2013 NFL Draft Prospects Carrying the Most Baggage
Titus Young is emotionally unstable, this much is certain. His recent rants on Twitter bring clarity that Young simply does not get it and has fallen out of touch with reality.
A brawl with teammate Louis Delmas early last offseason, coupled with multiple on-field attitude problems and mishaps have lead most to believe Detroit would be better off cutting ties with the former 2nd-round pick and once budding talent.
Young's emotional baggage carried a dark cloud over Detroit last season and his irrational decision making and selfish ways seeped its way into the Lions locker room like a bad flu.
Certainly it is in no way fair to cast blame on any one player, However Young's antics did very little to help the Lions cause this year, especially considering the high expectations he had coming in.
Call it baggage, call it red flags, call it whatever you want but each year a few young (no pun intended) men seem to stand out from the crowd as character or red flag guys. These are the players you must do extra homework on to get to the bottom of the problem and assess whether it is correctable or not.
With that said, players with baggage aren't all created equal either. Bear in mind that concerns regarding things like injuries and reckless on-field performance can also bring up legitimate questions and concerns in the minds of evaluators; which we will also see and address on this list.
Last year players like Janoris Jenkins and Vontaze Burfict drew the most scrutiny. In the 2013 NFL Draft, we also see a plethora of individuals who carry the extra baggage label and will be under the watchful eye and careful detection of NFL decision makers.
For these players the evaluation period ahead is critical. They will be poked and prodded by doctors, tested psychologically by psychiatrists and grilled in the interview rooms by coaches and general managers alike.
On the following slides we will discuss further the concerns surrounding each individual player and while you too must also pay careful attention to their demeanor moving forward.
1) CB Tyrann Mathieu AKA "Honey Badger"
This one is almost too easy, so I don't blame you for downgrading me on a lack of originality. Mathieu is the poster boy for off-field problems in this year's draft class.
A once Heisman finalist, Mathieu earned the nickname "Honey Badger" for his relentless and aggressive on-field behavior in 2011.
Because of his performances and multiple accolades, Mathieu seemed be on top of the world before multiple failed drug tests and an arrest for possession of marijuana lead to his dismissal from the LSU football program.
An outgoing leader, Mathieu brought the energy, spirit and play-making ability that left on-lookers dazzled at his ability to impact the game despite his smaller stature.
Feisty and aggressive, Mathieu certainly boasts impressive athletic ability to line up as either a slot corner or potential free safety at the next level depending on who you talk to, and also brings value as a kick returner.
In what looks to be a smart and strategic move, Mathieu was down at the Senior Bowl earlier this week to try and rehash his image and prove he has moved on from his previous lifestyle.
In an article published from NOLA.com, Mathieu said he understands that this is his "last chance" and is there to "give them a reason not to be afraid of taking a chance on me".
From the reports that surfaced today, it would seem that Mathieu is currently on the right track to relinquish some of his tarnished image and prove that he has changed his ways.
However, Mathieu has yet to be invited to the NFL Combine in February and will also be coming off of a year without playing football.
If Mathieu fails to receive an invite, consider it a very steep up-hill battle for the former star, who would lose out on the opportunity to publicly apologize and explain himself on a national stage.
2) S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
Another talented SEC defender who has his own share of drug-related occurrences, Rambo was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for reportedly failing a drug test.
Although not all the information is exactly clear to this point, Rambo maintains his innocence in the matter that lead to his suspension.
According to Rambo, the positive test stemmed from a spring break trip with friends when he unknowingly ingested some brownies that were said to be laced with marijuana.
Whatever the truth may be, Rambo certainly has some baggage and off-field decision-making matters that teams will surely investigate further.
On the field however, Rambo has a penchant for creating turnovers due to his impressive instincts and ability to go up and compete when the ball is in the air. These ball skills have allowed Rambo to come down with an impressive sixteen career interceptions.
Teams are always looking for momentum changing defensive players who consistently create turnovers, something Rambo has been able to do very often during his collegiate career.
However, with his upside as a game-changer, Rambo must also clear the air regarding his past slip-ups and explain more thoroughly what lead to his decisions and how he has grown from them.
