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5 Character Risks in the 2019 NFL Draft

5 Character Risks in the 2019 NFL Draft

Every year the NFL Draft is filled with players with questionable pasts, and 2019 is no different. While most of these players have become better people since their respective incidents, there are some NFL teams who will just not draft players with off-field issues, no matter when they occurred. Here are five players who may be off some teams’ draft boards come April.

Dishonorable mention: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Williams has all the physical tools needed to be the best corner prospect in years. He’s 6’2″ 185lbs and ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. For the most part, he locked down his side of the field in Death Valley. He doesn’t have any off-field issues, but there is one major concern with him; his competitiveness. Williams shies away from physicality, and gives little to no effort in run support. Not all CBs are super active against the run, and that can help prevent injury, but there will be teams that cannot accept Williams mentality towards contact. The cliche “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” can apply to him; he should be a dominant player in the NFL, but in order to do that, he will need to be physical. The question is does he want to be?

5. Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech

While the competition Ferguson faced in college wasn’t great, his career stats are still impressive. He finished with 45 sacks, breaking Terrell Suggs’ 17-year-old record for most sacks in FBS history. He doesn’t have great bend and is still extremely raw, but Ferguson possesses good burst, size, and strength, and should be a Day 2 pick as a developmental pass-rusher. Despite his accomplishments and prospect status, Ferguson was dis-invited to the NFL Combine because he was convicted of simple battery during his freshman year in 2015 after he got into a fight at a McDonald’s. While he missed out on the chance to prove his athleticism in Indianapolis, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for most teams.

4. Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida

On tape, Polite is one of the quickest defenders to enter the Draft in years. His ability to create pressure stems from his small frame and blinding first step. He was weak against the run, so he is better suited to play 3-4 OLB in the NFL. It seems as if Polite attempted to prove he could play 4-3 DE by showing up to the combine weighing nearly 260lbs. He looked out of shape, and all he proved was that he couldn’t retain his athleticism at that weight, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds and jumped just 32 inches in the vertical. To make matters worse, he bombed team interviews and his media press conference, as he seemed unprepared for the atmosphere and complained about teams showing him his bad plays. Now teams must decide if they feel comfortable with Polite’s work ethic and his response to criticism. Once a borderline top-10 prospect, Polite will be fortunate if he is drafted in the first round.

3. Devin White, LB, LSU

The top LB prospect in this year’s class, White was arrested twice in high school. While he hasn’t had any issues since, his past does bring up character concerns that he will need to address in team meetings. As this 2015 article from the Shreveport Times explains, White was first charged with “careless operation of a motor vehicle and flight from an officer”. A few weeks later, he was arrested for carnal knowledge of a minor. Along with a teammate, White had sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. At the time, White was three years and seven months older than the girl, and his teammate was three years and 10 months older. Had either man been four years older than the girl, he would have been convicted of a felony. Some people may not have an issue with the age gap, as both parties were still teenagers in high school. Others will view White as practically an adult, and judge his actions as unacceptable.

2. Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Like Ferguson, Williams was not permitted to attend the combine because of his history. After starting his career at the University of Tennessee, Williams transferred to Colorado State where he enjoyed a breakout 2018 season in which he caught 96 passes for 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns. In September of 2017, Williams was arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend. From the Coloradoan:

The receiver was suspended for much of last season following arrests for harassment, tampering and domestic violence after an altercation with a former girlfriend. Williams allegedly shoved her multiple times during an argument at an off-campus apartment the two shared, according to Fort Collins police reports. He was arrested again three weeks later by CSU police for violating a restraining order after the first arrest.

That isn’t good, but it’s also not Tyreek Hill-level bad either. It will have a massive impact on Williams’ stock, but he should still be drafted, although it will be later on Day 3, especially after his subpar athletic testing from his pro day. Some teams, such as the Baltimore Ravens, just won’t touch players with DV history. Others will take the risk, provided they feel comfortable that the player is committed to becoming a better person. Williams may be deemed as not worth the PR fallout, and will have to impress teams in private interviews.

1. Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

A top-10 prospect on the field in this year’s class, Simmons’ stock is all over the place. Some people still see him as a top-20 pick because of his talent, and others see him falling out of the first round due to his torn ACL and his off-field history. Before arriving at Mississippi State, Simmons was captured on video pummeling a woman on the ground, apparently involved in a family argument. While he has by all accounts been a model citizen since, the existence of the video is serious. Like Williams, Simmons may have already been removed from several teams’ boards just because of the incident, fairly or otherwise. Simmons must prove to teams that he has changed, and he is now capable of controlling his temper. If he is able to stay out of trouble off the field, whoever drafts him will be getting a major steal.