During the 2011 NFL offseason the Denver Broncos were eagerly scouting prospects to select with their second pick of the upcoming NFL Draft held at the end of April.
Finishing an abysmal 4-12 and last in their division with a horrific defensive unit that ranked dead last in most yards allowed and points allowed per game with 390.8 yards and 29.4 points respectively. The entire Denver brass had a sickly feeling and knew they needed to seek urgent care for their upset stomachs, headaches, and multitude of restless nights.
The Broncos were in a brilliant situation regarding the draft. Selecting second overall in a draft class with vast defensive talent. NFL analysts spoke for hours on which direction they predicted the Broncos would pursue.
There was impeccable talent at the cornerback position with Patrick Peterson who could have the potential to outperform guaranteed Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, powerful defensive tackle out of Alabama who recently won MVP of the National Championship Marcell Dareus, or linebacker Von Miller who won the Dick Butkus Award given yearly to the best linebacker in the nation!
Miller ultimately won the vote to provide the quick relief for the stomach aches of Bronco fans everywhere. Miller wound up earning the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy, 2nd Team All-Pro, and a Pro Bowl selection his rookie year.
Following a revamped defense, the Broncos successfully pursued free agent quarterback Peyton Manning and declared to everyone in the league that the Broncos are gunning for the Super Bowl.
The 2012 season ended with a disappointing playoff loss to the eventual champions the Baltimore Ravens. The famed “Orange Crush” defense however, was back!
Led by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and leaders on the field such as Champ Bailey and Von Miller the Broncos finished 2nd overall in least amount of yards allowed per game (290.8), tied for the most sacks in the league with 51, and allowed the fourth lowest amount of points per game with 18.1.
The Broncos front office was surely disgusted with their recent tumble in their last game of the 2012 season, yet they were more than satisfied with the defensive talent on the team.
That was until a fiasco that resulted in the loss of star player Elvis Dumervil.
As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, star linebacker and cornerstone of the defense, Von Miller was recently suspended for six games this season as a result of abusing the league’s substance abuse policy.
Six-games is an odd number for a suspension. Typically most players only get suspended for a quarter of the season. However, since Von Miller failed a drug test during his rookie season he entered into the NFL’s Intervention Program which consists of three stages.
The first stage consists of 90 days of random drug tests,and a fine comes along as part of the punishment. Players move on to the next stage either after they pass ninety days without a drug test or if they test positive, whichever happens first.
Stage two consists of up to ten random drug tests a month for two seasons. If players successfully finish their two years under stage two without a positive test they leave the program. If they test positive during stage two they receive fines for one-fourth of their yearly salary if it is their first violation then suspended for six games if their second violation is also in stage two.
Unlike the other two stages, stage three never ends. It involves up to ten drug tests a month for the rest of their career. If a player fails any test they become banished from the league for an entire season.
To sum all of that up, if Von Miller has one more violation, he will be suspended for an entire season.
That ill feeling is slowly creeping up on Denver Bronco fans everywhere once again.
How could someone so talented make such a childish action multiple times?
A better question is how did this error in judgment fly over the Denver scouting staff in the offseason of 2011?
The process leading up to the NFL Draft involves hundreds of hours of interviews and evaluation. From taking measurements of a players’ hand size to handing out 400 question personality tests, it is not a simple process.
One of the most notable events is the NFL Combine which measures the athletic skill of players. Von Miller was a stud during the 2011 Combine finishing with a 4.42 forty-yard dash, a thirty-seven inch vertical jump, 126-inch broad jump, and a record time of 6.7 seconds during the three-cone drill.
Another popular method of the evaluation process is the Wonderlic test.
The Wonderlic is similar to an IQ test. It involves fifty questions over twelve minutes. Many teams use the results because it corresponds to the ability that a player has to absorb plays, audible, and formations.
Out of fifty possible, Miller scored a ten.
Perhaps the Wonderlic was a red flag for scouts that players might be more inclined to fail drug tests later in their career, however it has little impact on their performance on the field as other All-Pro players such as Darrelle Revis and A.J. Green both scored a 9.
One thing is for certain, an upgrade needs to better test players’ personality so that we can best predict how they will behave in the NFL.
Luckily, there is a new test that players are taking now. The 2013 draft class was the first class to take the 60-minute computerized test, known as the Player Development Test.
The Player Development Test measures learning styles, aspiration levels, decision-making skills, response to high pressure situations and the core intellect.
This will help teams in some ways. For example, this will allow teams to have a greater idea of how to efficiently instruct a player, how they will mesh with the current chemistry of a team and how the player becomes motivated – will they stop trying after signing a stellar contract, are they ultimately trying to find fame or are they truly working to better themselves? All of which have very different outputs on the field and off of it.
The 2013 NFL season will start with Von on the bench. Nothing will change that.
All eyes will stay on the Denver Broncos this year. Widely regarded prior to the Miller suspension as Super Bowl contenders, it remains uncertain how they will do with the cornerstone of their defense on the sideline.
In the meantime Denver fans all over are feeling queasy just thinking about how their defense will be able to stop superstars such as Tom Brady, Ray Rice, and Eli Manning.
Denver executives best be utilizing the new Player Development Test to ease their anxiety and to reassure fans that they won’t draft another player who doesn’t know how to properly give a urine sample.