Checkered Pasts

Big draft risks can cause big trouble.

Sunday after Mass, El Hombre ran into Dr. Joe, who had an interesting question regarding your Philadelphia Eagles. “Did they exhume Al Davis and have him run the draft on Saturday?”

It was a good question. Although Mr. “Just Win Baby” has been dead for more than four years, it appeared as if he made three of the Birds’ late-round picks. The man known for running a franchise that served as a last resort for the NFL’s more questionable characters would have loved Wendell Smallwood, Jalen Mills and Alex McCalister, on whom the Eagles spent half of their six Day 3 draft picks.

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Smallwood was charged in July 2014 with intimidating a witness in relation to a murder case. Mills pled guilty to a simple battery misdemeanor after knocking a woman unconscious with a blow to the head. And McCalister was dismissed from the Florida team last December for violating team policy, this after he had been suspended for a game earlier in the season.

It was predictable that Eagles VP of Football Operations Howie “Don’t Call Me GM” Roseman talked of second chances as he answered questions about his talented but behaviorally challenged newcomers. “We forget sometimes that these guys are college kids, and things happen,” he said.
That’s true. College hijinks are a part of campus life. But the new Birds weren’t in trouble for a toga party. One was charged with allegedly trying to prevent a witness from testifying regarding a murder. The charges were dropped, and Smallwood asserted that he “never did any of that.” But his just being around people embroiled in such unsavory stuff makes one wonder about the running back’s judgment.

We don’t know what led to McCalister’s dismissal or his suspension, but players don’t get kicked off SEC teams—particularly when they are tied for the team lead in sacks—for missing a class or two. And though Mills’ charge was eventually dismissed, after he completed a pretrial diversion program, the fact that he hit a woman hard enough to knock her out is especially concerning, in light of the recent problems the NFL has had with its players and domestic abuse. Mills was a four-year starter at LSU—no mean feat. But, in bringing a player to town with that sort of history, the Eagles organization is thumbing its nose at its female fans.

An NFL executive once told El Hombre, “Trouble graduates, too”—meaning that players who were problems in college often continue to misbehave in the professional ranks (see Aaron Hernandez and Johnny Trainwreck). Roseman may well think that these new players will conduct themselves properly when they join the team—and, as a result, the Eagles will get tremendous value for the late-round cost. But there’s a reason so many teams passed on the Big 12’s 2015 leading rusher, Florida’s sack leader and a four-year starter at LSU. This is where the Eagles franchise is right now. With little top-tier talent on the roster and an insufficient pool of draft picks to replenish the ranks, they had to look at players like the Terrible Trio. Who knows? Maybe the rookies will become exemplary citizens and outstanding players, vindicating Roseman. Or they could be disasters that hurt the franchise’s reputation in the community and flame out on the field. Picking players in the NFL level is difficult enough without adding a shaky off-field component to the equation. “We don’t think we brought any bad people in here,” Roseman said.

Davis would’ve certainly agreed.

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EL HOMBRE SEZ: Make that two victories for Haverford School’s lacrosse team over Malvern, following Friday’s 16-12 triumph. The Fords may have lost 22 seniors from last year’s team, but they’re rolling along this season, with a 14-4 record. … Hats off to Villanova’s women’s 4×1500 meter relay team, which surprised the field by winning the Championship of America event at the Penn Relays. It was an impressive win, made even more noteworthy by the team’s makeup: a sophomore (Clerigh Buttner) and three freshmen (Bella Burda, Sammy Bockoven and Nicole Hutchinson)

Eagles draft pick Wendell Smallwood

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