Pigskin Dragnet: NFL's Most Wanted rookies

Cold, Hard Football Facts for May 21, 2007



By Sgt. Joe Friday
As told to Cold, Hard Football Facts
contributor Mike Carlson

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. The names have not been changed to protect the accused. For the next five minutes or so, you will travel step by step on the side of the law through actual cases from official pigskin police files.

Football's a demanding game. It calls for inflicting pain upon others. Defenses are built on the ability of certain players to intimidate. Hard-hitting is a by-word. It's like legalized assault. Players are encouraged to build themselves up and keep themselves aggressive, by any means necessary. They play hard on the field, and that requires a lot of energy. Sometimes, they have to burn off that energy off the field. Sometimes it can get out of hand. 
 
When it does, that's where I come in. My name's Friday. I carry a badge.

It was Saturday, April 25. I was working the day watch out of draft war room. The boss is Commissioner Goodell. The hopes of dozens of young college football players were on the line. The earlier the pick, the more money in the bank. But the sharp eyes of the media were focused on the draft, too. Every day seemed to bring the arrest of another NFL player. Every arrest brought more calls to ban, imprison, or execute NFL stars. The commissioner was taking this seriously, and, as result, so were the teams. Ban a star cornerback/kick-returner for a season and you could tear apart years of careful roster-building. 

So teams needed to know about the players they draft. I'm not interested in punishing kids for youthful mistakes. I'm just interested in the facts, ma'am. The Cold, Hard Football Facts. Apart from steroid use, I believe in 'don't test don't tell'. But colleges aren't interested in the cold, hard criminal facts. Their approach to punishment is often selective. Most schools prefer suspensions that cause players to miss spring practice, or games against Troy State, Duke, or Florida International.

It didn't take a lot of shoe-leather to pound the beat and investigate this year's crop of potential draftees. I turned in my report. These were the guys to watch from this year's draft, especially if you're a bail bondsman or an ambulance chaser. Or a Bengals scout. 

I said 'were'.  Most of this dirty baker's dozen (did someone say donuts?) fell through the draft faster than a football through Jerramy Stevens' hands. You thought Brandon Siler was in freefall?  Check out Joe Friday's draft list of the rest of NFL's Most Wanted rookies. 
 
After all, it's only the facts. On April 28 the draft was held, in and for the city of New York. In a moment, the results of that draft:
 
13. Tony Franklin, CB, Kansas City
College: University of Virginia
Charges: Possession of marijuana
Sentence: Year's probation
Pigskin penalty: Suspended from team before spring practice '06, reinstated before '06 season began
Extenuating circumstances: Virginia faced a tough ACC schedule, while a sniff of Ricky Williams drifts into the minds of NFL scouts
Drafted: Nope
Prospects: A converted running back who played corner and then safety at Virginia, he projects as a nickel corner in the NFL. Franklin was signed by the Chiefs, whose corners are aging fast. 

12. Marcus Thomas, DT, Denver
College: Florida
Charges: Tested positive for marijuana and failed to live up to probation after reinstatement
Pigskin penalty: Dismissed from team
Drafted: Round 4
Prospects: Reunited with fellow Florida DL Jarvis Moss, who was suspended from the Gators for only one game for smoking pot, thus missing his shot at the most wanted list. These guys must feel lucky Denver traded up to bring them to a place that's already a mile high.

11. Quintin Culbertson, LB, St. Louis
College: Mississippi State
Charges: aggravated assault
Sentence: none, charges reduced to disorderly conduct
Pigskin penalty: none
Extenuating circumstances: Stupidity ... was busted battling law enforcement officers working security at a high school basketball game
Drafted: Nope
Prospects: Signed by the linebacker-needy Rams, he's got a chance to crack the roster.

10. Marvin Mitchell, LB, New Orleans
College: Tennessee
Charges: disorderly conduct, revolving around a disagreement with another customer at a convenience store; the police were called to break it up
Sentence: Charges dismissed after he paid court costs and promised to be good for 30 days (this is Tennessee, and he was a Vol, after all)
Pigskin penalty: Suspended indefinitely, but miraculously re-instated before the first game of the season against a dangerous Cal team.
Extenuating circumstances: Never got a chance to play for Jim Bob Cooter
Drafted: Round 7
Propsects: Has potential as a run-stuffer in the middle. But the Saints, as they showed by cutting undrafted Walter Thomas after 10 minutes, don't offer patient understanding of troubled souls.

9. Brandon Meriweather, S, New England
College: Miami
Charges: None. Pulled a gun and fired back at someone who shot his friend, but the gun was licensed. Also did a nice imitation of Albert Haynesworth during an on-field brawl against Florida International
Pigskin penalty: At Miami??????  OK, suspended one game.
Extenuating circumstances: In both cases he was defending a teammate; tells Bill Belichick he's a "team" player. Plus, the Constitution gives football players the right to bear arms. Them and militia men ... and web site publishers.
Drafted: Round 1 
Prospects: Massachusetts laws are much stricter than those in Florida, where guns are issued to all children when they start high school. Patriots likely to collaborate with NRA to run rookie-camp seminar. And when Randy Moss talks trash, bet he'll watch Meriweather's trigger hand.

8. Troy Smith, QB, Baltimore
College: Ohio State
Charges: Disorderly conduct after a fight with tag-team partner Santonio Holmes versus five women. Accepted $500 unsanctioned by the NCAA from a booster, and then used it to pay for troubled teammate Maurice Clarett's cell phone.
Sentence: Community service for the fight.
Pigskin penalty: Suspended for the 2004 Alamo Bowl and then not allowed to start in opening game of 2005; but game was against mighty Texas. Despite missing start, Smith was quickly inserted into the line-up.
Extenuating circumstances: won Heisman Trophy and Walter Camp award as nation's most exemplary college football player.
Drafted: Round 5
Prospects: Likely third-string QB behind Steve McNair and Kyle 'Duckpin' Boller.

7. Thomas Clayton, RB, San Francisco
College: Kansas State
Charges: Misdemeanor battery (struck a university parking cop with his car while said cop was attempting to attach boot; car had no license plates or campus registration)
Pigskin penalty: Missed season opening game against mighty Illinois State. Suspended twice early in career for violation of team rules. Left team, or team left him, midway through 2006 season
Extenuating circumstances: Long-term feud with college coaching staff
Drafted: Round 6
Prospects: Looks the part, but has never played like it, could fit right into the Kevan Barlow role. Team reportedly gave him a parking pass as part of his rookie contract.

6. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, N.Y. Giants
College: Marshall
Charges: (a) underage drinking/obstruction of justice; (b) burglary/petty larceny for robbing a Play Station from a dorm room
Pigskin penalty: (a) left Virginia football program; (b) started all 12 games as a senior at Marshall
Extenuating circumstances: Suffered the extreme embarrassment of being chased down by campus police officers; does not bode well for ability to escape Philly defense.
Drafted: Round 7
Prospects: Giants have an opening for an all-purpose back with the retirement of TeeVee Barber. Bradshaw unlikely to attract major network deals.

5. Justin Medlock, K, Kansas City
College: UCLA
Charges: Driving under the influence. His pick-up hit a telephone on the freeway and flipped. So he abandoned the truck, and a member of the college women's golf team riding with him, who'd broken her neck. 
Sentence: Pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunk-driving. Three years probation, one year's driving ban, five days work for the state highway department and a $1,220 fine.
Pigskin penalty: Accident occurred December 10, 2005. Suspended for the 2005 Sun Bowl vs. Northwestern, and for spring practice. Reinstated before the 2006 season.
Extenuating circumstances: He's a kicker! Plus, if he weren't signed, he wouldn't get to be the NFL's first black kicker since Danny Kight.
Drafted: Round 5
Prospects: Chiefs already have Brit Lawrence Tynes, ex of NFL Europa, but maybe thought they needed to send another kicker to Europe. For driving lessons.
 
(Newsflash! No sooner had Sgt. Friday filed this pigskin police report that the Chiefs issued a press release to announce that they traded limey Tynes to the Gi'nts. Looks like our hard-drinking rookie kicker has the inside track on a gig this autumn. Let's hope he doesn't flip a truck or two along the way.)

4. Deon Anderson, FB, Dallas
College: UConn
Charges: Fighting ('03) Indecent exposure ('04)
Sentence: 90 days plus one year's probation
Pigskin penalty: Forced to walk-on for senior season
Extenuating circumstances: The bar has been set high for Anderson. Lance Rentzel exposed himself to a 10-year-old girl when he was with the Cowboys and then went on to play the best football of his career.
Drafted: Round 6
Prospects: A bit of a surprise to be drafted, but a Richie Anderson-type fullback who might blossom in the pros. 

3. Nate Harris, LB, Kansas City
College:
 Louisville
Charges: armed robbery
Sentence: six months at Dade County boot camp
Pigskin penalty: Quite an accomplishment: he lost his scholarship ... to Miami!!! Damned Larry Coker Era.
Extenuating circumstances: had 16 gold teeth removed to impress pro scouts
Drafted: Nope
Prospects: Harris was the top-rated linebacker passed over in the draft on many boards and was then signed by the linebacker-light Chiefs. 

2. Steven Harris, DT, Denver
College: Florida
Charges: (a) 2003 knocked out a man in a night-club fight.  Pleaded not-guilty, after a mistrial pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. (b) 2004 driving with a suspended licence and ignoring the fine for same
Sentence: (a) six months probation, anger management (off-field) program, restitution (including teeth) to the victim
Pigskin penalty: suspended for spring practice in 2006
Extenuating circumstances: Local constabulary in Denver may just grab the entire Broncos DL anytime a police line-up is needed.
Drafted: Nope
Propsects: Signed with Broncos, who are obviously trying to do the Florida Corrections Department a favor.

1. Juwan Simpson, LB, Green Bay
College: Alabama
Charges: driving erratically, possession of marijuana, receiving stolen property, carrying pistol without a permit, all charged as misdemeanors. Auburn fans blamed activist Alabama judge "Cub" Bryant III.
Sentence: drug counseling, probation
Pigskin penalty: none.
Extenuating circumstances: graduated early, and working on graduate degree
Drafted: Nope
Prospects: Signed by the Packers, who need linebacking depth,. He could make the team and, at 225 pounds, could be considered as a safety.
 
JUST THE COLD, HARD FOOTBALL FACTS, MA'AM
Eight of the 13 Most Wanted got drafted, although some went lower than they might have. All the rest were signed by NFL teams. 
 
The Chiefs grabbed three of the NFL's Most Wanted and win Sgt. Joe Friday's Stanley Wilson Trophy. It is presented in honor of the ex-Bengals running back (who was the first player suspended three times by the NFL and who went on a coke binge the night before Super Bowl XXIII) to the NFL team in most need of hiring security guards after the draft.  
 
The original trophy has been retired by the Bengals after winning it multiple years in a row. The Broncos deserve special recognition for grabbing two of the 13 Most Wanted to play along the defensive line with draft pick Jarvis Moss. Should make for some fun dust-ups in training camp when Tom Nalen tries to cut block the rookies. Mike Shanahan's tight-lipped grimace just got a little tighter.

How do you earn a place on the NFL's Most Wanted? My investigation reveals that linebackers, southern schools, and being named Harris are the most common characteristics, meaning Lousiville LB Nate Harris may be the guy you see photographed in profile at the end of this show.

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