NFL Combine: Character?

On the eve of the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis, I keep hearing talking heads like ESPN’s Todd McShay referring to character. Several players consistently are mentioned when this topic comes up. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

Who is the judge of character? Do we all view its traits differently? Does McShay know these or any of the players?

Many NFL mock drafts have Newton and Fairley going among the top three picks in the first round. Why? Lets take a look at their play on the field. Newton carried Auburn to the BCS National Championship and won the Heisman Trophy. He did this playing the toughest schedule, enduring incredible scrutiny and put up arguably the greatest stats in the history of the game. Cam has confirmed that he is “All In” for the combine. He will throw, run, lift and answer the inevitable questions about “pay for play”. What about some of the other quarterbacks? McShay loves Blaine Gabbert who won’t throw at the combine. Why? If you were Gabbert’s agent, would you want him running, lifting and throwing next to Newton? Didn’t think so. Former NFL GM and current ESPN analyst Matt Millen questions Newton’s ability to face tough defenses and perform in front of “more than  100,000 fans”. Last time I checked, SEC had the toughest defenses in the country and many stadiums seating more than 100,000. Oh yeah, their is only one NFL stadium that tops 100k, and that’s Dallas with standing room (at the Super Bowl).

Recent “worries” about the “character” of Nick Fairley have also emerged. Where did these come from? Is it because of the late hit on the quarterback from Georgia? Or perhaps the phantom late hit on the Bama quarterback in the Iron Bowl? Despite that bogus call, Fairley was a play maker leading Auburn back from a 0-24 deficit at Bryant Denny Stadium. Do you think NFL GM’s want lineman that “pull up” when nearing the quarterback? Do you think that will get it done when trying to take down Big Ben? Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers, the other top lineman in the draft, will only lift weights at the combine. Is that hiding a valid concern?  Fairley’s season was a highlight reel, he won the Outland Trophy. The team that picks Fairley will have a very disruptive force on the field, not off.

As future NFL players go through the combine this week, other questions will emerge. Who will come up short in the 40, or fail in benching 225 or even struggle with the mental testing. One thing I do know, Newton and Fairley are being unnecessarily called out.

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