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Stripping draft picks is the only way to dissuade teams from taking chances on troubled players

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The Aaron Hernandez saga has placed renewed focus on the decisions of teams to take chances on players with checkered pasts that could make for troubling futures.  Already, there’s talk of barring academically ineligible players from the Scouting Combine.

But if the Hernandez situation results in the NFL truly hoping to slam the door on those who could end up in the slammer, there’s only one way to maximize cooperation from the 32 franchises.  Teams having players who ultimately are found to be liable for crimes should lose one or more draft picks.

Absent that kind of potential consequence, some teams will continue to take chances on talented-but-troubled players, seizing on the talent and hoping that the trouble can be avoided, or at least controlled.  After all, some players learn from their mistakes.  Some players who did stupid things in high school and college mature into responsible adults.  And every coach believes he’s the guy who can turn a misguided player around, regardless of who or how many have failed.

More importantly, every NFL coach wants to win.  Many of them need to win sooner rather than later, or they won’t be coaching in the NFL much longer.

The NFL already imposes fines against teams with multiple players suspended during a given season, whether for violating the substance-abuse policy, the steroids policy, or the personal-conduct policy.  But five-figure fines are like parking tickets for billion-dollar businesses trying to race to the top of their industry.  The only way to truly strike fear into the hearts of coaching staffs and front offices is to draw a clear, bright line between the behavior of players on the team now and the ability to acquire more players in the future.

Teams regard draft picks as precious entities, for good reason.  With four-year contracts for every round of the draft and a true rookie wage scale, teams can load up the roster with young, cheap players.  When it comes to first-round talent that slides down the board due to red flags, the risk is low — and the potential reward is high.

The creation of a formula that would strip teams of picks based on player misconduct would go a long way toward increasing the risk.  For now, some teams (like the Patriots, pre-Hernandez) will buy low, applying a one-strike approach to a player who is unable or unwilling to change.  But if the team ends up losing a draft pick due to that one strike, there will be an even stronger reason to stay away from the player, or to do whatever can be done to keep him out of trouble.

That’s one area where there isn’t enough focus.  Are teams doing enough to keep their players out of trouble?  For all the time and money spent getting and keeping players healthy, it seems like more can be done to help players away from the field.

While the arrest rate for NFL players isn’t out of whack when compared to the arrest rate for the general population, the general population doesn’t have the benefit of working for a professional sports franchise with a strong incentive to help its employees make good decisions and avoid bad situations.  The incentive obviously needs to be made even stronger, and the only way to do that is to find a way to link the failure of teams to keep players out of trouble to the ability to draft more players in the future.

Nothing else will work, because there always will be an owner, a G.M., or a coach who won’t be able to resist the upside.  Make the downside more significant, and teams will start doing a much better job of avoiding troubled players — and of keeping all of their players out of trouble.

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37 Responses to “Stripping draft picks is the only way to dissuade teams from taking chances on troubled players”
  1. gricius says: Jul 7, 2013 8:30 AM

    What about all the successful players that were also high risk players? Don’t the teams suffer by losing the player they just had removed from their roster?

  2. aldavisisthenfl says: Jul 7, 2013 8:41 AM

    How about any player employed by the NFL that is caught and charged with an illegal weapon possession of any kind is subject to a one year mandatory league suspension/no appeal……

    That would take care of this ridiculousness immediately……..

  3. rizzof57 says: Jul 7, 2013 9:06 AM

    I gots to get me one of them, your truly Lil Wayne

  4. ridnaway says: Jul 7, 2013 9:09 AM

    If a team wants to take such a chance it should be their prerogative. The Patriots have already lost a draft pick over this. They lost the one they spent on Hernandez.

  5. harrisonhits2 says: Jul 7, 2013 9:16 AM

    What does need to be done is harsher league penalties. Commit a felony and you’re convicted, automatic 1 year suspension, something along those lines.

  6. arlingtonsynn says: Jul 7, 2013 9:20 AM

    The existing downside of wasted draft pick and bad press already seems to work.

    Hernandez was a midround draft pick for a reason.

  7. 4ever19 says: Jul 7, 2013 9:22 AM

    Troubled players deserve love, too. The Cards take a chance on Tyrann Mathieu. It works out – good on both. If it doesn’t, Mathieu goes away. The Rams take a chance on Janoris Jenkins. So far it seems to be working. If that changes, Jenkins goes away. The idea of penalizing a team for taking troubled players seems like a knee-jerk reaction. Even the move to disinvite academically ineligible players seems to be a stretch. Everyone deserves a second chance.

