A few days ago, I read an article by Scott Coleman over at SB Nation's Desert Dirt Blog which took me by surprise.
According to the article, the Arizona Cardinals have a history of selecting players with minor character flaws, and that they have spent the highest amount of draft picks—27 percent in fact—on players who had, been suspended or arrested, whether charged or not, during college.
Perhaps that figure surprises you too. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe the Raiders, Eagles or given their recent controversy, Saints would be prime suspects for taking in troubled players, but not the mild-mannered, hyper-professional Cardinals.
While in many cities off-season is plagued with news of player arrests, altercations and other misdemeanors and their season marred by locker-room fisticuffs, shouting matches and all-around unprofessionalism, you just don't hear much of that coming out of Arizona.
It's surprising, considering the amount of players the Cardinals seem to take with significant enough character flaws to cause other teams to pass on them.
The Cardinals, it would seem, have the staff and regime necessary to reign in those minor offences, and prevent them from marring their locker-room image. It helps to have examples like Larry Fitzgerald on your team, but let's not forget that even Fitzgerald had the occasional media accusation to answer.
In the upcoming draft, The Cardinals are most frequently tipped to improve their O-Line with the 13th overall pick, but I continue to suspect—and I can't really quantify it beyond a hunch—that the Cardinals will take a receiver, not a guard or tackle, in the first round.
With the draft just days away, then, all eyes may be on Justin Blackmon, who's stock has recently been in free fall. Blackmon was suspended in 2010 following a DUI incident, and scouts continue to flag this as a character concern. Blackmon is, in the eyes of some analysts, no longer the top receiver in the draft, with Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and Stephen Hill variously being named as the new number one.
Indeed, K.C. Joyner at ESPN.com now ranks Blackmon as the sixth best WR in the draft (Insider content), and many mock drafts are seeing Blackmon fall outside of the top ten.
Should Blackmon still be available when the Cardinals pick, I think he's exactly the sort of player that the team should go after. Blackmon was previously tagged as a potential number four pick, and, aside from these sudden character concerns, is still, talent wise, a top ten player. The incident seemed to be isolated, and would represent phenomenal value for the Cards, and valuable on field help to both Kolb and Fitzgerald.
Should Blackmon go off the board before the Cardinals pick, which remains a real possibility, then Floyd could also represent similarly great value. Floyd has his own character concerns, a DUI arrest, and suspension following two previous alcohol related campus issues. But Floyd played his college football at the notoriously strict and conservative Notre Dame.
And though he largely seems to have shaken the negative perceptions about his character, many scouts remain unconvinced.
Floyd may have the most upside of any receiver in the draft. His hands, route running and athleticism are second to none, and he seems to have a real innate understanding of the game. Like Blackmon, his off-field issues seem to he largely isolated, and he appears ready to learn from his past mistakes.
Though some scouts seem to sense this about Floyd, which have contributed to his rising stock, and teams may be prepared to take a chance on the player, in a wide open draft class, small things can make a big difference in terms of draft position. If Floyd falls to the Cardinals, the team should also take a long, hard look at him too.
If both men fall to the Cardinals, I'm not sure which side of the fence I fall. Blakmon is probably the marginally more rounded and NFL ready player, but I'm inclined to fall in favor of Floyd, who seems to have more upside, and be a better fit for Arizona.
Of course, I could still be convinced to trade down and take Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill, should it appear likely that they will still be available later in the draft. The differences between all of these players are really pretty slim, and I predict that all four men will make an immediate impact in the NFL.
But what do you think?