"Character" is a tricky buzz word during the evaluation process for the NFL draft. What one team deems a character concern, another team might see as immaturity. Players don't grow out of bad personal character, but they can mature, which is why figuring out a player's personal and football character is so essential.
What is football character, you ask? Football character is a combination of absolute love for every part of the sport, including practice. It's also about a player's desire to get better in the film room and offseason.
Deciphering character is an important component in the evaluation process and it is primarily on the area scout to make sure that he digs up as much pertinent information in those two areas as possible. The topic of character arises in my conversations with pro and college sources as I'm compiling profiles on draft prospects, and certain players come with concerns in that area.
Here are seven NFL Scouting Combine participants with personal-character questions that need to be answered when they meet with teams at the combine (Feb. 23-29).
Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers: Carroo was arrested in September and charged with simple assault under domestic violence after being accused of slamming a woman onto a concrete surface. Carroo was suspended after the incident and missed two games. The alleged victim opted not to pursue the case and the charge was dismissed. However, NFL teams are going to dig long and hard into every facet of that case and Carroo's background.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: Nkemdiche's December fall from a hotel window and subsequent charge of marijuana possession led to a suspension from the Sugar Bowl. Nkemdiche apologized after the incident and denied a report that he had used synthetic marijuana. Scouts are very concerned about not only Nkemdiche's personal character, but also his overall work ethic as well.
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: Oakman was dismissed from Penn State by then-head coach Bill O'Brien for a variety of team infractions. O'Brien is now the head coach of the Houston Texans. Oakman, who transferred to Baylor, was also suspended from the Bears' 2015 season opener for violating team rules. Scouts have confided that Oakman's interviews were "a mess" last month at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
Gionni Paul, LB, Utah: Paul's transfer to Utah from Miami (Fla.) was termed a mutual decision at the time, but by Paul's own admission, "the fast life" was one of the culprits. While Paul's name has been clean while at Utah, scouts still have concerns about his character.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida: I don't know if anyone wants to be labeled "Mr. Suspension" but I can guarantee you that an NFL draft prospect doesn't want it. A scout I spoke with gave that label to Robinson based on the fact that he's been suspended four times during his college career. Most players find themselves dismissed before they ever get to a fourth suspension, and NFL teams have been pouring over Robinson's background with a fine-toothed comb heading into their combine interviews with him.
Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky: When you are declared permanently ineligible from an entire college football conference, as Spence was from the Big Ten, that would definitely be considered a red-flag incident. Spence failed multiple drug tests while at Ohio State and was banned from the Big Ten in November of 2014. Spence has admitted an addiction to the drug Ecstasy and spent time at a treatment center battling his addiction with the full support of his former coach, Urban Meyer. Spence, who transferred to Eastern Kentucky, was also arrested in May of this year for alcohol intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct. Spence has passed multiple drug tests since his treatment, but teams still will come calling with question after question for him.
D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn: There will be a handful of players at the combine who were dismissed from their team at some point in the past season, but Williams is the most high-profile prospect of the group. Williams was dismissed at midseason for a violation of team rules. Sources say teammates were in agreement that a dismissal was the best course of action considering Williams' extensive history of suspensions and failed second chances.