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Michael Oher, Character Concerns & the NFL Draft

Baltimore Ravens’ offensive lineman Michael Oher went on a mini-twitter rant last night about character and the NFL draft. I’m guessing what set Oher off was a Sportscenter segment with Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Oher might have heard McShay use the word “character” (maybe about Jimmy Smith’s issues at Colorado or Ryan Mallett’s at Michigan and Arkansas) and went on the offensive.

From Pro Football Talk:

“Ok im so tired of the Character issues they are puttiing on ppl!” Oher tweeted Tuesday. “What Character issues?!? Somebody tell me? . . . I never got in trouble with the Law . . . yes sir no sir guy . . . But this Todd Mcshay guy acts if he knows ppl on a personal level get real!”

And then someone must have alerted Oher to the fact McShay was on twitter, because he tweeted at him:

“What if someone was to talk about your son . . . and he had character issues!! Thats how my family felt. You need to meet ppl first and then judge them not go off what you hear!! . . . And I respect Mel Kiper way more then I respect you…your a joke!!”

Let’s roll back the clock to the 2009 when Oher was a hulking offensive lineman coming out of Ole Miss and thought to be a first round lock. The Blind Side - which would make over $255 million in the US (on a $29 million budget!) – hadn’t come out. Soccer moms weren’t referencing Oher’s story. Casual football fans weren’t yet rooting for the Ravens because they saw the movie. Let’s begin with this Pro Football Weekly scouting report of Oher (written by Cam Newton’s buddy, Nolan Nawrocki):

Not physically or mentally tough and does not have a great feel for the game. Takes some bad angles and gets out of position. Is not quite as agile and quick changing direction as would like in an elite left tackle and mechanics break down the farther he has to travel. Inconsistent hand placement and punch. Technique will need refinement – too often opens his shoulders and loses his base and balance. Bends at the waist and needs to do a better job sustaining. Looks disinterested at times and can be late to recognize the blitz. Needs to spend more time in the weight room and convert baby fat into muscle. Has been too coddled throughout college, and his desire, passion for the game and football intelligence are questionable. Will require extra attention to absorb a playbook and is best when assignments are kept simple. Raised questions about his passion and psyche in team interviews.

PFW ended by saying he had “classic boom or bust potential.”

In March of 2009 (you’ll need ESPN Insider to read it all), McShay projected Oher going 13th to the Redskins (“Oher is inconsistent but extremely talented”) and Kiper had Oher going 28th to the Eagles (“Oher is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. He is loaded with talent and can dominate the defense he’s working against, but he also seems to have lapses in concentration when he struggles to keep his opponents at bay”).

A week before the draft, McShay went on Sportscenter and dropped the dreaded “C-word” in reference to Oher. The only other place I can find anyone hinting about Oher’s character is SI’s Don Banks in a February 2009 mock draft: “while the higher-rated Michael Oher remains on the board, the word is he started taking on water at the combine and will continue to sink as the scouting process continues. Teams just don’t have as much patience for draft prospects with character issues as they did in the pre-Roger Goodell days.”

Neither McShay or Banks ever went into detail about what these character issues are – by all indications, Oher is a good kid who has never been arrested – and through two seasons, he’s had no issues in Baltimore.

Most mock drafts had Oher among the Top 15ish picks in the draft (McShay had him 10th in his final one, Kiper had him 16th, and while I couldn’t find Mayock’s mock, he used the word “inconsistent“). Why’d he fall to 23? Was it just the way things went down? If the Patriots hadn’t traded the 23rd pick, how much further does Oher tumble?

 

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