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News » How much do teams really care about character?

How much do teams really care about character?

How much do teams really care about character?

That was my initial response when introduced to a company offering a unique service to teams at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Achievement Metrics claims it can forecast whether college prospects are at greater risk for future off-field problems by dissecting their speech patterns from media interviews. Automated text analysis is conducted through a computer model that measures more than 100 different factors, including the use of individual words, adjectives and verb tenses.

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Intrigued by the possibility that clichés like "110 percent" and "taking it to the next level" might actually have value, I attended a 15-minute presentation at a hotel near where player workouts are being held. The pitch opened my ears and eyes — especially when it came to Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch.

The Pro Bowl running back has become the NFL's newest poster child for criminal behavior. Lynch was recently arrested in Southern California on three misdemeanor weapons charges. Last summer, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor traffic violation following a hit-and-run incident.

According to Achievement Metrics research, Lynch entered the NFL with a significantly greater risk of future arrest or suspension than his peers. The study claims Lynch has a 26.6 percent chance of being booked on a drug or alcohol offense (marijuana was found at the scene of Lynch's gun bust but he wasn't charged for possession). Lynch also was placed in the same grouping as ex-Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones as a potential "distraction" for having poor relationships with coaches and teammates.

Such information wasn't available when the Bills made Lynch the No. 12 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Achievement Metrics was still analyzing data compiled on 270 players from 40 colleges selected between 2000 and 2007.

Even so, the Bills aren't apologizing for choosing Lynch, a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his first two NFL seasons. Russ Brandon, the team's chief operating officer, said Buffalo conducts "rigorous" pre-draft research on NFL prospects. Players with checkered pasts are grilled in private interviews at the Combine and elsewhere. The league also provides background information that is augmented by reports from college scouts.

"We try to leave no stone unturned," Brandon told FOXSports.com on Friday. "As an organization, it is as much of a priority as your (athletic) ability."

Asked whether he was satisfied with Buffalo's pre-draft scouting of Lynch, Brandon said, "He's a tremendous young man. We certainly felt very good about him and do feel very good about him. We'll see how this (gun) situation plays out and go from there."

I'm willing to give Buffalo and Lynch the benefit of the doubt. But when it comes to the NFL's ongoing problem with players running afoul of the law, it's obvious some clubs either aren't doing their pre-draft homework, live in denial or knowingly allow talent to trump character concerns.

The proof comes from those players already in the league. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the 12 veterans already arrested in 2009 represents the highest total in the first 54 days of a year this decade. Clearly, the threat of discipline under NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's personal conduct policy isn't being heard loud and clear.

"We were told a long time ago by the psychologist we employ that the best barometer of future behavior is past behavior," Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian told me during an interview on Sirius NFL Radio. "We abide by that and try to make decisions along those lines."

The Colts aren't perfect in this regard. It's unrealistic and unfair to expect every other NFL team to have an arrest-free roster either. Most players — especially youngsters from the college ranks — also deserve at least a second chance to atone for mistakes.

Even Achievement Metrics officials admit their service isn't perfect and should be used as a tool to augment the overall evaluation process. Plus, who knows if the company's research will be proven accurate over the long haul?

Yet after learning that representatives from only 11 NFL franchises bothered to attend an Achievement Metrics seminar this past weekend, I really wonder how thoroughly teams are searching for new scouting methods to help prevent the kind of noise that can cause headaches later.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 24, 2009

Marlin Jackson Name: Marlin Jackson
Position: CB
Age: 25
Experience: 4 years
College: Michigan
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