SBD/April 29, 2011/Franchises

Lions, Ravens Ignore Character Issues In Selecting Fairley, Smith In First Round

The Ravens drafted former Colorado CB Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick Thursday night, and Smith would "have been a top-10 or 15 pick guaranteed" if it were not for questions about his character, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported some teams "were monitoring his Facebook page and were concerned about some of the images that they'd seen on there dating back to the Combine." Schefter: "You're still talking about a supreme cornerback talent ... and teams felt that he to be in the right environment to succeed" ("2011 NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/28). NFL Network's Michael Irvin said, "We talk about guys that have had issues with character, what do you do? You put them in a strong locker room. There is no stronger locker room in the National Football League than the one Ray Lewis and Ed Reed leads for the Baltimore Ravens. Jimmy Smith comes there, he'll fall in line" ("2011 NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/28). In Baltimore, Mike Preston writes the Ravens "took a gamble Thursday night" in selecting Smith. There is "little doubt that Smith was one of the most talented players in the draft, but he has more baggage than an airline carrier." His name "has been linked with published reports of failed drug tests and other revelations about alcohol-related arrests and a third-degree assault in a restaurant." But "when a team is close to making the Super Bowl, it has a tendency to look the other way," and the Ravens "turned their heads Thursday night" (Baltimore SUN, 4/29).

Fairley drafted by Lions with 13th pick
despite reported character issues
FAIRLEY GETTING A FAIR DEAL?
In Detroit, Carlos Monarrez reports the Lions drafted Auburn DT Nick Fairley with the 13th pick in the Draft "despite reported concerns about character issues like commitment and discipline on and off the field." An ESPN report earlier this month indicated that Fairley "missed his flight to the NFL combine in February, missed a team meeting there and was late for a team interview at his pro day." But that "either didn't come up or wasn't a factor when Fairley visited the Lions' training facility in Allen Park last week." Lions GM Martin Mayhew said that he "wasn't worried about Fairley's character." Monarrez notes if there are "any lingering character issues, Fairley will have a chance to follow good examples and leadership on the defensive line, starting with team captain Kyle Vanden Bosch" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/29).

DODGING THE RED FLAGS: The role that character issues play in the Draft was discussed on Thursday’s episode of “Outside The Lines.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said it is “so critical to these teams these days” to examine a player's character. Schefter: “We're coming off an offseason where there was no free agency and ordinarily, teams would be putting so much time and energy starting March 1 into potential free agents. They really didn't do that this year because of the lockout, so all the attention that they ordinarily would put on the free agents they were able to put in top college prospects. ... These players always are under intense scrutiny, but that scrutiny was ratcheted up even more this year." Former North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, who was suspended his entire senior season due to dealings with an agent, was not drafted Thursday despite having "first round talent," and Schefter noted one team "told me flat-out they've taken him off their board due to concerns about his character.” Former Redskins Exec VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato said player character “is huge because you win with character.” Cerrato: “If you have a good character team, you can make it through losing streaks, you can make it through travesties in your organization. … You can bring in a guy like Marvin Austin, a questionable character guy, if you have a strong locker" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/28).
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