Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn all had their season – and likely their careers – officially come to a close with the ruling that they had been “permanently suspended” from the North Carolina football program.
All three have a future in the NFL, so the only question now is: how does this ruling effect their draft stock?
Simply put, it only hurts their stock if they it.
NFL teams don’t care about eligibility concerns. These players aren’t in trouble with the law and they haven’t done anything that would violate the league’s personal conduct policy.
That said, the players need to be prepared to speak openly about their suspensions and be honest about everything they did to violate NCAA rules. Just because teams aren’t concerned with what happened doesn’t mean they won’t ask questions about it. The teams will view it as a chance to see how these guys hold up under pressure. If they conduct themselves in a professional manor, it could actually work in their favor if teams come away impressed with their maturity.
While the suspensions don’t hurt them, they did miss out on an opportunity to improve their stock. Quinn already looks like a top-10 pick, and should be considered a 1st-round lock. However, Austin and Little had a lot more to prove this season.
Austin probably had the most to gain by playing in 2010. He returned for his senior year in hopes of having a Ndamukong Suh-like season, which undoubtedly would have shot him up draft boards. Instead, teams are left with game footage of him from his junior year where he looks good, but somewhat inconsistent. He definitely has the potential of a top-10 pick, but he has never shown that ability on the field over the course of a full season. His suspension means he misses out on that opportunity.
One other aspect of this that teams will be interested in is how the players spent their year away from football. The NFL combine now has increased importance for these three, as they must prove that they maintained their peak physical condition on their own. Once again, this could work in their favor. If a player is self-motivated enough to stay in shape while in college and away from the football field, teams will come away impressed.