The 2015 NFL Draft season is in full swing, and the wrap of the NFL Combine has mock draft season moving into overdrive. Over the last few weeks, the San Francisco 49ers have frequently been connected with Oklahoma/Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He had a solid Combine, and that is seemingly solidifying him in the first round, at least among mock drafters.
Friend of the site, Matt Miller put together a 2-round NFL mock draft over at Bleacher Report. With pick No. 15, he has the 49ers selecting DGB. In discussing the pick, Miller said the following about the off-field side of things:
I wouldn't draft troubled Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the first round on Feb. 24 (my grade on him is still pending), but I'm willing to bet some NFL team will. And the San Francisco 49ers have a habit of accepting off-field issues for on-field results. That perfectly sums up DGB, a player who would easily be in my top 10 players if not for his checkered past.
Ever since the 49ers "parted ways" with Jim Harbaugh, the word classy has become a bit of a running joke among 49ers fans. Here is Jed York's class comment in the season-ending press conference:
Our mission is very simple: the San Francisco 49ers win with class. We haven't won, and I don't think we've conducted ourselves with the level of class that I expect of our organization. We've had off-the-field issues. That's going to happen in sports. The level that it's happened here is not unacceptable ...
And Ann, you asked about that with off-the-field stuff. There were things that in conversations that we had, I know what my gut was and we had conversations and we did things that probably doesn't gel well with who I am. I would rather do the things that we need to but stay at a level of class that I expect of the San Francisco 49ers. And this isn't shooting at Jim and saying, ‘Well, Jim made all these decisions.' I want you to clearly hear that. I'm not saying that. If you want to make a decision on things that you're talking about like [former 49ers defensive tackle] Ray McDonald - Ray McDonald was ultimately my decision to not do anything. It was. When his first issue came up, he was not charged with anything. We sat down with Ray and said, ‘Ray, whether you were guilty or not, you can't put yourself in these types of positions.' And very shortly after that he did that again. You need to make sure people are accountable. That's up to me. We might not win the Super Bowl every year, but we can conduct ourselves with class. And we can conduct ourselves in a way that makes me proud. I'll put that on me ...
He was eventually asked specifically what he meant when he said winning with class. He described it as follows:
I think class, I understand that there will be off-the-field issues. But, we need to make sure that, as an organization, we're helping our guys. Seeing our guys today and seeing some of the guys, I want to make sure that our players-if you play into your thirties you're pretty lucky. If you play into your forties, you're probably a kicker. I want to make sure that our guys have a great career and a great life after football. I want to make sure that we don't just ask them to go out and win football games for us. We have our team make the community a better place. We have our guys embrace the community and understand what it means to be a San Francisco 49er. And our guys, I want them to be successful outside of this game. I think that's one of the things that Bill Walsh did better than probably any other coach. You look at the successful players that he had on the field, and look at how successful they've been off the field. He was a great mentor to them, and he was a great teacher to them both on and off the field. And that's really important to me in the greater scope and greater scheme of things.
We have had plenty of snarky use of "classy", but we have not really had much specific discussion about what we think York actually means with regard to classy. If the 49ers draft DGB, plenty of fans will be excited, while others will judge the decision based on the off-field issues. And of course, there will be plenty of columns calling the 49ers hypocrites. I almost want to see the 49ers draft DGB, just so we can set an over/under for the number of columns that include the word "class" or "classy" in the headline and lede.
York threw out some cliches and of course repeatedly referenced Bill Walsh in his press conference. He did not really set a specific standard for what constitutes classy, and I am not really surprised by that. It's not exactly a simple explanation. Of course, given how things played out with Ray McDonald, and the various off-field issues the 49ers have dealt with over the last year, Jed's choice of comments put himself squarely in the cross-hairs for this discussion.
I don't think the 49ers attempts at "class" preclude them from drafting players with troubled history. The 49ers have had plenty of players with red flags that turned out perfectly fine. Tarell Brown was arrested for unlawful possession of a gun. NaVorro Bowman reportedly had some red flags due to college issues, although I did not see much clarification on what those issues actually were.
DGB has twice been arrested for marijuana possession (second arrest saw charge dismissed), and also was allegedly involved in (but never arrested or charged for) an incident in which he forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female occupant "causing her to fall down at least four stairs." The incident report apparently mentions that DGB also may have "drug" his girlfriend "out by and the neck and hurt" her "too." That latter portion is based on texts from the girlfriend.
There was no arrest for the apartment incident. For some that means they can assume nothing happened, and sufficiently justify a pick on character grounds. No arrest does not mean nothing occurred, but unfortunately it creates a significant gray area. None of us can say whether he is a "bad person", an "idiot", and/or just a guy who made a few bad decisions. The 49ers met with DGB in Indianapolis, and I have to think they spent some time discussing these incidents.
I am inclined to think the 49ers would be a little bit gun-shy about using a first round pick on a player with these kind of red flags. And yet, Trent Baalke has taken such risks before, and Jed York did not foreclose these kinds of picks entirely. Well, he did not publicly foreclose such picks. We'll potentially find out more about the 49ers strategy when late April gets here. In the meantime, we're left to wonder what the heck it all means.