Character concerns manageable?
It’s no secret the Zygi Wilf-owned Vikings, with Brad Childress in charge and Rick Spielman calling the personnel shots, place a premium on character. That said, it would appear Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin is likely among the numerous players the team has “red-dotted” (players off limits due to injury or character concerns) on their draft board. Especially considering the rampant rumors he allegedly tested positive for marijuana at eh NFL Scouting Combine.
Teams will be officially informed on players testing positive for drugs or banned substances at the Scouting Combine early next week, but the issue is likely one that has already been addressed by the Vikings during individual visits with Harvin, who reportedly was among those players who visited Winter Park recently.
So while the assumption that Harvin is off their board is natural, the team isn’t completely devoid of bringing in players with character issues in their past…IF they feel it’s in their past and/or they can avoid being a distraction moving forward.
Under Childress, the Vikings have also drafted players that had character questions, but obviously the team felt comfortable enough to bring them in. DT Letroy Guion (suspended in college), WR Sidney Rice (mental makeup and maturity), WR Aundrae Allison (too high maintenance), WR Chandler Williams (suspended), DE Ray Edwards (questionable competitiveness and coachability) and S Greg Blue (attitude) all had question marks in their background when they were drafted by Minnesota.
The key when dealing with 21- to 22-year-old players is the degree of seriousness and the team’s ability to manage the player. That said, here’s a look at the pros and cons of the team considering Harvin with their first-round pick:
1. Harvin was well-prepared and performed extremely well at his Pro Day, running crisp routes, catching the ball away from his body and showing scouts the game-changing potential he has shown them on tape. He also performed well at the Combine, posting a 4.39 40-yard dash, 1.47 10-yard dash, 2.51 20-yard dash, 3.93 20-yard shuttle, 6.68 three-cone drill, 37-inch vertical jump, 10’6” broad jump and did 19 reps at 225 pounds.
2. Harvin made a conscious effort to stay out of the spotlight at Florida. He had a series of run-ins during his high school days that had the Florida staff worrying about his character (first Virginia player banned this century from athletic competition during his prep days). He showed great maturity and solid work ethic, battling back from several injuries with only one desire - to return to the football field. He was an active member of the Goodwill Gators who volunteered his time with the Children's Miracle Network.
3. Harvin is considered a good student of the game. He works hard and takes the game very seriously. He has had no problems transferring the game from the chalkboard to the playing field. Harvin always gives total effort on the field. He loves to play the game, plays with consistently good effort and is willing to commit himself to the finer points of the game (i.e. blocking downfield). He proved his work ethic with his strong desire to get back on the field late last season. While an ankle sprain forced him to miss the BCS title game, he stayed on campus, working 15 hours a day with trainers to rehab, while his teammates went home for Christmas break.
4. The Vikings have a position coach in George Stewart who is well-equipped to handle a player with character questions. He did it with Terrell Owens in San Francisco and none of the incoming concerns with Rice, Allison and Williams have been at all a problem under Stewart. Similar to Karl Dunbar with Ray Edwards, the Vikings could likely feel confident that Stewart could “handle” Harvin.
1. Harvin was suspended in each of his last two years of high school football, including a two-game suspension for shoving a referee. During his senior basketball season, he ignited a bench-clearing brawl and the gym had to be cleared by police officers.
2. If the allegedly positive drug test from the Scouting Combine is true, you have to genuinely wonder if the player is simply that dumb to make the mistake at a crucial time, or if he has a problem.
3. Despite Harvin’s legendary work ethic with the training staff at Florida, he spent a LOT of time on the trainer’s table. He missed time with Achilles tendinitis, hip pointer, sinus infection, migraines, heel and ankle injuries during his college career.
4. Scouts have questioned his character. He grew up in the infamous 757 Virginia Beach area code that produced Michael Vick, Marcus Vick, DeAngelo Hall and Lawrence Taylor. Trouble seems to follow him.
As a football player, there is no question that Percy Harvin would add a much-needed dimension of explosiveness to the Vikings offense. But at the end of the day, his standing on the team’s draft board likely comes down to the read Brad Childress, Rick Spielman, George Stewart (and others) got when they looked him in the eye and talked to him during pre-draft visits.
The result of those face-to-face meetings has likely determined whether he’s even a consideration for the Vikings or not. And they gain nothing in tipping their hand one way or the other at this point. If he is still on their board, perhaps the negative publicity makes him an even less risky option in a trade-down scenario. If he is off their board, it’s a moot point.
Tracking Harvin will be one of many draft-day storylines to be tracking on Saturday, April 25.
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