The most physically gifted wide receiver might be available when the Baltimore Ravens are on the clock in the first round. Dorial Green-Beckham, who has been described by some as the next Calvin Johnson, could slide down to the Ravens at the No. 26 pick.
There's just one problem: Green-Beckham was linked to domestic violence, a hot-button issue that for the past year has put the Ravens on the wrong side of the cause against the abuse of women.
Is the thought of Green-Beckham catching clutch touchdown passes from Joe Flacco too enticing to pass up? Or will the potential negative backlash preclude the Ravens from taking a chance on someone who could become the franchise's first bona fide No. 1 wide receiver?
How domestic violence influences the plans for NFL teams, especially the Ravens, is a major storyline in this year's draft. It's been 53 weeks since running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancee (now his wife) in an Atlantic City elevator, and at the NFL combine on Wednesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about the heightened awareness of domestic violence in football.
"The takeaway for me personally, and I would say for really the league and the Ravens generally, is that this is a societal issue," Harbaugh said. "This is really important. We all learned a lot about it. It’s something that we need to take very seriously, not that we didn’t before. But when you learn more about something and realize the implications of it, we all have a chance -- the NFL especially, our team and our organization -- to get out in front of it and help. We did our best through the whole process, and we can do a lot better going forward because we know more now.”
There are other players in this draft with domestic violence allegations in their past -- Florida State running back Karlos Williams and Michigan defensive end Frank Clark -- whose stock will be hurt by character concerns. But no player will test each team's stance on this issue more than Green-Beckham.
He has all the tools to be a dominant NFL receiver. Given his outstanding combination of height, athleticism, straight-line speed and ball skills, he's the most talented pass-catcher in this year's draft.
Perhaps the only reason Beckham-Green will not be selected in the top 10 is because his skills on the field are matched by the red flags off it. He was arrested twice on marijuana charges and was kicked out of Missouri's football program amid accusations of assault against women.
Last April, an 18-year-old Missouri student told police that Green-Beckham forced his way into her apartment at 2:30 a.m. and pushed the woman down a set of stairs while looking for his girlfriend, the alleged victim's roommate. Police closed the case without an arrest, primarily because of reluctant witnesses who fear retaliation and harassment for bringing a criminal complaint.
Police also were investigating the incident for possible domestic abuse after the athlete's girlfriend said in one of the text messages to her injured friend that he dragged her from the apartment by the neck.
"All the decisions I made, I wish I could take it back," Green-Beckham told reporters at the combine Thursday. ''It happened. I was young. I made mistakes. I understand that. I know what’s at stake. I know what type of person I am. I understand what the NFL is looking for [from] me as a person.''
History has shown that talented but troubled receivers such as Randy Moss and Dez Bryant fell to the bottom half of the first round before immediately becoming Pro Bowl playmakers. But there have been other instances, such as with Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon, where past problems were a precursor to repeated offenses and suspensions.
The Ravens will do their typical legwork on the draft prospects, which includes a 15-minute meeting at the combine. Ravens scouts talk to coaches and trainers. They've even been known to interview secretaries and others inside college football programs to get a better handle on a player's character.
“I’d be hard-pressed to know how we can look at it any closer than what we have. I don’t know what closer would be, especially legally,” Harbaugh said. “There is only so much that you can do in terms of digging into people’s background and being respectful of privacy. I know we’ve always done a great job of that, learning as much as we can about the player."
There is a chance that Green-Beckham will be selected before the Ravens pick in the first round. If he is available, the Ravens have to weigh the risk of another Ray Rice scandal against the reward of landing a game-changer for their offense.