3) LB/DE Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Another Bulldog defender, Jones finds his way on to our list for reasons that are more outside his realm of control. Spinal Stenosis is defined as a narrowing of the spinal column and is an injury Jones suffered while playing at USC during his freshman season.
After USC refused to clear him for contact because of concerns for his health and safety, Jones was told he should retire from the game of football.
However, despite his potentially serious injury, Jones chose to transfer to Georgia where he would go on to be one of the most feared pass-rushers in the country en-route to collecting an impressive twenty-eight career sacks in just two seasons.
Now, the biggest question surrounding Jones isn't if he can play, but rather if he can hold up in the NFL due to his neck aliment.
Injuries involving the head and neck are always the most frightening because of the contact involved with the sport, and is especially concerning considering Jones will make his living as a defensive player.
It's expected team doctors will perform thorough tests on Jones at the upcoming NFL Combine to determine his projected longevity at the next level.
Working in favor of Jones is the fact that he has now played two seasons without any set-backs or flare-ups, which should be seen as an extremely positive sign moving forward.
On the flip side, negative results could also send Jones down or completely off some teams' draft boards entirely.
Either way, expect to see Jones drafted in the first round on talent alone, but also realize his stock is largely contingent on what team doctors find and report back to their respective teams.
4) RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Most, certainly many, remember the horrific knee injury Marcus Lattimore suffered against Tennessee this season.
It was an incredibly painful sight to watch, as Lattimore, who was already coming off a knee injury from the previous year once again rode off the field with his future in jeopardy.
Thinking back about that game I can't help but feel for the emotional pain and mental anguish Lattimore must have felt during that ride to the locker room.
Easily the most complete back before his injury, Lattimore possessed an ideal blend of power, patience, vision and balance.
His ability to pass block, catch the ball out of the backfield and run both inside and outside effectively made him hard to miss.
Unfortunately Lattimore will now once again have to work diligently to regain his pre-injury condition.
Fortunately though, Lattimore also benefits in knowing what it takes to come back from this type of injury and should be very familiar with all the ups and downs that come with an injury of this magnitude.
It will be hard to judge exactly how much burst and explosion Lattimore will lose since he is still pretty early in his recovery process.
However, most teams will simply want their doctors to see how his rehab is going and also gain perspective on his attitude and enthusiasm over his unfortunate situation and matter.
If Lattimore can prove he is committed to the recovery process and is making positive progress, expect him to be drafted somewhere on day two.
An extremely positive, appreciative and humble young player, it would not shock me in the least to see Lattimore come back stronger due to his work ethic and passion for the game.
5) WR Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech
Da'Rick Rogers is one of the more intriguing names on this list. In 2011 Rogers was an unstoppable force, proving why he was such a highly rated prep prospect out of high school.
When talented teammate Justin Hunter went down with an injury, Rogers stepped up his game and became the big-play threat many envisioned he would become, going over the thousand yard mark for receiving.
However, off-field issues, as well as maturity and accountability concerns ultimately lead to Rogers’s dismissal from the team, which has brought up many red flags regarding his character.
When watching Rogers play the talent is undeniably evident from the first snap. His size-speed combination is very impressive, as is his ability to eat up cushions and get on top of his defender very quickly.
His quick release and precise route-running skills allow him to create effortless separation, as he explodes out of his routes and uses his big frame and strength nicely to stem and gain inside positioning to out-muscle defenders.
All of these things make Rogers one of the most talented overall wide receivers in this draft class, but concerns regarding his maturity have caused scouts to pause and hesitate.
The pre-draft process and interviews will be huge for Rogers in the coming months, as he must prove he has matured and grown since he left Tennessee.
By all accounts, Rogers remained clean during his one year at Tennessee Tech, which should bode well for him moving forward.
However, plenty of questions still loom for this supremely gifted and talented athlete, where his responses will give us valuable insight into his character and trustworthiness.
6) WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State
Controversy and questions loom large for Marquess Wilson this draft season, whose decision to quit the team earlier this season raised a lot of eyebrows and red flags.
Wilson accused Mike Leach and the Washington State coaching staff of alleged abuse and misconduct, before quitting the team and leaving the program.
Investigations by Pac-12 officials found no wrong doing by Leach or his staff and have left many puzzled on exactly why Wilson would make such unwarranted statements.
