The changing climate of the NFL makes it tough for scouts and general managers to bring prospects with character concerns into the league. Thus, the news of Marcus Peters' dismissal from Washington threatens to alter the landscape of the 2015 draft.
Peters, a redshirt junior with 11 career interceptions, was regarded as one of the top cover corners in college football and scouts expected him to forego his final season at Washington after enjoying another stellar campaign this season. However, his dismissal prematurely ends an outstanding Washington career, raises questions about his character and threatens to plummet his draft stock.
After placing a few calls to scouts around the league and examining the tape of the spectacular cover corner, here are four observations on how the dismissal will ultimately affect Peters' draft status, if he elects to come out after this season:
1. Where does Peters rank as a prospect?
Scouts around the West believe Peters is the top cover corner in college football. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior is an ultra-talented cover corner with size, speed and skills that NFL defensive coordinators covet in premier corners. He is an aggressive press corner with the length to jam and disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage, while also displaying the instincts and awareness to anticipate routes and throws in his direction. Peters is fearless on the perimeter and willing to challenge elite receivers in one-on-one coverage.
His competitive mindset is one of the strengths of his game and defensive coaches looking for an alpha dog on the edge will give Peters high marks after watching him dominate the premier receivers in the Pac-12. In addition, Peters' superb ball skills (11 career interceptions) and solid tackling prowess make him a prospect with the potential to start on the island immediately as a pro.
2. How severe are Peters' character concerns?
From speaking with several scouts familiar with Peters and his interaction with the Washington coaches, I've been told that the dismissal stems from his inability to get along with coaches and team officials. Peters reportedly has a strong personality and didn't mind challenging authority about various situations on and off the field.
Although Peters' reported insubordination will lead to concerns about his ability to get along with coaches, scouts and executives at the NFL level, I've had several scouts tell me that his character and personality wouldn't be an issue at other major programs. An NFC scout told me that coaches comfortable dealing with kids who have a bit of an edge wouldn't have a problem getting the best out of Peters or helping him assimilate into a structured program. Washington head coach Chris Petersen refused to deal with a player who didn't buy into all of the tenets of his new plan and approach at Washington. Thus, the character questions surrounding Peters appear to be "football character" issues, not legal matters that will torpedo his draft stock in meeting rooms around the league.
Now, I must mention Peters' relationship with Seattle Seahawks' RB Marshawn Lynch as one of the background factors that will be investigated by NFL scouts. The Pro Bowler reportedly serves as one of Peters' mentors and they have a long-standing relationship from their childhood in Oakland. I've been told that Lynch watches over Peterson like a "little homie" and that Peters carries the same "strong personality" that is routinely associated with prospects from Oakland. However, I've been told by several scouts close to the situation that the relationship is viewed as a "positive" one and that Lynch strongly encourages Peters to "take care of business" as it relates to school and football.
While I'm sure several NFL scouts and coaches will wonder if Lynch's influence on Peters had anything to do with the fractured relationship with the Washington coaching staff, the Pro Bowler's history in the league shouldn't taint Peters' reputation or character in pre-draft meetings. I'm not saying that it won't make some executives nervous, but it shouldn't be a major factor in Peters' character evaluation.
3. How much will the dismissal from Washington affect his NFL chances?
Whenever a blue-chip player is dismissed from a program during the season, it causes a bit of concern in NFL circles. Scouts and coaches have strong relationships with their college brethren; they don't take dismissals or suspensions lightly when they are due to insubordination. Every NFL coach wants a locker room full of guys who "buy in" and believe in the direction of the program. If the Washington coaching staff suggests that he isn't a "team guy," the second-team All-Pac-12 cornerback will have to convince scouts and coaches that he won't be a problem in their respective locker rooms.
From a scouting perspective, area scouts and college scouting directors will spend a lot of time digging into Peters' background to see if he has a track record of failing to get along with coaches and team officials. They will question members of the previous Washington staff (Steve Sarkisian and Co.) about their experiences with Peters and see if the issues that existed with the current coaching staff represent a track record of poor behavior.
Additionally, scouts will speak to various administrative officials to see if Peters had other issues with the academic support staff or trainers to get a better feel for his overall personality. If those reports check out, Peters simply has to explain his situation to scouts, coaches and general managers in interviews to clear up questions about his character and how well he will blend into a program at the next level.
4. What's next for Peters?
Peters has to make a decision on whether to transfer to another school to complete his eligibility or enter the 2015 NFL draft. With the majority of scouts in the area believing Peters will make the jump to the pros, he must begin to repair his tattered reputation by being open and honest about his issues with the Washington coaching staff. It is important for him to be accountable for his role in the dismissal, but he can certainly express his issues with the staff and explain why the relationship couldn't be salvaged.
From a physical standpoint, Peters wouldn't be able to compete in an all-star game as a junior, so he can focus his efforts on preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine. If he puts on an impressive performance on the turf, he will redirect the attention back to his impressive game and pro potential. While scouts and coaches will worry about his "football character" due to the dismissal, he is a rare commodity at the position and his size/talent combination will make it easier for some teams to ignore his issues.