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Risk vs. Reward: Teams Must Draft Who They Think Can Survive

If playing in the NFL was strictly about athleticism and talent, Ole Miss LT Larmey Tunsil wouldn’t have been drafted 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins. He most likely would of been picked in the top 5. What the casual fan may not realize when drinking a beer and watching their team play on Sunday is that the guys out on the field aren’t only some of the greatest athletes in the world, but also must learn to in an environment that for some, proves too public to handle.

The most obvious example of this is ex-Texas A&M and Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Manziel was one of the greatest quarterbacks of his generation in college, winning the Heisman trophy and leading Texas A&M through 3 unbelievable seasons. Though what most people think of when you bring up Manziel is his crazy party lifestyle, which recently hit a new climax after reports arose of him trashing a multimillion dollar Hollywood mansion, and the owner walking in to see him passed out on the couch and cocaine spread across the table; as well as being recently indicted on assault charges for which he is expected to turn himself sometime next week.

It safe to say, for all intents and purposes, at this point in his career – not even considering his subpar in game stats (7 TDs 5 INTs 1500 Yds) – that Johnny Manziel has failed in the NFL. Its for reasons like this that cause teams to often pass on the incredible prospect due to his off-the-field baggage.

This became the surprise story of night one of the 2016 draft when Larmey Tunsil, 13 minutes before the draft was set to start, tweeted (or was allegedly hacked) a video of a man who appears to be him, smoking a substance out of a gas-mask bong.

The video was quickly deleted, but not before the world took notice, and in our currently world of social media involvement, it was too late. Two offensive tackles were taken before Tunsil was drafted by the Dolphins. The general manager of the Baltimore Ravens even said openly that the video of Tunsil caused the organization to remove him from their draft board. The fall likely cost Tunsil an estimated $10-$13 million in contract money.

Tunsil will still receive his chance in the league, but for other players, teams are done giving them a shot.

Ray Rice, ex-Ravens running back, was caught on video brutally punching his then fiancee (now wife) in the face and knocking her out in an elevator back in February 2014. Rice was disciplined by the NFL, but when the video was eventually leaked, the Ravens cut Rice.

Since then, many teams have brought Rice in for a meeting and workout, but all have determined that the media backlash from signing him outweighs his potential on field contributions.

Domestic violence has unfortunately been on a rise in the NFL, and many teams seem to be using it as the line that players are not allowed to cross if they would like to continue their careers. There have been exceptions to this unspoken rule though, as Sideline writer Ella Brockway discussed in her recent article. DE Greg Hardy received a second chance from Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys after the Carolina Panthers cut him when reports and photos arose of him brutally beating and threatening to kill his now ex-girlfriend, leading to criminal charges being brought (and eventually dismissed.)

As Ella claimed; and Jerry Jones seems to have learned, announcing yesterday that Hardy would not be returning to the Cowboys, Greg Hardy gave the organization, as well as the league, a bad image.

It’s players like these, the Hardys, Rices, and Manziels of the world, that make the draft so much more difficult. Because not only do you want to pick a player who will contribute on the field, but also one who can handle the intense, ever growing spotlight the NFL brings with it.

Which is why the pre-draft scouting process has become more bizarre than ever.

Clemson DE and eventual Buffalo Bills first round pick Shaq Lawson recently came out and said one team asked him how he would kill someone, as well as other weird questions like who the forth president was.

While Ohio State CB and eventual New York Giants first round pick Eli Apple claimed that while being interviewed by the Atlanta Falcons, he was asked if he was gay. Apple was also criticized by a scout for not being able to cook his own meals.

Yet one of the most interesting players of the field this draft has been Ole Miss DE/DT Robert Nkemdichie, who fell to the Arizona Cardinals at 30th overall.

Nkemdiche was in the news towards the end of his college career at Ole Miss when he fell out of a hotel window and was charged with possession of marijuana. The school responded by suspending him for the Sugar Bowl which he followed with his [expected] announcement that he would be forgoing his senior season and going to the pros.

But despite that, many draft experts expected his stock to recover at the combine due his absurd athletic ability. Except that those experts must not have expected his interview sessions to go as poorly as they did. Many reports claim that Nkemdiche admitted to “taking plays off” and “not always trying to effect the game.” Two things that are obviously unacceptable at the next level.

Nkemdiche’s colorful personality also seemed to scare off a few suitors. A jazz music enthusiast as well as a somewhat decent saxophone player, Nkemdiche showed he was not your stereotypical defensive lineman. During an interview a couple weeks before the draft, he even said that once the league he plans to buy a panther.

So, while athleticism and talent will remain the most important factors in determining who gets a shot in the NFL, personality and lifestyle seem to be becoming the determining factors in who ends up succeeding.

Photo Credits Joe Robbins- Fox Sports

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