When it comes to the NFL Draft, a large part of the process is about weighing the risks versus the rewards of certain picks. Very rarely is there the "can't miss" prospect; most of the time there are players with risks, some greater than others.
Falling into the category of greater risks are those players with character concerns, described in draft circles as red flags on the scouting report. These are players who, despite their talent, are considered huge risks because of off-the-field concerns. This year, just like normal, there are several of those players.
Last year, a Sports Illustrated profile piece on Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said that he won't consider a player who he determines has character concerns in the first four rounds of the draft. After that, he might take the player, but not before. So far, that has been true. Guys like LaVon Brazill, Montori Hughes, Jonathan Newsome, and Andrew Jackson, who could have been considered to have red flags entering the draft, were all selected in round five or later. Naturally, fans are wondering whether that philosophy still remains true going into this year's draft, despite the fact that the draft is as important as ever for the team and that they only have six picks.
"I just think to go out on a limb for a player - and the allure of talent that I talked about - I talked about the allure of talent with Jim Irsay on my first interview," Grigson said on Wednesday, addressing the question. "It's tough to stay disciplined because when you see players on film that are quote, unquote ‘game wreckers,' you want those guys. You want those guys that pop and that can just make an impact. We've gotten burned here even in the later rounds with those type of guys, so why and the heck would we ever go early and take a guy like that? Now we have players - I was just in there right now taking alerts off guys that we cleaned up - like that maybe had a suffix on them that equated to character issues or football character issues or drugs and so forth. We've interviewed guys. We've sent coaches, coordinators, even our head coach to see if those things are legit and we've cleaned guys up. Guys that in, I want to say February, that I wouldn't think that we would have a touched, now we feel okay about them. Again, it's weighing the risk vs. the value. Of course there are certain position groups that you drool for. There's only a small handful there. It's all about what you come to an agreement on, Coach [Chuck Pagano], myself and our staff."
There are two ways to interpret Grigson's comments: on the one hand, he seems to be upholding his philosophy and stating that he doesn't want to take guys with character concerns in the early rounds. He says as much when he says that they've gotten burned in later rounds, so why take that risk in an earlier round? So in that regard, Grigson does seem to say he won't draft a player with that "red flag" early on. On the other hand, however, Grigson also qualified that by saying that they are continuing to take red flags off of guys. To me, that sounds like Grigson giving him an out from his previous comments if in fact he does take a player with a character concern - he could then just say that they took the flag off of that player.
I don't really think that we can read much into this to determine who the Colts will draft, then. Some, like the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder, take the comments as further evidence that the Colts won't draft Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence, a popular selection in mock drafts. I don't find that to be the case, however. The Colts might draft Spence or they very well might not, but I think it's impossible to make the conclusion either way based on Grigson's comments today. In fact, I would suggest that it could be used to give credence to the argument, as the Colts very well could have removed Spence's red flag (which is for drugs) throughout the process as they gathered more information. There are some, like Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who are adamant in their defense of Spence and in saying that they don't believe the red flags are a concern in the NFL. There's also the Bleacher Report profile on him that talks about his embrace of drug testing and how he has taken steps to move on. None of that, of course, erases the concerns for all teams, but it's possible the Colts could feel comfortable taking him. My point: we just can't know based on Grigson's comments, but it does appear as if Grigson is giving himself an out for draft night. He won't take a character concern in the early rounds, but perhaps there are some players who he doesn't consider a concern that he might draft. His comment about certain positions groups is also very interesting, as he has talked before about the importance of pass rushers and, earlier this year, about how he doesn't consider this year's pass rush particularly strong. Does any of this mean that the Colts are considering or want to take Noah Spence? Of course not, but it also absolutely doesn't mean they won't take him. What it is, though, is a bit more information on the team's draft philosophy and an interesting look into the mind of the GM and the Colts' draft process.