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NFL.com enters red-flag minefield with incoming prospects

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Prior to the disappearance of Pro Football Weekly, its resident draft expert had been putting together scouting reports so frank and candid that they invited plenty of criticism for the criticisms levied against incoming prospects.

Last year, not long before PFW folded the tents, Nolan Nawrocki took a flamethrower to former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.  Two years earlier, Nawrocki played the “fake smile” card with former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

Nawrocki recently resurfaced at NFL.com.  After first catching wind of the move, I assumed that the league-owned media outlet wouldn’t authorize similarly scathing assessments of players about to enter the league-owned league.

As usual, I assumed wrong.

Nawrocki is at it again, and instead of burying the negative information within the context of a balanced assessment of a player, NFL.com has carved out all the negative stuff for one full column devoted to the red flags of various top prospects.  The information contains not only the objective stuff like arrests and suspensions but inherently subjective (and entirely unsourced) character assessments that deserve the scrutiny that Deadspin already has levied upon the effort.

As to Johnny Manziel, Nawrocki says the 2012 Heisman winner “[c]arries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance seeking out the bright lights of Hollywood.”

Jadeveon Clowney, per Nawrocki, “[l]acks discipline on and off the field and has had to be managed closely since he arrived on campus.”

Nawrocki plays armchair psychologist as to Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, writing that he is “[o]verly emotional and prone to outbursts following a dysfunctional childhood that offered little direction and much confusion related to a divorce.”

It’s an awkward situation for the league.  On one hand, the in-house media outlet needs to display independence in order to have legitimacy.

On the other hand, everything written by NFL.com necessarily carries the letters N, F, and L.  NFL Media is the NFL, and if a writer for NFL.com is hammering future NFL players based on something other than instantly provable facts and without any type of disclaimers (which rarely appear anywhere on NFL.com), the NFL necessarily is hammering future NFL players based on something other than instantly provable facts.

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34 Responses to “NFL.com enters red-flag minefield with incoming prospects”
  1. bucrightoff says: Feb 17, 2014 11:34 PM

    Page views > integrity

  2. fdugrad says: Feb 17, 2014 11:38 PM

    The information about J. Football and Clowney is not exactly original or groundbreaking is it?

  3. shaggytoodle says: Feb 17, 2014 11:50 PM

    I may not know as much as others when it comes to football. I feel with Clowney and Manziel, he isn’t wrong.

    Those guys act the way he described… I think plenty of people see it that way, so I don’t see why they need to change anything.

    I also think that’s why teams are taking big risks if they draft those guys, Clowney has all ready shown he seems interested in only playing for himself.

    Johnny Football seems like he would rather be a celebrity, over a football player. That’s fine and dandy. I just don’t want those guys on my favorite team.

  4. gochargersgo says: Feb 17, 2014 11:57 PM

    Seriously crossed the line with the analysis of Colt Lyeria. Who does this guy think he is to talk about someone else’s childhood and family like that? How would Nawrocki like it if we put his life under the microscope?

  5. praetorian12 says: Feb 17, 2014 11:59 PM

    Brilliant. Bash prospects and appear tough on the minor stuff to increase your “street cred” so you can crow about your independence… then toe the company line on real issues like concussions, leveraging markets for more money, etc.

  6. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 18, 2014 12:07 AM

    Well this doesn’t deserve any serious critique and I doubt any teams will be swayed by this babble. Well good thing Manziel is a prima-donna or this would crush his spirits. This report suggests it will have no impact on him. I agree.

  7. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 18, 2014 12:07 AM

    Looks like Nawrocki is the mercenary hired to fight The Turd World War.

    Nolan The Headless Thompson Gunner.

  8. fooath says: Feb 18, 2014 12:22 AM

    Nice to read a scout actually saying what’s going on. The stuff teams get access to, and use, in some cases to remove players from boards entirely…and he gets savaged for it.

    Any wonder why Gruden and 99% of the talking head media members nary say a discouraging word?

    What a crock. Get some real insight and not just the cookie cutter scouting reports you get everywhere else, and the guy is called a troll?

    Get real! This is what fans deserve.

  9. 4ever85 (aka Butch DeadLift) says: Feb 18, 2014 12:36 AM

    Que the, “Nawrocki got [fill in the blank] wrong…”

    Glad he found a new gig. I think he voices what a lot of scouts relay to their GMs but won’t tell the media for fear of being lambasted like Nawrocki is.

    Go get ‘em Rock!

  10. murraysons says: Feb 18, 2014 12:48 AM

    But, but, I thought they were all straight A students and in the glee club? You mean some players are rough around the edges? No way!

  11. braczey29 says: Feb 18, 2014 12:49 AM

    My god is that real. This is privately shared information about future employees of a company and there making it public just before the employment contract is imminent.

    The statement about the Oregon player is deplorable and disgusting. Where is Mike Gundy when you need him.

    “Come after me, I’m 40, Imma a man”

  12. letmesetyoustraight says: Feb 18, 2014 12:54 AM

    When Pro Football Weekly lost Joel Buchsbaum for the annual draft, they lost everything draft related. He was the best draft analyst EVER. RIP Joel.

  13. qdog112 says: Feb 18, 2014 1:09 AM

    Listening to Nawrocki on football is like listening to Bush on WMD. Why should we pay any attention to a guy who’s been wrong so often.

    The fact is, he’s proven to have an agenda.

  14. salscobrakai says: Feb 18, 2014 1:11 AM

    So basically, Nolan Nawrocki gets paid to say what we all think. Johnny Football and Jadeveon Clowney are prima donnas? Wow, this is heavy.

  15. slugbaitspace says: Feb 18, 2014 1:24 AM

    Is this the same organization that leaked info that Brandon Browner failed a PED abuse test, then later said he didn’t fail a PED abuse test while simultaneously leaking info that he failed a substance abuse test?

    Cutting down future NFL prospects just seems like a natural progression, dontcha think?

  16. scaredhitless says: Feb 18, 2014 1:51 AM

    NFL.com will now be known as the FOX NEWS of sports reporting. Where being insane is more important than being professional.

  17. ytownjoe says: Feb 18, 2014 1:53 AM

    Unprovable yes. But certainly entertaining.

  18. detectivejimmymcnulty says: Feb 18, 2014 2:00 AM

    The NFL Network is a joke. They have the worst on air people (Sapp, Heath Evans, etc.). The best thing they had was the Thursday night crew, and that wasn’t great, just better compared to everything else. The fantasy guys act like they invented the thing and the people doing the shows yell over each other constantly. This hire only compounds their awfulness. For all the complaints about Goodell’s $44 million salary, at least the league’s revenues are increasing. Steve Bornstein making $26 million is literally a joke.

  19. hallcyon says: Feb 18, 2014 2:03 AM

    Nolan Nawrocki is the polar opposite of the brilliant Greg Cosell (of NFL Films and NFL Match Up), whom I find to be the most insightful football analyst and critical commentator in all of media covering the NFL. No offense to those at profootballtalk. All of you do well and are quite informative. Some just don’t cut it, but maybe I am being unfair comparing the worst to the best.

  20. itsasquirrel says: Feb 18, 2014 2:20 AM

    I don’t know about the tight end, but his comments on Manziel and Clowney seem spot on. Hell, didn’t Spurrier even call out Clowney early last season?

  21. therealraider says: Feb 18, 2014 2:55 AM

    What’s the issue? The guy offers his honest assessment of draft eligible players. Cry a river if it doesn’t jive with your opinion .. The only opinions that matter are the 32 select few that actually get paid to make the picks.

  22. trevor123698 says: Feb 18, 2014 3:44 AM

    I can point to pictures of MJ screaming at refs. I’d say thats a sense of entitlement and he made the nba billions of dollars

  23. zeke2517 says: Feb 18, 2014 4:23 AM

    The NFL is great at marketing. And… I guess that’s about it.

  24. NJ49er says: Feb 18, 2014 6:09 AM

    I’m sure he’s getting plenty of attention now Mike.

    Controversy invites curiosity on the Web.
    You’ve just provided some free publicity.

  25. yooperman says: Feb 18, 2014 7:08 AM

    Who gains by lowering a player’s stock? Follow the money.

  26. blackqbwhiterb says: Feb 18, 2014 7:25 AM

    Maybe they look at it as the old saying goes-” There’s no such thing as bad publicity”…… Face it, today’s NFL has become a drama/soap opera as much as a sporting contest……

  27. ballin99999 says: Feb 18, 2014 7:38 AM

    I wish I could get paid to write articles about NFL prospects by just making a bunch of stuff up about their personal life and calling it “reporting”. Must be a nice gig.

  28. thehouseofho says: Feb 18, 2014 7:57 AM

    I think it was Mike Mayock who said Nawrocki is just repeating the assessments of NFL team scouts. Nawrocki can study and analyze film, but when it comes to a prospect’s character, all he’s doing is writing down what the scouts say.

    Basically, Nawrocki is nothing more than a puppet for these scouts. They tell him everything negative about a prospect with the hopes that it will lower that prospect on the draft boards of other teams.

  29. pftisfulloftrolls says: Feb 18, 2014 8:13 AM

    This guy needs to stick with the actual football behind the draftees and not their backstories.

  30. thegenoatkinsdiet says: Feb 18, 2014 8:42 AM

    Has Vegas put up odds on who the first person to file a defamation of character lawsuit will be?

    If by Fox News you mean MSNBC, then I agree with you, scaredhitless.

  31. hanifmiller says: Feb 18, 2014 8:54 AM

    Hey NFL best hire since Darren Sharper.

    BTW I love the character assessments in the article like “Talks too much” and “Beats to the tune of his own drummer?” and “is usually at the back of the line”–

    WTH Nawrocki!!??

  32. somethingsmellsrotten says: Feb 18, 2014 10:07 AM

    The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

  33. yordo says: Feb 18, 2014 11:59 AM

    Any critical scouting reports on Sam will have to be done anonymously. He sure knows what he’s doing.

  34. channelguy says: Feb 18, 2014 1:38 PM

    People who rag on Nawrocki for including comments from scouts about players’ character are, in my opinion, completely wrong.

    When the talent difference between being a good NFL player and being out of the league is so narrow, off-field things DO matter. Is the guy likely to be distracted by jackass buddies, or worse? Is he a know-it-all who may not take coaching well? The TEAMS sure care about these issues, and I want to know this information as well.

    Nawrocki gets criticized mainly, I think, because he sometimes presents his information to be catchy as well as informative. But is he wrong? I remember when Vontae Davis came out, Nawrocki listed all the positive comments, mainly his physical skills, but the negatives were ‘football character’ stuff like ‘coach-killer’ and ‘Oakland Raiders-type pick.” I remember chuckling about those at the time, but I think Miami fans would agree they were pretty accurate, because Davis was soon passed on for less than he cost them, despite his talent.

    In terms of who is likely to succeed, and who is likely to pick who (in his last mock) Nawrocki is as accurate as any one out there.

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