Judging prospects with off-field baggage

Seattle Seahawks fans know their team once avoided at almost any cost NFL draft prospects with known issues reflecting poorly on the players' character.

That was the emphasis of former general manager Tim Ruskell, who drove home the message in a letter he sent to players following his 2005 hiring.

"We must be held accountable for our own actions, year round," the letter read.

A study conducted by a Hamilton College economics student shows Ruskell backed up his words. The study covered 2005-09, the years Ruskell worked for Seattle, and it identified the Seahawks as the only team to draft no players with known off-field issues (suspensions, arrests, etc.).

The NFC West-rival Arizona Cardinals used a league-high 27 percent of their draft choices on such players during the period in question, the study found. The San Francisco 49ers ranked tied for third at 20 percent.

Turns out the Cardinals and 49ers might have had the right idea. Players with known off-field issues were drafted lower than prospects with otherwise similar credentials, but some were more productive in the NFL, on average.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and receiver Michael Floyd are among the high-profile 2012 draft prospects with off-field baggage from their college days.

The study, though interesting, doesn't necessarily apply direction to current NFC West teams. Every team in the division has turned over its coaching staff since 2005.

Teams are best off using their judgment on a case-by-case basis, in my view. Ruling out all players with off-field incidents in their past would diminish the talent pool unnecessarily.

John Schneider, the Seahawks' current GM, said Thursday he would look more harshly upon some off-field transgressions, including those involving domestic violence against women.