Should the Falcons Relax Their Character Standards?

USA TODAY Sports

There's a lot of talk as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches about Atlanta's commitment to avoiding players with character concerns. Is this approach worth it, or is it detrimental to the team in the long run?

The Atlanta Falcons are widely known for their commitment to building a roster of players without character or off-the-field concerns. As head coach Mike Smith is fond of saying, a team wins games int he locker room first, and filling that locker room with players with solid work ethic and minimal off-the-field distractions certainly can't hurt.

There are concerns, however, that Atlanta's commitment to character is detrimental on the field, and that the elimination of players from their draft board or free agency consideration based on off-the-field issues prevents them from adding players who might have a very positive impact for the team on the field.

It is important to have a solid core group of players in the locker room, particularly veterans who can set the tone for the team culture and help keep younger, less mature players in line. It's reasonable to think that the Falcons should have that in place at this time, and that taking a chance on some guys with minor character concerns in this year's draft and beyond would probably work out just fine.

It's worth noting that new assistant GM Scott Pioli was known for drafting team captains, as well, per Arrowhead Pride.

Now, there are players whose character concerns are too grave to justify taking the risk, like Taylor Lewan. He's currently facing charges for assault, and was involved in another situation that I don't care to rehash here. But there are other players--Washington tight end Austin Serferian-Jenkins, for example, who got one isolated DUI last year--who have pretty minimal transgressions on their record and would be worth at least considering.

The team Atlanta has built with their character standards in place is a team that's easy to root for in general. You have some isolated incidents here and there, but nothing really major. Obviously, it's important to keep off-the-field distractions to a minimum, and Arthur Blank certainly should be motivated to maintain a trouble-free team after all the Michael Vick shenanigans he had to deal with over Vick's Atlanta tenure, but maybe it's time for the team to trust their veteran leadership and relax the stringency of their character standards just a little.

What do you think about the Falcons' character standards? Is it time to think about relaxing them a little bit? Which players in this year's draft might they miss out on if they don't?

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