The Personalities of the NFL Draft

Updated: May 17, 2017

The NFL Draft: the truest reality television program on the planet. Every year, the dreams of hundreds of prospective football players are crushed or realised. Thirty-two teams hold the destiny of college players in their hands. Tested to their wit’s end, players are put through drills, IQ tested and grilled at team interviews. Though for them, it is the NFL Draft that can be the most gruelling.

Not only does the NFL Draft build character – it reveals it. So it comes as no surprise that out of the hundreds of men, several are quite fascinating individuals. Below is just a brief cross-section.

Josh Dobbs – Quarterback – Pittsburgh Steelers

This kid is a genius, and the Pittsburgh Steelers may also be deemed just as smart if he reaches his ceiling. Projected by some as a potential first-rounder, Dobbs, who had a 4.0GPA heading into college where he studied aerospace engineering (yes, aerospace engineering), fell to the fourth round when the Steelers snapped him up.

What is just as remarkable, while juggling the obvious workload a degree in that field, he ran an SEC offence in Tennessee, with straight As on the football field. He finished with a 23-13 college record, and won all three bowl games he was involved in. To top it all off, Dobbs managed to serve two internships in that time at Pratt and Whitney, an aerospace giant.

As a threat both running and throwing the football, his numbers stack up against some of the best SEC quarterbacks. He is one of only four quarterbacks in SEC history to have 50 career passing touchdowns and 25 career rushing touchdowns. The last player to do that was Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. Dobbs fell just eight yards short of Tennessee’s single season total offensive record, a record held still by a certain Peyton Manning (3,789 yards in 1997). His total offence over his career is third in program history, behind Manning and Casey Clausen.

Dobbs will be mentored by Ben Roethlisberger, and will be groomed as the heir to the number seven at Heinz Field.

Patrick Mahomes II – Quarterback – Kansas City Chiefs

Football is lucky to have Mahomes as one of theirs, with the quarterback’s first love being baseball. As both a pitcher and a quarterback, Mahomes has a rocket arm, so red hot that he played for Texas Tech in both sports. Despite picking up football as a seventh grader, throwing passes overtook throwing pitches and in his second year of college sports, he gave up Major League prospects for a crack in the NFL. His gamble has so far paid off.

This kid’s arm is on another level. All over YouTube you can find footage of him making eighty yard throws (this is not a typo, EIGHTY), as well as sixty yard throws from his knees!

Like Dobbs, Mahomes is a pick for the future. He’ll work under Alex Smith at Kansas City, though it must be noted that his style of play is a stark contrast to Smith’s. Watch this space.

Joe Mixon – Running Back – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have taken one of the biggest risks in recent memory by selecting the Oklahoma running back, and it has nothing to do with his playing ability.

A day after his 18th birthday (July 2014), Mixon in a vicious brain snap assaulted a woman in a cafe, causing several broken bones in the face. With the victim requiring extensive surgery, Mixon told police he was the target of racial slurs. As a result of the incident, he copped a one-year deferred sentence, one hundred hours of community service and ordered to receive counselling. To add to his behavioural issues, Mixon also had a run in with a parking officer in 2016, allegedly intimidating the offer by inching towards them and ripping up the parking ticket he received.

Controversy ensued following the Bengals’ pick, with several pockets of fans in the city criticising the organisation. A Cincinnati television station’s editorial board went further, calling for a boycott of the Bengals and advising people to donate to charities to aim in the prevention of violence against women.

Despite being picked up by the Bengals, Mixon is currently unsigned as the team negotiate with him. For the record, Mixon averaged 6.8 yards per carry in college, with 17 career touchdowns over two years.

Jabrill Peppers – “Safety” – Cleveland Browns

Peppers’ position is written loosely as his versatility across multiple positions has been a focus of this year’s draft analysis. Between scouts, team GMs and draft analysts, who can really predict the future of a player who has found himself in over ten positions during his college career, making head-turning plays all over the field? Peppers is an outlier in modern sport in that he, throughout his life, hasn’t been pigeonholed for sake of speciality. That alone makes him a fascinating figure.

In a win for Michigan against Michigan State last year, Peppers played in nine positions on both sides of the ball. Played mostly at linebacker, Peppers spent time in the secondary, as a wildcat quarterback, receiver, running back and returned both a kick and a punt. For elite athletes at this level, that’s almost unheard of.