A long and talented athlete, many were excited to see just how much more productive the talented Wilson would be in Leach's well-known aerial attack.
However, much like Titus Young, it became apparent early that Wilson was dissatisfied with his looks and seemed to clash with the new coaching staff.
At 6'3" Wilson certainly has the ideal height and skills to play at the next level. His reliable hands and impressive body control are two of his biggest strengths as a receiver and should translate well at the next level.
However, despite his height, Wilson sorely lacks the necessary bulk at this stage in his development. A slight 185 pounds, Wilson will likely struggle with more physical defensive backs in the NFL and could have used another year in college to develop more physically.
Wilson's decision to leave on bad terms, while also not providing the necessary answers has left many decision makers’ to question his character and overall intentions.
His ability or inability to explain himself and answer the tough questions will ultimately determine his future draft positioning.
7) RB Montel Harris, Temple
Montel Harris is in the unfortunate position of having multiple red flags in his past. Knee injuries and a checkered past leaves a player with plenty of baggage to sort through.
Last May, Harris was dismissed from the Boston College program following several violations of team rules, after a season in which he also re-injured his surgically repaired knee.
After being dismissed, Harris then transferred to Temple where he was granted immediate eligibility to play in 2012 without having to sit out.
In 2012, he once again enjoyed a successful season, however much of his production came from an astounding effort against Army in which he racked up over 350 yards rushing with a total of seven touchdowns.
An All-ACC performer and Boston College's all-time leading rusher, Harris is no doubt a talented back but red flags have derailed his draft stock.
A double whammy of sorts, Harris is one player with a lot to prove, who will also be subject to a lot of questions and tests moving forward.
8) DT Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin
Another supremely talented defender, Hughes was an emerging piece for the Volunteers defense during his first two seasons.
Unfortunately for Hughes, multiple issues with academics and off-field issues and violations ultimately lead to his dismissal from the program in 2011.
A big and thick defensive lineman, Hughes is a physical presence in the middle who can occupy multiple blocks and shows the rare athleticism to move in space as well.
His ability to anchor the middle of a defense should appeal greatly to a team in need of a nose tackle in the mid-to-late rounds who can also get after the passer from time to time.
However, before he can clear his name, scouts will first want to find out how focused, motivated and driven Hughes is.
Questions surrounding his commitment to the game are well warranted and will likely be the deciding factor on where he deserves and ultimately gets selected come April.
9) LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon
Arrested in 2010 on DUI charges, Alonso spent much of his suspended season wondering what type of road he was heading down.
Changes were needed, and Alonso quickly realized everything he had at stake. Since that point, Alonso has grown and matured, becoming a quality defensive player and even earning Defensive MVP honors for his performance in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin in 2012.
At 6'2" 240 pounds, Alonso has ideal size, and also displays the type of grit and mentality to consistently make plays all over the field.
His combination of speed, instincts and toughness are very good, as you can consistently see No. 47 flying to the football to make plays both in coverage and against the run.
Now, nearly two years removed from an off-field incident, those close to him believe he has officially turned the corner and put his troubled past behind him.
Nonetheless, Alonso will likely be confronted on the matter, as he carries some baggage that teams' will want to address up front.
10) LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
We have saved the best for last. No other player, or maybe even athlete is under more scrutiny than Manti Te'o is right now. His alleged girlfriend hoax is both bizarre and incredibly alluring, considering the details of the story and level of player involved.
To be fair; as NFL Network's Mike Mayock pointed out, we are still very early on in the process and don't have all the necessary facts in place to come to a conclusion quite yet.
Having now sat down for interviews with both ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and Katie Couric to tell his side of the story, it appears Te'o may have actually been the victim in this case, despite earlier reports.
It is also worth pointing out that Te'o is showing both accountability and honesty by taking the time to explain himself, which plays into both his believability and trustworthiness regarding the matter.
However it all plays out from here, Te'o will now have some questions and lingering suspicions regarding both his overall judgement and level of awareness.
While Te'o's situation is more of a minor matter that should have limited affect on his draft stock, it goes without saying that he is anxious to drop his limited baggage off at the nearest check point as soon as humanly possible.
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