“If you perform on the field, you quickly become marketable,” Schwab said.
Look no further than Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who was charged with murder in 2000. The charges were dropped after Lewis agreed to testify against two other men and he subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. This week he’s a beloved figure heading into the AFC championship with retirement looming.
Te’o would hardly be the first player to see his draft stock sink because of off-field issues. Last year, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins fell to the second round after multiple run-ins with the law related to marijuana got him dismissed from Florida.
Warren Sapp in 1995 and Randy Moss in 1998 slid because of character concerns; both are now considered potential Hall of Famers.
Teams may be less likely to take a risk on Te’o in the draft if they don’t believe he can become a dominant player.
Brandt noted how the inside linebacker position doesn’t carry as much importance in the NFL as it once did. In the last 10 years, only four inside linebackers were taken in the first round, although one of them was perennial All-Pro Patrick Willis of San Francisco.
“I think it would be different if it was a quarterback who would change the game,” he said. “But linebackers are a piece to the puzzle; they don’t solve the puzzle. Other than Ray Lewis, I don’t know of any linebacker you say, ‘We’ve got to have this guy.’
“(Inside) linebackers are not as important as they used to be. We’re down to one or two first-round linebackers now.”
Brandt wondered how Te’o could be so effective during the season, including seven interceptions — “unheard of, like hitting .450 in baseball” — and then so unproductive in the championship game.
“Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there’ll be a lot of people investigating just what took place,” he said.