Will suspensions hamper draft stock of Texas Tech’s Vasher, LSU’s Charles?

2020 NFL draft
2020 NFL draft

LSU starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles and Texas Tech wide receiver T.J. Vasher, both juniors, entered their seasons as potential top-50 players, should either decide to enter the 2020 NFL draft.

Instead, the two missed a combined eight games this season due to suspensions by their respective teams. Charles (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) missed six games this season due to “coach’s decisions,” while Vasher (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) missed two games, suited up for a third but didn’t play, and was held out of part of another game for a violation of team rules.

The exact causes of those suspensions are unknown.

It’s also unknown how big of an impact those suspensions will have on Charles’ and Vasher’s decisions to turn pro or how far they might fall in the draft.

Reason for suspension important in draft standing

Generally speaking, players who are suspended in college often face an uphill battle in the draft. Of course, what round they are drafted also depends greatly on the reasons behind the suspensions.

For example, all players are drug tested at the Combine. If that player fails a drug test – even if that player has never been suspended in college, ala Randy Gregory in 2015 – then that player automatically enters into Stage 1 of the NFL’s drug intervention program.

Gregory, a former pass rusher out of Nebraska, was once thought to be a high first-rounder before he failed a drug test at the Combine. Gregory then revealed that he had failed two drug tests while at Nebraska, although he was never suspended.

As expected, Gregory fell out of the first round, landing with Dallas in the second round. He’s currently

suspended indefinitely for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Then there’s the case of former Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who is enjoying a stellar rookie season with the New York Giants. Lawrence (and two of his teammates) missed last year’s Playoff Series after he failed a drug test for the performance-enhancing drug ostarine.

Lawrence strongly denied knowledge of ever taking the drug or any supplement that contained it, and Clemson backed him.

Lawrence then passed his drug test at the Combine, which meant he didn’t enter the league already in Stage 1. The Giants wound up taking Lawrence in the first round.

Domestic violence taken seriously

These days, teams care far more about a college player’s past history with domestic violence and other severe criminal acts, Mike Freeman of the Bleacher Report wrote in 2018.

“We just don’t care as much about marijuana as we used to,” one longtime AFC team official said, via the Bleacher Report.

Crimes like domestic violence can have a much bigger impact on a player’s draft prospects, especially now as the league is taking those issues more seriously than it has in years past.

Take the case of former Baylor edge rusher Shawn Oakman. The massive lineman was seen as a top-50 prospect his junior and senior years, with some analysts saying he could go in the first round.

Instead, Oakman was accused of sexual assault weeks before the 2015 draft. That allegation, coupled with prior assault allegations, forced teams to take Oakman off their draft boards, and he went undrafted that year.

He was found not guilty of sexual assault in February 2019.

Oakman still has not found his way to an NFL roster, as his case wasn’t resolved until four years later. These days, the 6-foot-9, 280-pound defensive lineman is preparing for his season with Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL after he was drafted in October.

Where will Charles, Vasher go in the draft?

A team can suspend a player for a variety of reasons, ranging from missed team meetings and/or curfews, to poor grades to off-field incidents. Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings, for example, is suspended for the first half of the Gator Bowl after incurring a flagrant personal foul against Vanderbilt. Jennings was kicked off the team in 2017 after a profanity-laced tirade against the coaching staff on social media, but he later rejoined the team following a coaching change.

The reasons behind Charles’ and Vasher’s suspensions remain a mystery.

However, both present unique traits that make them intriguing prospects.

Thanks to his strength, arm length, leg drive and explosion off the line of scrimmage, Charles has been called LSU’s “best offensive lineman since La’el Collins.”

He also has some position flexibility, as Charles has started at left tackle, left guard and right tackle.

Here’s what LSU coach Ed Orgeron said about Charles back in May:

Texas Tech, meanwhile, entered the season with a new head coach (Matt Wells), then suffered through quarterback injuries and inconsistencies.

Still, Vasher was expected to make a big jump in production this season. Instead, he finished with 42 receptions for 515 yards and 6 touchdowns.

However, his size alone, coupled with his ability to make the spectacular catch and his overall catch radius, automatically makes him a size mismatch at the next level. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network said he was told that Vasher is leaning toward entering the draft.

“T.J. Vasher is another lanky prospect, as he’s a tall receiver with sure hands,” Pauline wrote before the seasons started. “While he wins out for the contested throw, Vasher shows little in the way of quickness or speed in his game, which is a red flag.”

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