Jacksonville Jaguars 1st-round wide receiver Justin Blackmon was arrested for a DUI on Sunday morning in Stillwater, Ok. It made him the first high-profile pick from the 2012 NFL Draft to run afoul of law. Blackmon was one of several prospects on the St. Louis Rams' radar in April, and this news certainly has everyone exhaling in hindsight. Aside from that, it has others wondering about the Rams' decision to draft players with off-field concerns this year and how they might keep those players on the right path.
Head coach Jeff Fisher has talked about it in the month since the draft. The staff is working closely with 2nd-round pick Janoris Jenkins, who had a handful of pot infractions as a college player, and others to make the transition to life in the pros. Retired defensive tackle La'Roi Glover is also on the Rams' staff as the director of player programs.
Organizational support for young players allows teams to take a few more risks in the draft. It also helps save the team headaches down the road, keeping players focused on being pros rather than lured back into the pitfalls of campus life.
A player's agent also has a role, as pointed out agent Greg Linton on Twitter following the news of Blackmon's arrest.
In early April, Jenkins dropped his representation at CAA and super agent Ben Dogra. The media went nuts, citing rumors that CAA dropped him and pointing to the incident as more evidence that the cornerback was trouble. The reality was far different, and had much to do with Jenkins' desire to change his reputation as much as his representation.
Jenkins' mentor Sandy Cornelio explained the decision to drop CAA for Malik Shareef. In an April 7 story from NFL.com:
"The only reason we decided to move on is because they're too big," said Cornelio. "We weren't getting personal attention, so we decided to move on. That was it. (Dogra) told us that he understood and he would help in any way he could. At the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that the kid drafts himself by his performance.
"We just thought we needed someone who could give us more personal time. His image has been tarnished already, and we don't want it to keep getting tarnished because people are taking shots at him because he's in a vulnerable position. Because we moved on from this agent, and we tried to do it the right way, now people are taking shots."
Making the transition from campus to the NFL is challenging for any twenty-something kid. How manage that change is the key.