The Browns, with one of their better draft performances in recent memory, took Peppers in their own blitz. He’ll be on the defensive side of things, that is for certain, though what is an uncertainty is his innocence. Peppers’ sample during testing was deemed diluted, so question marks regarding his cleanliness remain unanswered

TJ Watt – Linebacker – Pittsburgh Steelers

When two of your brothers already ply their trade in the NFL, and you have an esteemed college career in your own right, people are going to pay attention. TJ Watt, also out of Wisconsin like his brother JJ, plays deeper than his brother as a linebacker, but could prove just as dangerous. An edge defender in a 4-3 or 3-4 defence, TJ fits the bill for a player in the league, though is a few years away from being a finished product. He has long arms similarly to JJ with numerous pass rushing moves, but concerns have been raised when offensive lineman get into his body.

While TJ is sick of being dubbed as JJ’s brother, JJ has expressed that TJ is better than he was at the same age. Talking to NBC Sport’s Pro Football Talk, JJ is excited by his prospects.

“He’s so hungry. He’s just itching to learn and grow as a person and as a player so he is always asking questions, he’s always wanting to compete in the workouts.

“He’s a lot better player than I was at that time. He has a lot more to grow even than I had. I think he’s a really special player and it’s been a lot of fun to watch him go through the process.”

With experience at linebacker in the form of James Harrison, Watt has the ideal teachers, and if his ceiling matches his older brothers words, we could have another explosive defender on our hands.

Travis Rudolph – Wide Receiver – New York Giants

With all the negatives of the Mixons and Co. from the 2017 draft class, the class of Travis Rudolph is heartwarming.

A wide receiver from Florida State, Rudolph made numerous highlight plays as a Seminole, but it was at a middle school cafeteria where he made a national news reel. On a visit with teammates, Rudolph saw a young Bo Paske eating lunch by himself. As classmates broke bread together, Rudolph made an effort to befriend the isolated Bo, who has autism. A bystander snapped the new friendship blossoming and the heartwarming story blew up across the country. The Rudolph and Paske families have continued the bond, even celebrating Rudolph’s selection by the Giants together. Unfortunately, not all things are beautiful in the Rudolph story. The wide receiver lost his dad in an accidental shooting a week before the draft.

As a player, Rudolph could be a find for the Giants. Teams kill to find a receiver of his skill set: reliable and tough as a lot receiver, with good acceleration out of his cuts but also able to fight through contact. There are several excited to see his progress. Not as excited as Bo Paske though.

Rasul Douglas – Cornerback – Philadelphia Eagles

Another great story out of the draft is 21-year-old Rasul Douglas, a cornerback born and raised in East Orange, New Jersey, a place where kids according to Douglas himself are “lost to the streets”.

Barely recruited by college programs, Douglas went to Nassau Community College, before transferring to West Virginia. With his grandmother spending all the family’s money to take care of his younger siblings, and the community college having no dorms, Douglas had to be creative with his living arrangements. He was forced to sleep on floors during education, working hard to get good grades. It also came out that Douglas often trained on an empty stomach, eating off the dollar menu at McDonald’s. He’d eat half of his food for lunch, and save half of it for dinner. With nearly everything against him, Douglas toiled, with his play at Nassau and his grades both good enough to attract several big school offers. He shook hands with the representatives at West Virginia and never looked back.

Douglas with his physical attributes should be a little stronger as a zone corner, though may be a step or two off the pace given his size. In saying that, his anticipation has been praised by scouts and may make this up with good early positioning. His struggle in tracking the faster receivers could be his biggest downfall.

Taco Charlton – Defensive End – Dallas Cowboys

His real name is Vidauntae, though the story behind Taco is great, and it stuck so well that college letters offering him scholarships were addressed “To Taco”. It comes from his mother, who had him prematurely.

“It was during the era when Taco Bell had the commercial ‘Rushing for the Border’. So my mom would say that he (Vidauntae) is rushing for the border. She just started calling him Taco. His teachers, once they realised they would butcher his name, it was like, ‘Ok, Taco. Great.’”