  8. xsherr says: Jul 7, 2013 9:28 AM

    That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Let them draft who they want and ultimately deal with the results, good or bad.

  9. goinballzdeep says: Jul 7, 2013 9:33 AM

    Its a symptom of the day and age we live in. Players were getting arrested in the 80s. However before the guy is even booked its all over the internet including here. If the NFL wants the good publicity then your going to have to swallow the bad too.

  10. kenstabler says: Jul 7, 2013 9:41 AM

    God, the Bengals would have never had a draft pick.

  11. bennyb82 says: Jul 7, 2013 9:43 AM

    It is pretty simple from the outside…put a strong fear into players that they will miss out on a lot of football and money…I bet that changes their attitude.

    Put enough fear in a guy and no matter how little he has had to drink, he will tell his friends that there is no way he is driving…and they will understand if the penalty is severe enough. I mean, that only works for the majority of NFL players…not the murderers

  12. corkspop says: Jul 7, 2013 9:52 AM

    Handle at the college level. Throw criminals off teams. Ban problem programs from bowls. That will change things.

  13. PeterKingLovesCoqAVin says: Jul 7, 2013 10:06 AM

    There is already a penalty: the team loses the spent draft pick, loses the player forever, takes heat from the press, launches a program at their own expense to reclaim the player’s jersey, dumps a bunch of salary and signing bonus money down the drain, and is forced to listen to amateurs second-guess their decision making.

  14. poesports says: Jul 7, 2013 10:15 AM

    So the NFL allows the players into the draft. A team picks a player but the player does something bad and now it’s the teams fault? How is it Krafts fault that Hernandez allegedly killed someone?

  15. mcwest1 says: Jul 7, 2013 10:17 AM

    Wouldn’t be a bad idea to do something similar at the college level. And if a coach has to be penalized, if he changes schools, the punishment should follow him.

    Where’s the NFLPA in all of this? People talk about the teams and the NFL need to do more to help young players mature and stay out of trouble. How about the NFLPA step up to the plate with some programs?

  16. thelastpieceofcheese says: Jul 7, 2013 10:39 AM

    Like Bugsy Siegel said “everyone deserves a fresh start.”

  17. Iknoweverything says: Jul 7, 2013 11:24 AM

    Then the Patriots would not have any draft picks

  18. kate773 says: Jul 7, 2013 11:32 AM

    This is dumb. Who decides the definition of “troubled”? Isn’t that totally arbitrary? Does it mean you have to be arrested or just party too much? What if a player gets into trouble a lot their first two years then stays clean their final 2? What if they’re clean all 4 years then gets arrested after they’re drafted? What if they’re simply present at a crime and didn’t participate but gets arrested anyway? Good kids do stupid stuff too.

    All this would do is encourage coaches, players and their friends and family to cover up problems even more than they already do.

  19. godofwine330 says: Jul 7, 2013 11:38 AM

    Come on, now. Many draft picks a troubled, so stripping a team of draft picks because the player they picked got into trouble is stupid. What about the player that didn’t have a history that gets in trouble? What about him?

    No one can see the future, and hindsight is always 20/20. Draft players, and when they get into trouble punish them. Some have already suffered by the bad rap causing them to slip from the top of round 1 as far as skill to lower first round to 2nd and third rounds and even later. Some are undrafted. That is millions of guaranteed dollars for some gone that they will never recoup.

    They suffer enough.

  20. thingamajig says: Jul 7, 2013 11:43 AM

    If you commit a crime is your employer penalized? That’s what I thought so why is the NFL any different?

  21. fdugrad says: Jul 7, 2013 12:57 PM

    There needs to be a similar penalty to colleges and universities whether number of scholarships, appearance in bowl games, etc. and some sort of penalties directed at the NCAA as well. They are responsible for accepting, enabling, looking the other way, etc., etc. players who should not be accepted to ANY college in the entire country for academic, as well as behavioral deficiencies. If the NFL teams have fewer brutes from which to select in the first place, AS WELL as sanctions, there will be fewer wannabies in the NFL.

  22. apmn says: Jul 7, 2013 12:59 PM

    Great idea. This gives college players greater incentive to clean up their acts. And if they don’t, then it opens up opportunities for players who have done things the right way.

    I also think that NFL players should be working at the team facilities for most of the offseason. Give them six weeks vacation time. They get paid enough to be expected to work year round. And it will keep them out of trouble.

  23. jarradtauzin says: Jul 7, 2013 1:14 PM

    Warren Sapp. Randy Moss. Chris Carter. C’mon, sometimes kids make dumb decisions in college. Lets it play out.

