There are market inefficiencies waiting to be exploited hiding in plain sight every year during the draft.
They’re the players draft analysts and fans clamor for and scream about on talk shows every day from February until the draft takes place in late April or early May. Sometimes they’re the most talented players at a particular position, but they’re slow to land because of the red flags attached to their backs.
It’s not an easy road to navigate. Falling in love with a player with a checkered past or character concerns can lead to disaster. In other instances, the teams that run from those flags are forced to watch those players prosper in other cities.
Count the number of teams that wish they would have taken a gamble on Dallas receiver Dez Bryant, Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu or, once upon a time, Randy Moss. The amount of regret stretches across the league.
Get it right, and your franchise prospers. Get in wrong, and there isn’t enough regret to cover all the headaches, setbacks and negative headlines that will follow. And sometimes those wrong guesses create even larger issues no one wants to deal with.
This is the terrain the New Orleans Saints will soon have to navigate. Considering the offseason has, at least in part, been about getting rid of players who caused issues or distractions in the locker room, it might be foolish to even entertain this discussion. Any flags might mean instant dismissal from the draft board — that’s generally been the modus operandi since Sean Payton landed in 2006.
But considering the Saints are in need of talent and there are three players at key positions who could be available when they come on the clock for picks 13, 31 and 44, some consideration could be given to a player with a checkered past.
New Orleans might have to make one of those decisions early in the draft if Randy Gregory slides through the first dozen picks. The Nebraska pass rusher is unquestionably one of the more talented players in this class, finishing last season with seven sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss, but he failed a drug test at the scouting combine and recently admitted to having issues with marijuana.
On the surface, this can be brushed off as a minor issue. Typically, finding out a player partakes now and then would not be enough to disqualify him from a draft board.
It’s the fact that Gregory knew about the test, had ample time to prepare and still failed that will scare teams away. It brings his intelligence, mental toughness and discipline into question.
But his talent is intoxicating. Gregory was expected to go in the first 10 picks of the draft, if not higher. If he falls, he’ll unquestionably be the most talented player available to New Orleans at a position of need. But the risk could be too great of a leap for the Saints to take.
If New Orleans were to draft Gregory and it didn’t work out, it would mean this team suffered through last year’s 7-9 finish for no reason. It would set back the strides the team is trying to take by trading away players like tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills.
Is that a risk General Manager Mickey Loomis and Payton are willing to take? Is there enough desperation and urgency to take a risk? Those are the questions they’ll have to answer on draft night.
Then they might have to do the same with later picks, when Washington cornerback Marcus Peters and Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green-Beckham slide.
Like Gregory, both players are among the best at their positions. In Peters’ case, many believe he is the top cornerback in this draft class. But he was dismissed from his team last season after clashing with a new coaching staff.
He has since apologized for his actions and made up with the coaching staff, but it raises questions about his approach to the game. Will he have similar issues with his next coaching staff if he doesn’t agree with their approach?
Of the three, Peters’ red flags are smallest of the bunch. Green-Beckham’s might be the largest.
His size (6-foot-5) and athleticism (ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds) will get teams excited, but they will have to become comfortable with the man to potentially reap the awards. He was dismissed from Missouri after being investigated for burglary and assault; he allegedly pushed a woman down some stairs. He also was arrested twice for marijuana.
All of these players have the potential to be special in the NFL. They also are entering the league on the wrong path.
It can be argued that any player has the potential to do bad things or get in trouble. Some hide in plain sight until after their careers are over or create headlines seemingly out of nowhere that leave everyone scratching their heads.
Maybe there’s something to be said of getting a wake-up call sooner than later. Maybe these guys have been scared straight.
If the Saints are considering any of these players, it will be up to them to thoroughly investigate each man and make an educated decision.
Right or wrong, all three players have the potential to change a franchise. Or, in some cases, someone else’s franchise.