ERIC WRIGHT: Will the NFL teams forgive and forget as easily as USC?
Git yer Mel Kiper Jr. wigs out; it’s time again for the NFL draft — America’s premier non-sporting sporting event, the modern-day, Cap Cities/Disney version of a mass slave auction. In short, the best two-day sports spectacle of the year.
This is a weak year in terms of draft-eligible criminals, but it’s not like the cupboard is bare. Moreover, in the wake of the Pacman Jones/Cincinnati Bengals scandals, PR-conscious teams are likely to punish those with criminal records more severely than in the recent past. With that in mind, here’s a brief list of targets with “character issues,” their crimes, and predictions for how much their charges will end up costing them.
1) Eric Wright, cornerback, UNLV.
Wright is the “character” litmus test of this draft. A couple of years ago, then–Southern Cal CB Wright — on talent alone probably the first- or second-best defensive back in the country — was arrested on rape charges after a woman accused him of plying her with ecstasy and assaulting her. Police found 136 X pills exactly where the victim said they would be.
Following a long USC tradition of not suspending star players — ex-Pats coach Pete Carroll likewise failed to punish future NFL players Manny Wright, LenDale White, Winston Justice, Matt Leinart, and even our own Matt Cassell — the school let Eric Wright off the hook. No charges were filed and he was allowed to transfer to UNLV. Without the rape rap he goes in the top 15; it says here he goes no later than Dallas at pick 53.
2) Marshawn Lynch, running back, California.
How’s this for strange? Lynch, rated the second-best back after Adrian Peterson, was accused of beating and choking his girlfriend in a December 13 incident in Oakland, and was slapped with a restraining order. But he was never formally charged. Neither was Eric Wright, but Wright is going to slip a whole round, while Lynch will go no lower than 16 to Green Bay. I don’t get it, but that’s the deal.
3) Tarell Brown, cornerback, Texas.
Previously featured in this space as the winner of this year’s Justin Miller award for the year’s outstanding bonehead pre-draft arrest, Brown was twice busted for driving around with weed. In his earlier arrest, cops discovered him asleep in the back seat of a car holding a loaded handgun in his lap. He also sucks, so gauging his draft stock is tough, but he’s going to lose at least two full rounds. Let’s say he goes in the fifth round, again to Dallas.
4) Demarcus “Tank” Tyler, defensive tackle, North Carolina State.
Tyler’s incidents include an arrest for assaulting a cop and the Pacman-meets-Albert-Haynesworth on-field crime of spitting on an opposing player. In the Brian Bosworth era, that crap got you movie deals. Post-Pacman, it costs one round in the draft. DTs are hard to find, though, and Tyler is pretty good, so I’m guessing he goes in the second to Carolina or Green Bay.
5) Nate Harris, inside linebacker, Louisville.
Harris and a friend used a gun to rob a man of a bracelet, a ring, and a necklace while the man was playing checkers in Miami Beach. The armed-robbery rap cost him a scholarship at Miami (which at the time was busy recruiting crime-superstar linebacker Willie Williams for that same position) and left him the only entrant in this draft with prison/boot camp experience. He’s a fourth without the rap, a seventh at best right now.
6) Ramonce Taylor, running back, Texas.
Taylor is this year’s “supernaturally large quantity of marijuana” entrant. Last May he was caught by police with live .40-caliber ammo in his car and a backpack containing more than five pounds of marijuana, a second-degree felony punishable by 2–20 years in prison. Apparently he was on his way to settle a dispute. He looks like a seventh right now; the weed bust probably cost him a round.
7) Marvin Mitchell, inside linebacker, Tennessee.
Mitchell got a disorderly conduct arrest last May after he threatened to “knock out” another customer at a campus-area Rocky Top market in the middle of the night. Minus the arrest, the Pats might have been looking at him, but not now.
8) Ryan Moore, wide receiver, Miami (Fla).
Moore is your basic girl-choking wideout. Last August, he grabbed a woman by the neck, threw her to the ground, grabbed another woman and assaulted her, then kicked in the door of the car belonging to one of them. He also sucks. Look for him to end up an undrafted free agent for the Fish.
9) Justin Medlock, placekicker, UCLA.
A kicker who gets a DUI arrest is unacceptable. He goes undrafted. Interestingly, and oddly, another draft-worthy kicker — Darren McCaleb of Southern Mississippi — was also arrested for hitting his girlfriend in 2005. I doubt any draft in history has ever featured two kickers with arrest records.