From a young age we are all taught what the color red signifies in signs and flags.
DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!
But when it comes to the NFL, red can turn “stop” into a “maybe”. Especially when the color red is paired with the word “flags”.
Each draft class has it’s own set of players that have red flags. In the past the only thing a team had to worry about was flags for injuries.
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Now teams are more willing to take a chance on an injured player than they will with one who has been labeled as having an attitude problem or issues involving illegal drugs.
The New Orleans Saints made a conscious decision this offseason to rid themselves of players they felt were not with their new direction which might include taking a pay cut to help with the salary cap.
Actually linebacker Khairi Fortt was the first evidence the Saints meant business when the 2014 fourth round pick was unceremoniously and surprisingly released in October of that year.
Jun 11, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Khairi Fortt (54) during minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Fortt had been on short term injured reserve and was expected to be back in the lineup and provide the defense with some much needed pass rush ability.
Head Coach Sean Payton had little comment on Fortt’s release but it was reported that the linebacker had missed “some team meetings”.
Rumors also circulated that his professional attitude was not where it should have been. Fortt then bounced from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Jacksonville Jaguars in just under a month.
While the Saints hold nine picks in the 2015 NFL Draft that doesn’t mean they can afford to be frivolous with their selections.
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Or if you want to be tongue-in-cheek, they can’t “a-Fortt” anymore mistakes even in the mid-rounds.
The 2015 draft class is full of red flags that the Saints could choose to stop at or to go straight through especially in the early rounds.
Former Nebraska pass rusher Randy Gregory recently revealed he failed a drug test for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the Washington Huskies due to reported attitude issues and clashes with the coaching staff.
Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the University of Missouri and then transferred to the University of Oklahoma after several arrests involving marijuana.
Former TCU linebacker Paul Dawson went into the NFL Scouting Combine with what was called by an AFC West regional scout as personal character issues and even he admitted he would show up late to meetings and workout sessions.
Oct 25, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs linebacker Paul Dawson (47) during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The one common denominator that these players have besides the red flags is that they have an extreme talent that the Saints could put to use if they decided to use their top picks on one or more of them.
All the players mentioned are considered to be first round picks with the exclusion of Dawson and that’s simply because of his Combine performance which prior to that he was tabbed as a late first rounder.
Actually Dawson would later redeem himself a bit at his Pro Day and secured a meeting with Saints linebackers/assistant coach Joe Vitt.
So, should a team like the Saints who have made an effort to mature in the locker room dismiss these players based on their past mistakes?
Big Easy Believer Editor and Columnist Barry Hirstius mulled the same question right after Gregory’s failed drug test was made public.
While I see Saints fans shunning the possibility of grabbing someone like Gregory, and the hesitance is warranted, I just don’t know if a player should be blacklisted off a board for a mistake that will never happen again.
I look at someone like former L.S.U. cornerback Tyrann Mathieu who many thought might even go undrafted due to his numerous drug violations that had him dismissed from school.
Nov 16, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) leaves the field after the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 14-6. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mathieu was later selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals and has managed to stay out of trouble and turned into a solid player for them.
On the flip side you have a player like Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon who from 2013-2014 has been suspended 13 games for substance abuse violations and for violating team rules.
Gordon is now suspended for the 2015-2016 season for testing positive for alcohol after entering the NFL’s substance abuse program in 2014.
If the Saints do take a chance on any of these players it’s more than likely the extensive homework has been done on them and they organization isn’t simply chucking darts at their draft board.
Also I think the contracts of players signed will include a security blanket or “golden parachute” in case there is trouble down the road.
So to the skeptics that are seeing all the red flags, just wave the white one instead and trust that the Saints will make the right selections on any of those players……..