Pacman Fever?

Pacman Jones has become a NFL lightning rod, just as Lawrence Phillips was a decade earlier. Viewed as a bad seed, Jones and Bengals WR Chris Henry have been thrust under the spotlight as NFL bad boys -- a title the new commish has addressed. The Vikings enter draft weekend with a track record of promoting the good guy vs. the troubled guy and the team is altering its draft plan accordingly.

Whether it has been new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell bringing the hammer down or the term "Love Boat" somehow being linked to the Vikings, character and NFL players have become linked like never before. Just as Randy Moss was bypassed by 19 teams and 20 picks before becoming a Viking – thanks more to the transgressions of Lawrence Phillips than anything else – the Class of 2007 may find itself paying for the misdeeds of Pacman Jones and Chris Henry.

At the pre-draft press conference, the Vikings brass addressed the question of character as it pertains to their draft strategy. For a team looking to build a positive image with fans and the rest of the league, if a red flag popped up, it didn't only downgrade that player, in some cases it eliminated him.

"We are very stringent on the medical and character part," Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said. "We had probably close to 90 out of that 750 (potential draftees) that will totally be off our draft board because of the standards Coach (Brad) Childress has set on what type of player he wants in this organization, from the Wilfs' standpoint of what we want not only on our football team but also out in the community and the type of players that we need to get in here to win with. If we feel strongly that that player is not an issue from a character standpoint or not a medical issue that we're not concerned about, we can still take that player, but that is extremely important to us with the type of people we're bringing in, and it was the same approach that we took with free agency."

Character is going to be a selling point – and a back-off point – for the Vikings draft class regardless of whether it's the seventh pick of the draft or in the seventh round, according to head coach Brad Childress.

"For us if he's a character guy in the second round, he's a character guy in the seventh round, so we move on," Childress said.

Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell was asked if this is the first time in his tenure with the Vikings that character with players has gone from the point of "red flagging" to being taken off the board completely – a valid question since the Vikings knew full well that Onterrio Smith had a problem with marijuana long before the Original Whizzinator was a part of the local lexicon.

"We don't physically take them off the board, but we've eliminated players in the past," Studwell said. "We have probably eliminated more players this year than we have historically, but I think you're going see that as a trend throughout the league. With the new policy, you just can't take those kinds of chances. You will probably see more talented players left on the board this year than you've ever seen, and whether or not they're totally left on the board and go undrafted or their draft stock falls to a point where people feel comfortable with them, I think with everything that's gone on in the league and the emphasis on the character issue, it's going to be a huge overriding factor in how some of these players are viewed over the weekend and where they're selected. I don't think there will be any question about that."

Spielman admitted that the Vikings have done criminal background checks on just about every player they could conceivably take on the first day of the draft – as will most teams. Perhaps the second day of the 2007 draft will be one of the most interesting days in recent memory, as the liability for taking a potential bad egg is overridden by the talent that player possesses.

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