Perfect Choice or Problem Child?

This much is clear: Whatever team decides to take Kellen Winslow, Jr. during Saturday's National Football League draft will be getting a player who possesses the total package: Good size, strength (and getting bigger), open-field blocker, instincts and ability to run after the catch.

That same team could run the risk of having to deal plenty of headaches courtesy of the former All-American. Most of the problems Winslow caused at the University of Miami where off the field variety. He torched opposing linebackers and safeties - and whoever else got in his way - on the way to becoming the premier tight end in the nation.

But Winslow's lack of maturity and displays of arrogance have not gone unnoticed by a number of teams since he opted to skip his senior year at UM and enter the draft. Those in his corner contend that Winslow just knows one way - play the game hard all the time and with loads of passion. Others argue that Winslow is headed down the wrong path and needs an attitude adjustment before he suits up at the next level.

So what gives?

Winslow, the son of former NFL star and Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, Sr., maintains that his all-out love for the game is the cause for the passionate style he often displays on the field. He has little intentions of turning down the volume. His own concern? Surpassing the level of excellence his dad established as a multiple All-Pro with the San Diego Chargers from 1979-87.

"I want to do everything in my power to be the best tight end ever to play this game," said Winslow, who is projected as a top-10 selection although he could sneak into the top-five. "I know a lot of people look at me and think that's unrealistic. But it's something that's developed in me throughout the years, especially getting to watch my dad and being around so many great players. I want that for myself. I want to be the best."

Senior UM quarterback Brock Berlin, who was Winslow's teammate last season, didn't want to speculate on whether Winslow's pro career could be headed in the wrong direction because of his extreme confidence. Berlin did say that Winslow was one of the hardest working players he's ever shared a football field with.

"I never had a problem with Kellen," Berlin said last month during spring practice. "He went hard all the time, whether it was in practice or in a game, and that's all you can ask from a guy. I wish every player I played with had the kind of fire Kellen has."

Winslow sure did everything possible in Coral Gables to go down as one of the best players ever to wear the Hurricanes' orange and green. After making a quick impact on special teams while playing sparingly as a freshman, Winslow really came on as a sophomore.

He put together the most productive season ever by a Miami tight end with 57 receptions for 726 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 12.7 yards per catch. As a junior in 2003, Winslow led the Hurricanes with 60 receptions despite Berlin struggling for much of the season.

"One of the best athletes I've ever seen at this level," said UM coach Larry Coker. "If there's something Kellen can't do I haven't seen it yet."

But controlling his temper might be one of those things. Although they didn't make it much of a public affair the Hurricanes coaching staff privately tried to get Winslow to tone it down. It didn't work. The 6-4, 251-pounder was flagged for several unsportsmanlike penalties, including in key games against Virginia Tech and Tennessee. He was benched the following week, but not before delivering a profanity-laced tirade in the locker room after a loss to the Volunteers. His words in a media-filled room drew the ire of a handful of UM officials.

Emotion or childish?

"People might view him in a different way because of the things that happened," said Coker. "And maybe, yes Kellen would be smart to cool it a little bit. But do I want a player with his kind of passion for the game? Yes, I do."

Only Winslow isn't Coker's problem anymore. Now it's a handful of executives who are doing their homework on Winslow. Washington (No. 5), Detroit (No. 6) and Cleveland (No. 7) could be in position to take Winslow on Saturday. What they see is a player who has the tools to reset the standards at the tight end position, even in a way that would surpass that of current stars Tony Gonzalez and Jeremy Shockey.

They see a guy who catches the ball in stride and ready to speed downfield. They see a guy who has the speed to get by defenders with ease. They see a guy who is a solid downfield-blocker.

"Of course it's a concern, there's no doubt it," said an NFC East scout who recently attended a workout featuring former Hurricanes at the University of Miami. "Character and the way a guy handles himself is a lot bigger issue these days than it's ever been. From everything I know he's never had any problems, but I wish the kid would do a little less talking."

Top of the Line

The following is a sampling of TEs available in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Kellen Winslow, UM, 6-4 251
Light out talent; Is attitude a problem?

Ben Troupe, UF, 6-5 253
A natural receiver; Not much off a drop off compared to KW.

Ben Watson, Georgia, 6-4 253
Excellent blocker, solid pass-catching skills.

Chris Cooley, U. State, 6-4 240
Good athlete, needs to improve blocking skills.

Jason Peters, ARK, 6-6 248
Runs good routes, smart player

Winslow: Could be the answer for the Browns, who lack a difference-maker at TE...Detroit a strong possibility at No. 6, especially with Harrington already in place...The Redskins have been turned off by antics, but Winslow could be too good to pass up at No. 5.

Worth A Look

Sean Ryan, Boston College
Kris Wilson, Pittsburgh
Ben Hartsock, Ohio State

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