SBD/Issue 154/Franchises

NFL Teams Focus On Character As Much As Talent For '10 Draft

Alualu's High Maturity Level Could Have Played
Into Jaguars Taking Him With No. 10 Pick

If there was a "theme to the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, it was that character was put on equal if not higher footing than talent," according to Jason Cole of YAHOO SPORTS. Nothing "said that more than" the Broncos selecting QB Tim Tebow with the 25th pick, but the "message was evident throughout the first day." The theme was "established long before Tebow was selected," beginning with the Jaguars using the No. 10 pick on Tyson Alualu. The former California DT "didn't get much love from draftniks," but he got "high marks from his teammates ... for his maturity." The married father of two "was considered a leader of the Polynesian players on the Cal squad." Meanwhile, the Chargers "moved all the way from No. 28 to No. 12" to select RB Ryan Mathews, who "scored off the charts for character with many NFL teams." The Chargers traded LB Tim Dobbins, the No. 28 overall pick, and second- and fourth-round picks to the Dolphins in favor of Mathews. The Broncos later selected WR Demaryius Thomas over WR Dez Bryant with the No. 22 pick, "even though an overwhelming number of NFL personnel men said Bryant was clearly a better talent, perhaps even a top-five talent." But Bryant is "considered an extremely irresponsible young man" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/23). In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino notes Alualu is "considered a character player because his father is a pastor and he's married with two children." Alualu "signed with Cal in 2005 but delayed his enrollment until January, 2006 for the birth of his first child" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/23).

RISKY BUSINESS? SI.com’s Jim Trotter writes he was “impressed with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his ability to think independently” during Thursday night’s first round. The team traded up three spots so they could select Bryant with the No. 24 pick despite some “character concerns.” However, Bryant’s “public rap sheet consists of lying to the NCAA about his relationship with former NFL great Deion Sanders, which resulted in him being suspended for all but three games last season; forgetting a pair of his cleats for his pro day workout; and being habitually late.” Trotter: “No doubt, Bryant has some issues. ... But the fact remains that there is nothing criminal or bad-natured in his background." Jones "did not see a ‘character risk’ when he made the trade” (SI.com, 4/23). NFL Network's Mike Mayock said of Bryant: "He's got a top-five skill set but … you got to work hard with him off-the-field. If you do that, you've got a Pro Bowl wide receiver" ("NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/22). Jones said of selecting Bryant at No. 24, "We mitigated a lot of the risk in the pick getting him where we got him as opposed to where we had him graded." FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez writes Bryant was a "top-10 talent," but the Broncos at the No. 22 pick "weren't about to tempt the fates" by drafting someone with character issues after having "just traded one head case in Brandon Marshall" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/23). Bryant said of teams that passed on him, “I just feel those are the people who don’t know Dez Bryant. I don’t get into trouble. I’ve never committed a crime. I’ve never had trouble with the law. I don’t do drugs” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/23).

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: In Denver, Mike Klis reports the Broncos believe they have found a better version of Marshall with Thomas, “better as in better behaved, with a little more downfield speed.” Klis: “There was a need for the Broncos to replace Brandon Marshall, the talented receiver they traded last week. There was zero desire to replace Brandon Marshall, the distracting headache” (DENVER POST, 4/23). With the selection of both Thomas and Tebow, NFL Network's Michael Irvin noted, "Interestingly enough, the Denver Broncos bring in two high-character people after they got rid of Brandon Marshall, setting a tone for this locker room" ("NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/22).

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