April 19th, 2011 09:48 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Arkansas
Tags: GM, NFL, Nolan Nowracki, PFW
When it comes to questions of character leading up to the NFL draft, Ryan Mallett has faced a ton of them. The former Arkansas quarterback has been accused of choking under pressure, failing to be a good leader, and of being a drug user. Those are the kinds of things that cause you to tumble down the draft list, of course.
According to Nolan Nowracki of ProFootballWeekly.com (and it was TeamSpeedKills.com that led us to that story), one NFL general manager actually claims that Mallett admitted his drug situation in an interview:
One GM said Mallett was the first quarterback ever to admit his drug usage to him in interviews, and his willingness to be honest about his past and acknowledge issues is viewed as a positive. Concerns about his history of use could impact his draft position, though. Although Mallett did not produce an official positive test at Arkansas, he has been arrested for public intoxication and carries a reputation as a “big party guy,” per sources who have interviewed him. How much teams believe he has matured will weigh into his draft status. “I would not take him at any point,” one executive not in need of a quarterback said. He still figures to be drafted in the second round.
For months Mallett-backers have screamed, “Where’s the proof?” Well, if an NFL GM is to be believed, this amounts to proof. Proof of something anyway. Whether the drug use Mallett discussed was typical college type stuff — booze, marijuana — or something larger like cocaine (as has been rumored), the quarterback has come clean to at least one high-level NFL executive.
Next question — and it’s the same question we asked when former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge admitted drug use during his college career: If it’s true Mallett was using, how did Arkansas’ drug testing policy never catch him? And shouldn’t that policy be strengthened… for the benefit of troubled athletes?
Character questions will no doubt follow Mallett into the draft, but talent-wise, some team could get a second-round steal by picking the former Razorback.
The Mallett discussion appears in a breakdown of players who are perceived to be the safest and most dangerous bets from a character standpoint. Mallett was joined under the “top character questions” header by Auburn’s Cam Newton and Nick Fairely:
Auburn DT Nick Fairley — Despite possessing difference-making, top-10 talent as an inside pass rusher, Fairley is a classic one-year wonder with a spotty motor. His work ethic is questionable — and it shows in his smooth-muscled, soft body. He is not a self-starter, is known to fall asleep in meetings and has a learning disability that showed in his 12 Wonderlic score. On talent alone, he could still fit into the top 10 because of his ability to generate an inside rush and take over games. Three teams PFW consulted that have selections in the first half of the draft admitted he has been removed from consideration, but still hoped and expected he would be drafted highly.
Falling asleep in meetings, huh? Wonder what Gene Chizik and Ted Roof will say about that report.
Auburn QB Cam Newton — Make no mistake about it — when an athlete is extremely talented, capable of winning championships and advancing the careers of coaches and proliferating the profile of programs, he is going to have supporters who loyally will stand by him through thick and thin. Newton won championships, advanced careers and has his share of supporters. Some of his teammates also admittedly have been less than forthcoming in interviews because they do not want to be viewed as bad teammates. Nonetheless, Newton’s immaturity remains a considerable issue that has been well-documented and includes multiple incidents of theft and academic cheating. Very concerning is his enormous ego and lack of humility that could make it extremely difficult for him to handle a leadership position at one of the most demanding leadership positions in all of sports. He still figures to be a top-10 selection, but whether he can prove to be a long-term solution 3-5 years from now is very much a doubt in the minds of many NFL decision-makers. “Only the tip of the iceberg has (been reported) about (Newton),” one NFL executive said. “He has won two national championships, won the Heisman (Trophy) and had great production in one year. He’s an athlete with a strong arm. But there is so much there. … Mark my words — the team that drafts him will have an owner who reports to himself or a GM who is planning to be retired on the beach in three years.”
The academic cheating charge came late last year through a FoxSports.com report, but we at MrSEC.com have not seen any type of follow-up or confirmation of the report. Maybe we just missed it. (We still think someone should get the book thrown at them for illegally releasing information about a student’s academic records.)
Either way, Newton appears to be more and more comparable to former Tennessee Titans first-round pick Vince Young. An all-star at the college level who could make plays with his legs and arm. Capable of carrying a team to a national title. But also, a player who’s coming from an over-simplified system — in Young’s case a one-read offense and in Newton’s case a system so simple that he couldn’t call out a single Auburn play when asked to do so by ESPN’s Jon Gruden.
Young has shown flashes in the NFL, but he’s also made as much news off the field as on… and he’s being run out of Nashville by a team that desperately needs a quarterback. Newton — like Young — has too much talent for most GMs to pass on, but also like Young, he might wind up being a bust when it comes to the investment a team will make in him cash-wise.
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