Character concerns handled individually

The arrest of Everson Griffen brought to the forefront the issue of character in potential draft picks. While the Vikings usually eliminate dozens of prospects before each draft, the concerns with Griffen were more about his consistency on the field before his selection. Scott Studwell addressed the Griffen pick last April and Rick Spielman talked about character concerns in draft picks last week.

Everson Griffen's arrest Monday in Los Angeles County certainly wasn't what the Vikings were hoping for and, while they knew there were risks with him before they drafted him, they weren't counting on anything like an arrest.

The Vikings had done their research on him prior to the draft and found some issues with him, but nothing that would take him off their draft board.

"He's a college student that enjoyed the college life a little bit," Scott Studwell, the Vikings' director of college scouting, said after Griffen's selection in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. "We're not going to kill him for that. We're not worried about the background. We're not worried about his character. He's fine that way. He has to grow up a little bit, like they all do."

According to the police report from his Monday arrest, Griffen was pulled over for a traffic stop, but he told police he didn't want to go to jail again, according to the Los Angeles Times, and then ran from the police officers. Once caught, he allegedly assaulted an officer before he was subdues for arrest with the help of a Taser. The charge was originally listed as a felony.

Griffen had pictures of him partying in college that were posted on the Internet prior to the draft, but the Vikings were more concerned about his consistency on the field than off the field. They figured their veteran leaders and coaching staff would assist him there.

"There will be enough peer pressure in that (meeting) room," Studwell said last April. "He's not a bad person. He doesn't have poor work habits. Why did he drop (to the fourth round)? Who knows? Things happen. People go in different directions. People fill different needs. It wasn't a priority position for us. We've got some pretty good defensive ends right now, but he had too much ability to pass."

For now, the Vikings just issued a statement that they are aware of the charges and are withholding further comment.

While Griffen had some red flags entering the 2010 draft, it wasn't enough for him to be taken off the Vikings' draft board, and the team eliminates numerous players based on character concerns. Before the 2009 draft, Rick Spielman, the team's vice president of player personnel, said that nearly 80 players had been taken off their board because of concerns that had nothing to do with athletic ability. Spielman called that a pretty typical number.

In fact, last week at the Senior Bowl, Spielman said the Vikings had most of their background-check information compiled on this year's potential draft picks, but they haven't gathered to discuss eliminating players for the 2011 draft.

"We have it all, but we haven't had our initial draft meetings yet," Spielman said. "… Our scouts will be in in two weeks and I'll sit with our scouts and we'll actually start our initial draft meetings before we go to the Combine and kind of get what the board is potentially going to look like and then start to put the alerts in and the character concerns and then sit with Leslie (Frazier) and the coaches when they enter the process and then we'll finalize that. We usually don't finalize that until April."

Spielman said he believes draft prospects are more aware that they are under pretty heavy scrutiny from NFL teams and the league during the predraft process.

"I think the kids are a little bit more conscientious because of it being so public and things are being exposed a lot more in the media, so I think kids are little bit more aware how that potentially can hurt them," Spielman said. "We are always going to dig up stuff and some skeletons are always in the closet. It's our job to try to find those skeletons if there are any."

With Griffen, the Vikings knew his history but didn't see enough to make him one of the players eliminated from their draft board. While he was a first-round talent athletically, his inconsistency on the field caused him to drop to the fourth round.

"You hear it all the time, but he was the highest player on our board," Studwell said last year. "He was a player that was too hard to pass (up). He has all the athletic traits that we're looking for in a defensive lineman. He can play on both sides and probably even go inside on nickel (packages). He can run. He's athletic. But the consistency level has to improve somewhat in his play. There were games when he was a first-round pick and games where he disappeared. He's got great value where we took him and I think he'll blossom as a pro."

He might still be able to do that if he can eliminate his off-the-field issues.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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