So Tennessee running back Charlie Garner tested positive for marijuana at the Scouting Combine in February and had a scrape with the law in high school. So San Diego State receiver Darnay Scott has gotten into trouble off the field. So USC receiver Johnnie Morton isn't going to be a candidate for the Olympic 400-meter relay team.
So what does it all mean? They'll turn out to be among the biggest "bargains" of the NFL draft.
Start with Garner, who lasted until midway through the second round and went to the Philadelphia Eagles. Think of some of the mistakes of the past few years, and a lot of them come back to this: athletes who "slipped" in the final draft weeks before the draft. Thurman Thomas, who went at No. 40 to the Buffalo Bills in 1988, and Emmitt Smith, 17th in 1990, to name two. Louis Oliver, No. 25 in 1989, to name another.
Often slippage has to do with overanalysis, with overreacting to the final data from workouts or the combine, and even with hypersensitivity to gossip or the whispers that have been going around the league in the final weeks before the draft. All of a sudden, somebody is too small because he measures a little shorter on his ninth remeasuring and he has a few too many hundredths of a second on that 40 time. And because he wasn't the Welcome Wagon representative when the 24th organization asked him if he would go through a private workout, he must be a jerk.
In Garner's case, the knocks were his size (5-foot-9, 182 pounds)--but wait a minute, wasn't he just as small when he was projected as a No. 1 pick? -- and the marijuana red flag at the combine. He said marijuana smoke, not his own inhalation, caused the test result--and that's not out of the question.
Garner, who gained 1,161 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry as a senior for the Volunteers, would have been a great pick from late in the first round on, and everyone not completely set at running back who passed on him is going to be sorry.
There wasn't much argument about Scott, who went in the second round to the Cincinnati Bengals: He was the best physical package at wide receiver in the draft. He hasn't been a model citizen, either in high school or at San Diego State. At last check, receivers didn't get a three-stride head start on cornerbacks if they are Eagle Scouts.
Morton, who went 21st to the Detroit Lions, and Charles Johnson, claimed at No. 17 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, weren't downgraded as much as they fell victim to the run on defensive linemen. The talk that Morton fell short of the blazing speed category was right out of the Shrine of the Stopwatch dogma. But he has a fluid stride that will get him open. And he has the athletic talent to make the acrobatic catch.
Johnson is perhaps the antithesis of Scott. Johnson is the character guy you want in the locker room, so we're just wondering: If alleged character baggage drops players such as Scott and Garner, why did Johnson--the extraordinary talent who earned his degree in three years from Colorado--last until No. 17?
Here's a team-by-team run through the draft, with grades. Keep in mind that the grades are handed out with three considerations: 1) In an age when players reach free agency after four years, it's wiser to draft for need in most cases; 2) Because of the disparity in the number of picks available to each team, it's only fair to measure each team against what it could have done with its picks; and, 3) This isn't Yale and we won't have to hear any whining about how a "B" is going to keep somebody out of medical school, so the curve is strict.
Cincinnati Bengals, A:
Dan Wilkinson and Scott were no-brainers. Florida State defensive back Corey Sawyer was a great No. 4. They also needed offensive-line depth and likely got some help there with a sleeper: UNLV tackle Jerry Reynolds, the sixth-round pick.
Cleveland Browns, A:
Needed defensive help and got it. Even Bernie Kosar might admit Bill Belichick knows defense, and Antonio Langham with the ninth overall pick was solid. Derrick Alexander, the 29th player chosen, adds speed at receiver. No. 3, defensive tackle Romeo Bandison, would have gone higher except for nagging doubts about a knee.
Minnesota Vikings, A: The No. 1s--Tackle Todd Steussie and cornerback Dewayne Washington --fill needs. No. 2 Fernando Smith, a Jackson State defensive end, is huge and raw, and could fill the void left by the Chris Doleman trade. He was involved in some off-field problems before straightening out as a senior, perhaps the only reason Minnesota could get him that late.
San Francisco 49ers, A: Call it the Bill Romanowski draft, because the 49ers had to dump him to clear some cap room to be able to make some picks. But trading up for Notre Dame defensive tackle Bryant Young and adding fullback William Floyd and bump-and-run cornerback Tyronne Drakeford on the next two picks will help plug holes.