March 29, 2011
Every year, I read and enjoy the Pro Football Weekly draft guide written by Nolan Nawrocki — it's a very well-done and comprehensive guide that I put up there with the information given by Russ Lande of the Sporting News, and Rob Rang and Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com (who strike me as the best in the business) when I want contrasting but trusted voices on draft-eligible players.
And one of the main things I like about the pre-draft process is that aside from the ceaseless speculation about which prospect's stock is rising and falling based on artificial factors (which you can easily sidestep if you just know who to avoid), it's more about watching tape and comparing football attributes than it is about throwing ridiculous rumors or baseless speculation out there. Sure, there seems to be one fake drug rumor per year, but those rumors generally come from "sources" in the second tier of the draft-o-sphere.
And that's why Nawrocki's takedown of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was both shocking and very much outside the box. As much as Nawrocki talked about what Newton brings to the field, he also went way off the reservation and got deep into what he considers to be Newton's personal failings.
Under "negatives" for Newton, Nawrocki writes, "Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable."
Now, I'm not arguing the merits of Nawrocki's evaluation — I've heard enough "interesting" things about Newton from trusted sources to wonder if he has the tremendous mental fortitude it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback. I guess the question is — how much amateur psychology do you want in your draft guide?
There's no question that Newton has a very scripted notion of how to deal with the media; that's why he opened his combine press conference with a pre-written statement. And there's been enough off-field controversy linked to Newton's name to make teams wonder if he'll bear down when he needs to at the next level.
But "enormous ego with a sense of entitlement"? "Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them"? How relevant are these evaluations to Newton's future success? You could probably say these things about more than a few successful NFL players at any given time (and you could absolutely say them about one certain currently retired quarterback who may or may not stay retired for too long). And what does his "fake smile" have to do with anything?
As I said, I respect Nawrocki's opinion of draft-eligible players about as much as I respect the opinions of anyone who does this for a living. And just to make it clear, I'm planning to buy the guide this year, and I encourage others to do the same. But I question how relevant certain personal things are if you're not a team possibly investing millions of dollars in a prospect. In those circumstances, I would absolutely want to know every little thing about Cam Newton, and I can then decide to separate the stuff from the stuff.
And as a reader of other draft evaluations, I want to know if a player has been suspended from a program, or beat someone up in a frat house, or has been busted for PEDs. But I'm not sure how interesting or relevant it is that the prospect I'm reading about is unlikeable, phony, or has a bit too much media savvy for his own good.
How much is too much?
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