May 02, 2011
Well, here's a weird one. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post recently wrote that Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara(notes) may have fallen in the draft for a reason beyond his measurables. It was very odd to see Amukamara, whom I had ranked as a top-10 prospect and the second-best cornerback in this class behind LSU's Patrick Peterson(notes), slip past teams like Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Detroit and Washington — all teams which could certainly claim need at the position (and this is not in any way assuming or insinuating that any of those particular teams have a bias -- the quotes are from an anonymous source).
Pompei uses more traditional scouting red flags when he begins detailing why Amukamara may have fallen to 19th overall:
What was behind Amukamara's fall? In many draft rooms, the scouts liked Amukamara more than the coaches. The DB coaches and defensive coordinators got together and decided they weren't as high on Amukamara as many of their scouting counterparts. The coaches pointed to Amukamara's short arms (30 1/2 inches, 71 ½ inch wingspan) and small hands (8 ½ inches).
And then, things got very interesting:
And there may have been more to the story. A lot of NFL people are skeptical about Nigerian players like Amukarma. "And it's not just white men," one executive said. "It's whites and blacks." It's still a subtle form of racism. The word on Nigerians: they are soft, not tough enough and too educated. It would be a pity if that's what cost Amukamara.
Indeed. The fact that Pompei is the one writing this makes me think that there's at least a little fire behind this smoke — Pompei is one of the better and more dialed-in football writers out there, he's not a rabble-rouser without there being a reason for it, and he doesn't have a large history of whiffing on the news he writes.
I had not been aware of such a bias in the NFL before, but if it's true, it's one of the single dumbest things I have ever heard, and officially trumps the recent redhead quarterback bias for sheer idiocy. For those wondering if Nigerian football prospects are "too soft," allow me to either introduce or re-introduce you to one Christian Okoye:
Six years, two Pro Bowls, one rushing title, and a lot of Advil for enemy defenders. Once you're done picking up your teeth from those YouTube hits, random NFL guy who apparently thinks that Nigerian people are "too soft," we'd like to introduce you to defensive end Adewale Ogunleye(notes) (nine years, 67 sacks, one Pro Bowl), fellow end Osi Umenyiora(notes) (eight years, 60 sacks, two Pro Bowls), and offensive tackle Jeff Otah(notes) (no Pro Bowls just yet, but one of the biggest and strongest young players in the game). And take some time to watch Amukamara tackle — "soft" isn't the word I'd use.
We're quite sure these fine gentlemen would enjoy hearing your opinions, random NFL guy, and won't mind taking the extra time out of their busy days to stuff you in the nearest garbage can. Receiver Devin Aromashodu(notes) and defensive end Victor Adeyanju(notes) may also wish to discuss that particular point of view. We can only hope this story isn't true — that perhaps somebody was pulling a fast one on Pompei — but given some of the evaluation standards I've heard before, it wouldn't surprise me.
Now, Prince Amukamara has one more motivation to make it big in the NFL: to prove that alleged bias wrong -- all over again.
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