Buyer Beware: Two Prospects with Character QuestionsFollow @NFLDraftShow
With the 2012 NFL Draft less than 80 days away, scouts, experts and fans are starting to look at prospects more seriously with the NFL season over. Two notable prospects on the defensive side of the ball in this year's draft are Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Burfict was a three-year starter at Arizona State, averaging 76 tackles (7.5 for a loss), 2.5 sacks and 3.5 pass breakups per season at middle linebacker. In 2010, he was named a Sporting News First-Team All-American, the first Sun Devil to receive that honor since Terrell Suggs in 2002.
Kirkpatrick was a starter on this year's national champions, and may have been the best athlete in the Crimson Tide secondary. He registered nine pass breakups on the season and helped to shut down LSU in the BCS National Championship Game.
Burfict and Kirkpatrick look on paper like stud prospects with bright futures ahead of them. But both players have character issues that raise serious red flags for NFL teams scouting defensive players. Trouble has followed them both on and off the field for the last few months and could do serious damage to their draft stock.
Sporting News called Burfict the "meanest man in college football" this past summer, and he lived up to that title during the 2011 season. He received any flags for personal fouls, and his behavior on the field has been compared to the talented but troubled Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions.
Like Suh, Burfict has had to pay the price for his conduct. In a close game against California this season, Burfict was benched for the final 24 minutes of the game after a pair of personal foul penalties did not sit well with head coach Dennis Erickson.
He has earned his personal fouls through late hits, illegal contacts and even headbutting. During a 2010 game against Oregon State, Burfict headbutted quarterback Ryan Katz after a play in which Katz scrambled out of bounds. When confronted by one of his coaches, Burfict tossed the coach's arm away.
Burfict's on field behavior can be discussed for days on end. But for now, he will have to wow scouts with great interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine this month if he wishes to stay in the first round.
For Kirkpatrick, the issues have mostly been off the field. He was recently arrested for possession of marijuana. Fortunately for Kirkpatrick, the charges were dropped on February 8th.
While many players in recent years have had criminal incidents in the lead up to the draft (including Ryan Mallett, Aqib Talib and Matt Jones), it still has many potential suitors concerned about whether Kirkpatrick will be a liability. His record may technically be clean, but he has given teams reason to have concerns.
These two players are certainly still going to be drafted. They are too talented not to be. But questions about their character and ability to stay out of trouble can have a serious impact on their draft stock. They have given teams reasons to question whether they are talented enough to outweigh the potential headaches their trouble could bring.
Hotheads and criminals are not popular commodities in the pros, and to have them play a starter's role on any roster is always a risk. That is the risk some teams may be willing to take to draft players with great talent like Vontaze Burfict and Dre Kirkpatrick. But many NFL teams will have to be wary of the baggage each may bring. Buyer beware.
Kevin Gallagher is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is ComRadio's Production Director. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism