NFL Draft's best and worst 'Red Flag' players
Maurice Clarett, RB, Ohio State
After turning in one of the most memorable freshman seasons in college football history for Ohio State in 2002, Clarett's life spiraled downward. He never played another game for OSU, bounced in 2003 for a variety of missteps. He tried to enter the 2004 draft but was turned away because he was fewer than three seasons out of high school. He performed terribly at the NFL Combine in advance of the 2005 draft but the Broncos took a chance on him with a third-round pick (101 overall). He was released by Denver in late August and, after two arrests, is currently in jail.
Randy Moss, WR, Marshall
Involvement in a high school brawl - and the resulting battery charge - resulted in Notre Dame revoking a scholarship. A positive marijuana test while on probation resulted in Florida State revoking his scholarship. He went to I-AA Marshall in 1996 and, when Marshall made the move to Division I in 1997, Moss - a sophomore - was the best receiver in the nation. But on draft day, 1998, 20 teams passed on Moss before Minnesota selected him with the 21st pick. He's had dustups since being in the league but has also caught 135 touchdowns in 170 games for the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.
Warren Sapp, DT, Miami
Thirteen days before the 1995 NFL Draft, the New York Times reported Sapp tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. Less than 24 hours later, the NFL issued a statement that Sapp did not test positive for cocaine, omitting any reference to weed. Easily one of the best defensive linemen in that draft, Sapp was expected to go in the top five. He wound up going 13th to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, went to seven Pro Bowls, was a four-time All Pro and - aside from being an agitator - was never in any legal trouble before retiring after 2007.
Matt Leinart, QB, USC
After a terrific college career in which he won the Heisman as a junior, two minor red flags were raised about Leinart as the 2006 draft approached. The first was that he lacked great arm strength. The second, more nebulous one was he had a "Hollywood" mentality, that he enjoyed his celebrity and the adulation and attention that accompanied it. The Cardinals took Leinart with the 10th overall pick. He's had some juvenile indiscretions but nothing of major substance. He also hasn't yet emerged as a starter for Arizona.
Vince Young, QB, Texas
After leading Texas to the national championship as a junior, Young declared for the 2006 NFL Draft. His three-quarters throwing motion concerned some. A greater brouhaha emerged when it was reported that Young scored a six on the standardized Wonderlic test administered at the NFL Combine. The desperately low score was disputed by the NFL and the test was readministered. Young scored a more respectable 16 the second time. Tennessee took Young with the third overall pick. After a brilliant rookie season in 2006, Young regressed in 2007, throwing nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Injuries and personal turmoil landed Young on the bench in 2008. His future seems cloudy.
Dimitrius Underwood, DE, Michigan State
Warning signs were there. Underwood missed most of his senior season with a high ank le sprain that some around the Spartans program felt was a ruse that masked bigger issues. A personality disorder. But the Vikings were bewitched by Underwood's physical skills and they took him with the 29th pick in the 1999 draft. He walked out of training camp August 1 and didn't return. Released by Minnesota, the Dolphins claimed him off waivers. He was injured in his only preseason game. He attempted suicide with a steak knife in September, 1999. The Dolphins released him in December. In 2000, the Cowboys signed Underwood. He played in 19 games for them before attempting suicide again in January 2001, running into traffic.
LenDale White, RB, USC
The big-bodied running back who'd been so productive at Southern Cal looked woefully out of shape at the 2006 NFL Draft. He managed just 15 reps on the bench press and looked sloppy at his shirtless weigh-in. White, who was expected to be a first-round pick initially, wound up going 45th overall to the Titans. He's been an able player for Tennessee, rushing for 1,110 yards in 2007 and 15 touchdowns in 2008.
Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech
In his 2001 NFL Draft preview, the late draft guru Joel Buchsbaum said of Vick, "within two weeks of entering his name into the NFL draft pool, he changed agents and supporting cast which may show immaturity and instability on his part." If only. After making it to three Pro Bowls and becoming the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in 2006, Vick's world imploded. He's currently nearing the end of a 20-month sentence for running an interstate dogfighting ring. The pre-draft red flags were never enough to make anyone think Vick would end up like this, though. Ironically, when Vick's brother, Marcus, came out in 2006, teams fled from him because of concerns about his character. Marcus Vick went undrafted in 2006 because of character concerns. Wrote ESPN in April 2006: "The difference between Marcus and Michael Vick? In a word, character."
Luis Castillo, DT, Northwestern
After playing in pain with an injured elbow during his senior season, Castillo took androstenedione to quicken his rehab from the injury in advance of the 2005 Combine. The "andro", made infamous by Mark McGwire, showed up in a urine test at the Combine. Castillo sent a letter to all 32 teams admitting his use and explaining why. The Chargers took him with the 28th overall pick and he's been a productive player for San Diego.
Cecil Collins, RB, McNeese State
In four games at LSU back in 1997, Collins ran for 596 yards on 72 carries (8.3 per rush). But he liked to sneak into the rooms of sleeping women and watch them sleep. Doing so got him arrested twice at LSU. Then he failed a drug test while on probation and landed in jail. He transferred to McNeese and declared for the 1999 draft. Miami took him in the fifth round. He played in eight games. Then in December of '99, he snuck into the home of a Miami woman as she slept. He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years. His release date is 2014.
William Green, RB, Boston College
Suspended twice for marijuana use at BC, Green was taken with the 16th overall pick by the Cleveland Brown in the 2002 draft. He started every game his rookie year but in 2003 he was arrested in late October for DUI and marijuana possession. He was suspended for the rest of the 2003 season, had a poor 2004, an injury-plagued 2005 and was released. He is out of the league.
Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska
During his junior year, Phillips battered his ex-girlfriend, dragging her down a flight of stairs by her hair. Nebraska coach Tom Osborne suspended Phillips but didn't boot him from the team. Phillips played in the Fiesta Bowl and was outstanding. Phillips declared for the draft and the St. Louis Rams looked past his transgressions and used the sixth pick in the 1996 NFL Draft on him. He played in 27 games for the Rams before walking out on the Rams and getting cut. Then he went to the Dolphins - the late 90s home for wayward players - and washed out there as well. He went to the CFL and legal troubles followed him there. He finally wound up in jail for running his car into three teenagers in California after a dispute during a pickup football game.
Winston Justice, OT, USC
Projected as a possible top-10 pick in 2006 (like USC teammates Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White), Justice had an arrest for waving a toy gun at a car as he and a friend were rolling down the street. Justice claimed he thought he knew people in the other car and was joking. That hullabaloo caused consternation about Justice and he wasn't drafted until the Eagles grabbed him with the 39th overall pick. He's been a mediocre player for them.
Dan Marino, QB, Pittsburgh
After a brilliant college career, rumors surfaced in advance of the 1983 draft that Marino used cocaine. The rumors - unfounded and unproven - resulted in Marino dropping all the way to the 23rd overall pick. Five quarterbacks went ahead of him before the Miami Dolphins drafted him. Marino went on to become the most prolific passer in NFL history (since passed by Brett Favre) and still holds the single-season record for passing yards (5,084). He's a Hall of Famer.
Todd Marinovich, QB, USC
Bred to be a quarterback by his father, Marv, Marinovich flamed out spectacularly. He entered the 1990 season as a Heisman Trophy candidate but a benching and an arrest for cocaine possession took care of that. He entered the 1991 draft, was selected by the Raiders with the 24th overall pick but was out of the league by the end of the 1992 season. Ineffectiveness and drug problems were the reason. Ever since, Marinovich has been in persistent trouble with the law, virtually all of it drug-related.