Chiefs gamble on trio of players with background questions
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs have put as much faith in their off-the-field detective work as their between-the-lines scouting the past few years, and the result has been draft gems such as Marcus Peters.
They hope similar research - and gambling - pays off this year.
The Chiefs spent a third-round pick on a cornerback who missed an entire season for violating Notre Dame's honor code. They used a fourth-rounder on a wide receiver suspended four times at Florida for drugs and other violations. In the fifth round came a speedy wide receiver that was booted out of Oklahoma State after pleading guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. In the sixth, a linebacker out of Virginia Tech once charged with larceny and suspended for bumping into an official.
All those picks were made in the 36 hours after Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, in town for the draft, told reporters that ''character, first of all, is a very important quality.''
''You want to have as many high-character guys as you can in your locker room,'' he said. ''I think we're very fortunate to have a truly outstanding locker room in regard to that point.''
The Chiefs leaned on that locker-room leadership with Peters, who had been kicked out of Washington's program after repeated run-ins with his coach. The Chiefs spent countless hours learning the back story, and were confident enough in their assessment of his character that they took him in the first round.
Not only was he a role model last season, he was also the defensive rookie of the year.
''Not everybody is going to be the kind of leader that you would like, that you draft,'' Hunt said, ''but certainly you want the majority of the guys to be like that.''
Not all those picks this year are quite as shaky as they appear on the surface.
KeiVarae Russell was a standout cornerback for the Fighting Irish before academic issues threatened to sideline his career. But his suspension might have been merely a one-game penalty at schools with less rigid standards, and Russell owned his mistakes by taking junior college classes rather than transferring.
The Chiefs were impressed that he returned to Notre Dame, earned his starting job back last season and is on track to become the first person from his family to graduate from college.
''Obviously with something like that, you are in a time that you are stuck in kind of a deep, darkness kind of thing. Thinking about, `What do I do here?'' Russell said. ''I went to school still, I had a job. I was still taking classes. ... It was showing that I made a mistake and I wanted to come back.''
The Chiefs were just as confident that Russell had matured as they were that Demarcus Robinson, who spent 45 days in a drug treatment facility as a freshman, had gotten past his problems.
The former Gators wide receiver was suspended three times that year, but then stayed out of trouble - Robinson says he hasn't touched drugs since - until a one-game suspension this past season.
That was for meeting with a marketing rep, and Robinson was welcomed back by his teammates.
''There were a lot of questions, a lot of doubts. I just had to let everyone know that was in the past,'' he said. ''That was my freshman year and I'm a changed guy.''
It took the Chiefs spending countless hours with Russell in Florida, along with visits with coaches and family members, before walking away confident that he had gotten past it.
''You go into the school, talk to the staff, see how he's grown,'' Chiefs scout Ryne Nutt said. ''We feel like he's matured, like he's been humbled. The growth in the kid kind of sold himself.''
Russell and Robinson were relatively easy sells compared to Tyreek Hill.
The speedster was dismissed from Oklahoma State's program in December 2014 after he was accused of domestic violence. Hill wound up pleading guilty last year to assault and battery by strangulation and was sentenced to three years of probation, anger management courses and a program for domestic abusers.
It was precisely the kind of incident that has given the NFL a black eye in recent years.
''He's a guy that had an issue in the past,'' Nutt said. ''We've done the research on it and from that, I think (general manager) John (Dorsey) was comfortable enough to take the kid.''
Dorsey was not available to discuss the selection until his post-draft availability Monday.
Hill spent time at Garden City Community College before joining the Cowboys, and wound up finishing his career at West Alabama. He ran a 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds as his pro day - world-class speed by just about any measure - and could turn out to be a standout kick and punt returner.
Assuming he stays out of trouble, of course.
Like many others in recent years, it's a gamble the Chiefs were willing to take.
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