Cowboys beat writer Jon Machota, the man on hand to ask Taco’s mother the story behind his name, also asked about the potential of a commercial windfall through his appetising name. Charlton, keen to try

“My agent called me and said there is a lot of interest. I said he can handle that for right now. I’m definitely just enjoying this experience and being here in Dallas. I can’t wait to get out there and try all the different tacos. I heard this is the place to be if you’re looking for tacos, so I can’t wait to try some.”

Adoree’ Jackson – Cornerback – Tennessee Titans

Hailing from Illinois and playing his college ball at USC, Adoree’ Jackson’s name has been used in dozens of draft puns and headlines. But what does Adoree’ have a secret admiration for? The Food Network.

“For my relaxing time I watch the Food Network. I’m into the competition shows, so I like Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped, Iron Chef, The Gauntlet”, he told Kalyn Kahler of Sports Illustrated.

“I try to cook myself, but I just don’t like washing dishes. I like making fried rice, with everything. I make combination fried rice because you can put it away and heat it up and it never gets old. I just like those competitive shows because they are making something out of nothing.”

On top of this affection for culinary TV programming, Jackson also established himself in college athletics. He finished fifth in the long jump at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships, and just missed out on a podium finish in the 4 x 100m relay.

Takkarist McKinley – Defensive End – Atlanta Falcons 

Originally committed to University of California, Berkeley, McKinley failed to qualify for the university program academically. Forced into a community college detour first, UCLA then picked him up, not only helping his pro football aspirations, but fulfilling his promise to his dying grandmother of attending a Division I school.

By all reports from practices and combines, the Oakland native would tire the Duracell bunny, and his on-field numbers back it up. According to Pro Football Focus, McKinley pressured opposing quarterbacks on over 21% of plays, well ahead of anyone else in the draft class. Scouts and executives, who remained anonymous to prevent the uncovering of their draft blueprints, expressed that this energy was sometimes a struggle to harness.

“He is a volcano personality who has been kicked out of practice, but it’s because he is passionate and competitive,” One scout told ESPN’s Mike Sando.

“I’d rather have that than the guy kicked out because he is lazy. He has that chip on his shoulder.”

It would come as a surprise to many to hear that McKinley’s downtime doesn’t reflect his time in football, though what goes up must come down.

“I love sleep. Whenever I get a chance to sleep, I’m going to sleep. If it’s for 20 minutes? I’m sleeping. An hour? I’m sleeping,” McKinley told Sports Illustrated.

“My alarm clock is an old phone sound, it irritates me. [In my downtime] I’m either asleep or I’m watching cartoons, like SpongeBob or Dragon Ball Z.”

Many are eager to see how McKinley helps the Atlanta Falcons, who are of course vying to go one better in their Super Bowl aspirations this season.

Solomon Thomas – Defensive End – San Francisco 49ers

With his father, mother and uncle all being collegiate athletes, Thomas has the athletic pedigree and numbers to succeed in the NFL. At 273 pounds, he still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds and performed excellently across most of the drills at the combine. Listed as a defensive end, scouts regard Thomas as an in-between player who may also line up as a linebacker.

But it is Thomas’ childhood that will garner interest, especially for those down under. Thomas spent five years of his early childhood in Sydney, a time that he looks back on with fondness.

“It was a great experience,” Thomas told Fox Sports US.

“I feel like, everyone there was just happy. I don’t know if that’s because it’s always so beautiful. Going to get fish and chips or [hanging with] my swim team, my friends, [we were] always outside doing something. Nobody really stayed inside. There was no reason to. It was a great time.”

On a sporting front, Thomas swam and played the “round ball” football in his early childhood as a goalkeeper, though interesting took up Irish dance lessons in Sydney. With Thomas’ footwork praised throughout his collegiate football career, the man from Stanford may have been onto something. Though, for a defensive player and third overall pick, Thomas has shown a softer side. A self-confessed super fan of the 2004 romantic drama, The Notebook.

“We have a Notebook poster in our dorm room, the movie poster. I’ve seen it too many times. My favourite quote is the one where they are arguing and he says, ‘What do you want?’ It’s when she is leaving, and she says, ‘I don’t know.’ And he says, ‘I want you. All of you. Every day.’ That’s the one,” Thomas told Sports Illustrated.

The 49ers with their first round pick may have said the same thing in their war room on draft day.

Written By Daniel Beswick (@DBeswick13)

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