  24. jbcommonsense says: Jul 7, 2013 1:21 PM

    I WANT teams to draft talented, but high-risk players. A policy to automatically penalize teams that draft such players by taking away draft picks after they get in trouble will disincentivize teams from drafting these often talented, exciting players. An automatic 1 year suspension without pay for any felony conviction will cause players and teams alike to find ways to avoid risky behavior.

  25. heyitsmejosh says: Jul 7, 2013 2:01 PM

    you cant predict what people will or wont do.. a troubled player in college could become a model citizen… and a clean cut player that stayed out of trouble in college could eventually get in trouble…

  26. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 7, 2013 2:18 PM

    This idea is just stupid. By losing Hernandez, the Pats already wasted a draft pick. It’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off sometimes.

    If there are indications that a team is trying to hide the criminal behavior of a player, then that is another story. But there are no signs of that with the Pats.

  27. wheels579 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:32 PM

    Totally ridiculous. The NFL does NOTHING for DUI arrests. Now you want to advocate for teams losing draft picks for giving second chances? What happens when someone like OJ without a prior rap sheet is charged with a heinous crime? Will you come up with another illogical rule to penalize teams instead of the players themselves? Or are you simply looking to cash in when the NFLPA starts filing collusion lawsuits after their troubled players can’t get jobs?

  28. waltcoogan says: Jul 7, 2013 3:18 PM

    Mr. Florio,

    Your article is well-written and I like the idea.

  29. silotech says: Jul 7, 2013 3:43 PM

    the NFL takes to long to discipline and dismiss repeat violators. people don’t get 3rd or more chances with other jobs that pay $100K or more. these bums need to be taking the bus to work the night shift at Waffle House. I don’t get why the NBA allowed the Dennis Rodman dress code to represent the NBA brand and the NFL is heading that way. that’s not allowed at Walmart or McDonald’s.

  30. raideralex99 says: Jul 7, 2013 3:50 PM

    The problem starts at the NCAA level …. first make them actually take the courses and pass the examines on their own because that’s where they are first taught they’re “special” … are above everyone else and can get through life with a pass.

  31. kwjsb says: Jul 7, 2013 4:53 PM

    To penalize a team for taking a troubled kid would be a lawyers dream, You are infringing on his rights by discouraging teams from employing them, doing a backdoor black ball with out them violating any league rules since they are not yet employed.

  32. msonnonsr says: Jul 7, 2013 7:15 PM

    This is a simple problem that calls for a simple solution.

    Any player, coach, trainer, or general staff employed by the NFL or any NFL team that get’s convicted of a serious crime:

    (Serious crimes can include but are not limited to those crimes that are connected to personal injury, domestic violence, guns or other offensive weapons, Finances, Alcohol, and Drugs)

    1st offense = 1 year suspension from moment of verdict. No salary, no benefits, no contact, no debate.
    2nd offense = 2 year suspension from moment of verdict. No salary, no benefits, no contact, no debate.
    3rd offense = Complete ban of participation in any future league activities. Complete loss of future benefits and pensions. All contracts become null and void.

    This is in addition to any actions individual teams might implement upon conviction.

    Draw the line in the sand, let all involved know and understand the risks and consequences. Then keep your word and enforce the rule.

    Simple, fair, equitable.

  33. audge86 says: Jul 7, 2013 10:23 PM

    This would be a horrible policy imo.

    All it does is discourage teams from drafting players who made dumb mistakes in the past. The players who grew up in areas with crime and all are the ones who can really turn things around with the right opportunity.

    Don’t let a few bad apples ruin it for everyone. Just a few months ago Hernandez could have been used to push the opposite agenda. A strong reaction to a very rare situation.

  34. Slackmo says: Jul 8, 2013 12:21 AM

    Collective punishment is for individual crimes is pretty medieval. Not to mention this particular method would discriminate against minorities.

  35. GenXJay says: Jul 8, 2013 1:11 AM

    I never understood why it’s labeled “professional football.”
    Goodell, hold these f’ups responsible & reject their hand-outs to a better life. Restore professionalism to the NFL.

  36. joetoronto says: Jul 8, 2013 6:31 AM

    It’s easy to say “leave it up to the team, but that’s merely skirting reality.

    The fact is that all the teams are in the NFL and the NFL as a whole suffers from having all these felons.

    You can’t leave it up to the individual teams.

  37. granadafan says: Jul 8, 2013 4:01 PM

    So, will Goodell punish teams for hiring coaches that ran renegade programs or put their college on probation and escaped to the NFL? Fair is fair.

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