The NFL has reportedly taken a stand regarding which collegiate players will be eligible to attend their annual scouting combine. While Joe Mixon is the name player, and Ismael Zamora the only other player affected in 2017, the new policy is reportedly quite robust. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network has reported that no player who has been convicted of violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence or sexual offenses will be allowed at the Combine. Should the policy stay in place it will have a large impact on future Combines, albeit mostly in the form of good publicity.
Every year dozens of players are drafted that do not attend the Combine. Dozens more are signed as undrafted free agents by NFL teams. Mixon will certainly be drafted, and Zamora will very likely be signed, so the punishment is far from a permanent ban on playing on the NFL. It will, however, force teams to do more due diligence before drafting the affected players. As Tyreek Hill proved in 2016, NFL teams are willing to be very forgiving of talented players. One current General Manager even once remarked to a group of NFL media types that ‘if Hannibal Lecter could play at a high level, we’d call what he did an eating disorder and draft him.’
Ultimately the league finds itself in a difficult position. It is not their place to punish players for transgressions committed before they joined the league. The teams will not allow talented players that have committed heinous crimes to hit the streets if they can help a team get better. The NFL cannot afford to appear indifferent to the many victims of their players. Taking a public stand that makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for players convicted of certain crimes while in college, is probably the best the league can do right now. Making sure they meet expectations at their pro-day workouts is going to be the best that Joe Mixon Ismael Zamora can do.
**** It is also worth noting that Alabama offensive tackle, and potential first round selection, Cam Robinson was arrested for possession of a hand gun last off season. The league stance on a highly rated player like Robonson vs. a mid round selection like Mixon or a borderline player like Zamora will be a telling look into the motivations of the league.