The Arizona Cardinals always seem to have a strong showing at the NFL Draft. Even if they miss on a higher round pick, they always find a guy in the later rounds that tends to contribute for multiple years. Most scouts operate on nothing more than stats, video and gut feelings, but this latest study suggests there may be a method to drafting troubled college players.
According to the report from the AP, players who either had a run in with the law or were suspended during their three- or four year tenures in college tend to perform better in the NFL. This is not to say that those charged with abusing their girlfriend or armed burglary are smart choices come draft day, but those with minor offenses seem to work out better for more teams.
A provocative new study suggests an almost surefire way for any GM to maximize the value of his pick: Choose a player who's already had a run-in with the law.
"So if you're on the fence about a player and worried about his criminal record," said Stephen Wu, an economics professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., "the data says take a chance."
That sounds strange, but makes sense when you consider the study found that players with so-called "character issues" get drafted, on average, 15 to 25 spots lower than players who performed similarly during their college career and at the NFL's annual scouting combine but had zero entries on their rap sheets. Apparently, it's already a consideration during draft-day planning in Arizona, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Chicago, where teams led the league in making shrewd picks out of problem children during the five drafts covered by the research.
There are plenty of franchises that choose to stay away from the troubled players -- and I can't blame them one bit for doing so -- but the Arizona Cardinals are not one of them. As a matter of fact, they lead all NFL teams with troubled draft picks.
Of the teams mentioned above, Arizona used 27 percent of its picks during the five-year span on players in the last three groups (suspended, arrested or arrested but not charged). Cincinnati, which has become a sort of "Boys Town East" for troubled free agents as well as draftees, was second at 25 percent, with San Francisco and Chicago tied for third at 20 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, Seattle drafted no players with character issues, followed by Atlanta (2 percent), Baltimore (3) and Green Bay (6).
With the 2012 Draft just days away, it will be interesting to see if Arizona continues to take a look at troubled guys who may slip a few spots due to their reputations off the field. Could this mean Vontaze Burfict in Phoenix next season? He certainly fits the bill.
For more on the Cardinals and their draft plans, head over to Revenge of the Birds.