The Jets, Giants and Red Flags in the Draft

Jets, Giants start delving into draft prospects with checkered pasts at the Senior Bowl

A large number of draft hopefuls have gathered in Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl and that means a large number of football coaches and executives are in town as well. 

Giants G.M. Jerry Reese is one of those executives and he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. Given the fact that he was scouting college talent, it's no surprise that one of the questions had to do with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

Reese said it is too early in the process to know whether Te'o's draft status will be affected by the revelation of the fake girlfriend hoax Te'o and the media used as inspiration for Notre Dame's undefeated regular season. It seems hard to believe that it would reflect well on Te'o regardless of his involvement, but there's little doubt that someone's going to take him come the draft. 

The same is likely true of Tyrann Mathieu, the former LSU cornerback/kick returner known as the Honey Badger. Marijuana use led to Mathieu's dismissal from the school before the start of last season, but Mathieu was a Heisman runner-up in 2011 and his talent is obvious to anyone who has ever seen him play. 

The Post reports that the Jets have spoken to Mathieu in Mobile, where he's trying to meet with teams since he's barred from taking part in the Senior Bowl. In Mathieu and Te'o, the Jets and Giants (and 30 other teams) have two players of obvious talent with risk that's a bit larger than the one you're taking any time you decide to commit to a kid just out of college. 

The big question for the Jets is whether or not talent is going to be enough to override other concerns given everything else floating around the organization right now. There's always been a place for guys with checkered pasts on Rex Ryan's teams, but the Jets have to be cognizant of the way they're viewed by the general public right now. 

If they have the confidence of their convictions, they'll ignore the circus commentary that they know is coming and pick any player they believe will help their team without getting into trouble that keeps him from being on the field. That's a big if, given owner Woody Johnson's preposterous claim this week that he was "forced" into the Tim Tebow trade. 

For a team with as little talent as the Jets have right now, though, it's hard to argue in favor of taking risky players with a top pick. Missing on a top 10 pick would be disastrous unless the Jets want to pick even higher than ninth in the coming years. 

A bit later in the draft, though? That's a very different computation and one that the Jets should think about long and hard as the draft gets closer. 

The shortest route back to respectability for the Jets is an immediate infusion of talent and that's something that would be aided greatly by landing an contributor who became available unexpectedly. Any team would be silly not to consider grabbing players who fall to them under such circumstances and the Jets can't let a potential backlash get in their way. 

The same is true for the Giants. They're always quick to point out the ways that they are a model franchise and rarely wind up with anything close to a scandal involving their players, but they've never shied away from character risks in the past. 

Ahmad Bradshaw, Mario Manningham and Marvin Austin all came to the team despite red flags on their resumes from the college ranks while David Diehl, Will Hill and others have been welcomed back to the team after running afoul of the law or the league. 

The chance to get a premium talent at less than a premium draft spot is a good way for the Giants to put themselves back into the playoff mix, especially when we're talking about players who play spots of need for the team like Mathieu and Te'o. That's not to say that they should draft them come hell or high water, but it's not something that should be dismissed out of hand. 

We're three months away from finding out whether either team takes the plunge. You can bet that plenty of people will share their thoughts on the topic between now and then, but we won't know how much the Jets and Giants are willing to risk until its their turn to make a selection. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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