Eric Ebron, C.J. Mosley, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix—arguably the top tight end, inside linebacker and safety respectively in this year's draft class—all come with high ceilings. All three are potential Pro Bowl type of players.
Unfortunately, all three also come with potential red flags that make them risky propositions as first round NFL draft choices.
Perhaps ironically, the three biggest needs of the Packers entering May's draft are conceivably at the same three positions: tight end, inside linebacker and safety. And not coincidentally, all three players have appeared in a myriad of speculative mock drafts as being selected by Green Bay.
The Packers and general manager Ted Thompson need to—and likely already are—vetting the backgrounds of all three players if they hope to address any of those positions with the 21st overall draft pick.
No matter the player, the money, attention and expectations that come with being a first round draft choice are unbelievably steep in the high-stakes world that is professional football.
The level of concern with Ebron, Mosley and Clinton-Dix each exist to varying degrees, and it's possible that none of them will concern the Packers.
If these were second round draft choices or lower, the Packers and most NFL teams might not bat an eye at these perceived warning signs. But for the millions of dollars invested in players expected to become cornerstones of a franchise, the least a team can do is thoroughly investigate each situation.
North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron
While flying under the radar in the mainstream media, NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net is leading the charge on the character concerns of Ebron.
During a recent podcast, Pauline uses several emotionally-charged words to describe the Tar Heels tight end:
I've heard he's a high-maintenance personality. Over the past 72 hours I've spoken with four sources who just say that from a character point of view, a lot of red flags are being thrown up about Ebron. Basically, he's a 'me' type of player or person. He's a guy that's been called sort of a primadonna by some of his teammates. He does a lot of finger pointing. Basically, the world revolves around Eric Ebron, which turns a lot of people off. It's turned some of his teammates off.
In many ways, Ebron is reminiscent of Packers free agent tight end Jermichael Finley. Not only do they have almost the same size and playing style, their personalities would appear to be much alike as well.
As those who intimately follow the Packers have come to know, Finley had a disposition and temperatment that sometimes needed attention, caressing and assauging. He also lacked a filter that got him uwanted attention in the media.
What the Packers have to decide whether they would want to enter a relationship with a player of a similar mentality and makeup after just escaping one in Finley, assuming he doesn't re-sign.
Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley
Several injuries sustained by C.J. Mosley over the course of his college career are no secret. According to an article at AL.com, Mosley dislocated elbow as a freshman, dislocated his hip as a sophomore and underwent a minor procedure on his shoulder heading into his senior season. Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com also cites unnamed sources pointing to a knee injury. Whether that stems from what was initially feared as a knee injury in the 2012 BCS National Championship game and later confirmed as the dislocated hip is unknown.
NFL Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki raised questions about Mosley's "long-term durability" in his profile at NFL.com.
Mosley declined to run the 40-yard dash at the Combine but did so at the Alabama pro day, clocking a best time of 4.62 seconds, per Gil Brandt of NFL.com. He still has not done the bench press. At his pro day, Mosley told the media about medical examinations he had prior to the Combine and insisted he checked out fine.
"Everything was good then," Mosley said. "There weren't no red flags thrown up or anything they had questions on I got an MRI or X-Ray on, so it turned out well."
The Packers and all NFL teams had their opportunity to closely examine Mosley at the Combine and very likely have access to any X-rays or scans they could possiblly want to see. But things also have a way of going unreported. For example, it wasn't revealed until after last year's draft that another former Alabama player had a previously unknown surgical procedure, that being Packers running back Eddie Lacy.
Despite other teams passing on Lacy because of his injury history, he proved there was little concern after having a successful 2013 season that ended in him being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
In early October of 2013, Clinton-Dix was suspended indefintley for accepting an impermissable benefit in the form of a loan from an assistant strength and conditioning coach, one of nine on the Alabama staff, that reportedly had a connection to a sports agent.
According to the Tuscaloosa News:
(Corey) Harris made a short-term loan to Clinton-Dix in an amount less than $500, after Clinton-Dix's car was broken into on the night of June 25 or the morning of June 26. The Tuscaloosa News has obtained the police report filed by Clinton-Dix after the break-in, detailing the theft of money, an iPad, a backpack and sandals — both embroidered with Clinton-Dix's jersey number (No. 6) — stereo speaker sub-woofers, miscellaneous shirts and Nike Air Jordan shoes.
Clinton-Dix was reinstated by the NCAA after two games when it was found he repaid the loan and did not have contact with any agent or representatives. The strength and conditioning coach providing the loan was initially placed on adminstrative leave and later fired by the university.
Talking about the incident in retrospect, Clinton-Dix is quoted saying by AL.com, "It was a downfall on my part taking that extra benefit. They made a decision, they had to do what they had to do to punish me, to teach me a lesson and teach other guys a lesson and they did that. I just called it a downfall because I made a mistake."
Like Ebron, there are worse things Clinton-Dix could have done. He did not break the law, but knowlingly accepting money from a coach has called into question his decision-making. What NFL teams will be looking for is that there's no more skeletons in the closet.
For what it's worth, Clinton-Dix also underwent a minor knee scope after Alabama's final regular-season game but participated fully in both his team's bowl game and the NFL Combine.
It bears repeating that the concerns surrounding each of these afore-mentioned players are minor on a relative basis. But the question is not whether these players are the next Aaron Hernandez (character) or Justin Harrell (injury); the question is if they're worth passing in favor of a player that doesn't have as many question marks.
Should any of these players be on the board when the Packers are on the clock on Thursday May 8, might Green Bay be better served by taking Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor or any other number of players instead?
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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