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May 01, 2016

Culture club no more? Roseman loads up on character risks late in draft

This time last year, “culture” was a buzzword around the NovaCare Complex. Chip Kelly wanted good players, but he also needed what he believed were good people. In his one year as head of personnel, the players that Kelly picked weren’t good enough, which is why he resides in the Bay Area now.

Enter Howie Roseman, who handled his one-year demotion as deftly as Frank Underwood. For obvious reasons, every move that the Eagles executive vice president of football operations makes will be read into a certain way and compared to Kelly’s 2015 reign of terror.

We run the risk of looking for something that isn’t really there by doing so, but man, it’s hard to imagine any of these Day 3 Eagles draft picks even being on the draft board this time last year. Kelly wasn’t in the “giving the benefit of the doubt” business:

•    Wendell Smallwood: Arrested for witness intimidation charges that related to a second-degree murder case, charges that were dropped.

•    Jalen Mills: Arrested for second-degree battery of a woman, a charge that was dismissed.

•    Alex McCalister: Dismissed from Florida’s team in December for an unspecified violation of team rules.

I won’t pretend to know anything about these guys besides what I read in a few online articles, but like the rest of the NFL, the Eagles do background research on potential draft picks. The league can be risk-averse when it comes to perceived character issues — Laremy Tunsil just lost $8 million because some sick person hacked his phone and posted a video of something that is legal in parts of the country — but back in charge, Roseman was comfortable adding Smallwood, Mills, and McCalister into the fold.

From what it seems, Roseman believes in personal growth much more than the guy he initially lost a power struggle to.

“What we hope is that they’re good people and that they just made mistakes like we all do,” Roseman said. “And that we develop them and that going forward, this is just part of their history and something they learn from.”

When it comes to character, Roseman emphasized the importance of area scouts gathering the necessary information and bringing it back to the front office. Then everyone makes a decision on whether or not they’re comfortable with drafting that certain player.

In Tunsil’s case, teams shied away from spending a high first-round pick (no pun intended), while Roseman decided to load up on character risks in the fifth round or later. That said, due to Roseman’s draft strategy, these were important picks: The Eagles selected only one player between Carson Wentz and Smallwood. They need to hit on some of these guys.

“At some point, the amount of resources you’re putting into a guy, you’re weighing the risk/reward in those situations,” Roseman said. “We don’t feel like we brought any bad people in here. We feel like some of them may have made mistakes, but they’re not bad people.”

Howie Roseman on Off-field issues from Rich Hofmann on Vimeo.

Forget the obvious comparison to Kelly for a minute. Roseman was asked on Saturday if his decision making represented a change in philosophy from the P.C. (Pre-Chip) era that now seems so, so long ago.

“I’d say we did give guys second chances,” Roseman said. “Mike Vick, certainly a guy we gave a second chance to. Bringing T.O. here, who had some things. DeSean, coming out, people felt like he had some character concerns. We just feel like when we look back, we have to get real comfortable with [character].”

Mills and McCalister represent a couple of players that are generally thought to be good value in the seventh round. Roseman wouldn’t speculate about what other teams were thinking, but if you are confident that there won’t be any more off-field issues, scooping up these players late in the draft can be an advantage.

Roseman just presided over one of the riskier drafts in recent memory. Moving forward, he knows that he’s responsible any off-field issues.

“I think it’s a huge wake-up call for these guys these guys to understand that you made one mistake,” Roseman said. “The second one, now this is your job, this is your livelihood. To be frank, it’s all of our livelihoods.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann