draft as one of college football’s most-hyped prospects, his terrible attitude on and off the field has forced more than one team to take him off of the board. One of the biggest knocks against Burfict came from CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman, who quoted a league scout as saying: “I wouldn’t touch him. He does have some talent, but he is so undisciplined on and off the field. The guy is completely out of control. There’s no way you could trust him. I can’t believe [ASU] didn’t cut him loose.”

6. Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State – In 2009, Brown was a highly touted freshman at Tennessee who gained over 500 yards with limited touches. Coming in as the No. 1 recruit in the country (in a class that included Alabama RB Trent Richardson), Brown showed flashes of greatness, showing off vision and patience far beyond his years. However, Brown transferred closer to home after sitting out the 2010 season. He then played three games, carrying the ball only three times for the Wildcats before leaving the team in 2011 and deciding to go back to Tennessee. Shortly after, though, Brown surprised many by declaring for the draft. Heading into the draft after only playing one year, Brown compares to former Ohio State freshman standout Maurice Clarett, albeit with less fanfare and criminal activity. He’s expected to be a Day 3 draft pick at best.

7. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State – Adams made headlines recently when reports emerged that he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine. Although the charges aren’t a death sentence on their own, they do highlight Adams’ transgressions during his college career. Like current Raider Terrell Pryor, Adams was one of the Ohio State players who was suspended in the aftermath of the infamous tattoo incident that led to the firing of Jim Tressel. Adams also was suspended for two games for breaking team rules in 2009 in addition to being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in 2009 — though those charges were dropped.

8. Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia – Irvin has spent much of his college career trying to rebuild his image after dropping out of high school as a junior and going to junior college via a GED. He has addressed many teams’ concerns, attributing his checkered past to growing in a “rough neighborhood in Atlanta” and the fact that he “ran with the wrong crowd.” While most of his off-field incidents occurred prior to joining the Mountaineers as a junior college transfer, Irvin was arrested for destruction of property when he broke a sign outside of a Jimmy John’s restaurant after his pro day.

9. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina – Coples’ status as the most talented pass rusher in the draft has not really been questioned throughout the entire draft process. Rather, it is Coples’ work ethic and willingness to play hard on every play that may make NFL teams tentative in selecting him as a top 10 pick. The criticisms, though, come largely from reputation and what scouts take from his tape and don’t hint at any issues with him off the field or with him as a teammate.

10. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame Heading into the draft, there isn’t much concern over Floyd’s character. However, history is a hard thing to shake. Floyd was arrested twice for underage drinking while at Notre Dame, but what really almost did him in as a collegian was a DUI arrest in March 2011. After the arrest, Floyd was stripped of his captaincy, banned from spring practice and forced to live in the dorms as part of a last chance given by his coaches to get his act together as a senior. Floyd has apparently righted the ship, changing his lifestyle and restoring his image enough to be named a team captain once again for his final college game.

10b. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: For most of the draft process, Griffin shot up boards as a squeaky-clean Heisman Trophy winner who had the potential to be the league’s next dynamic dual-threat quarterback. However, that clean record was marred when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn quoted an anonymous scout that questioned Griffin’s character as a team player. According to the scout, “He’s got a little bit of a selfish streak, too. Everybody was laying on Cam [Newton], but for some reason this guy has become gloves off. He doesn’t treat anybody good.” The criticism has been faced with raised eyebrows across the league and has not received any corroboration or even a hint at agreement. Realistically, the scout’s take shouldn’t have much of an effect on Griffin’s draft stock.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Janoris Jenkins,
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