Having posted the interview with BJ, I think it's time to evaluate this problem child. This was my highest profile interview to date, and I was understandably very excited about the prospect of Raji in Teal. I had visions of Stroud and Big John running through my head, and Chris and I discussed the possibility he would provide to return our beloved defense to its previous form.
However, all those dreams were smashed when I actually interviewed the kid. I've interviewed 7 or 8 prospects for the NFL draft this year, all provided to me by the NFL Draft website I write for. I was given this interview specifically because I don't ask "fluff" questions, as the guy put it. That being said, this was perhaps the worst interview I've had, and it convinced me more than ever that BJ is trouble.
This is not the conclusion I wanted to come to. I, like many of you, wanted BJ to be our answer to stopping the run. His talent level seems to warrant a top-ten pick, however, I don't see the intangibles a player needs to succeed at the next level. The interview lasted approximately 10-12 minutes, and in that time period, BJ lost his cool.
Could there be an excuse? Sure! Maybe it was a bad time for an interview, maybe he got stung by a wasp, maybe McDonald's was out of "all white-meat Mcnuggets". I don't know the answer, but I'll tell you this much, if his past was one of volunteering in the community, working hard in school, or going on mission trips for his church, then I would totally disregard an outburst like the one I witnessed on the phone. However, his past is one of physically accosting another player on the field, missing eligibility due to scholastic problems, and having weight control issues. The attack of the Central Michigan player in 2006 shows a lack of impulse control, a'la Pacman Jones. The outburst on the phone is another example of poor impulse control, albeit to a lesser extent. If you can't control yourself during an interview you agreed to do, at a time you determined, what does that say about you? This is especially true when the person you talking to has a tape recorder.
Another issue I have with Raji was how disingenuous I felt he was throughout the interview. I tried to focus extensively on his character, as his playing ability isn't really questioned. These guys are so well coached that you have to try to think of creative ways to get your questions answered. Instead of asking if he's a NT or a DT, ask if he has experience playing in a two-gap scheme. His experience playing two-gap is very limited, so he may not be an effective NT at the next level. He will at least require some experience and coaching at the NT position before he will be a dominant force.
To determine how a player prepares, give him options. Don't just say, "how often do you watch film?" Ask him his favorite aspect of game preparation. He said going through the motions. Does that sound like the answer of a hard worker? Not to me it doesn't. To measure his forethought, ask him what it would take to be a hall of fame player, and what would make his career a success in his mind. BJ declined to answer both those questions, he obviously hasn't thought about what it will take to have long-term success in the NFL, or even what long-term success looks like to him. Ask Connor Barwin or Clay Matthews that same question, and I bet you'd get an in-depth answer. Alas, BJ Raji is no Connor Barwin.
To find out if he takes responsibility for his actions, ask him if he feels it was his fault he missed a year of eligibility. Apparently, it's the responsibility of the school to make sure BJ was registered for the right classes. I had hoped he would say that it was ultimately his mistake, and that he takes full responsibility for his missed year of eligibility. Instead, he chose to deflect part of the blame away from himself.
He clearly doesn't have his head in the right place, and a professional football team is not the place to try to learn to get yourself right. I'm sure he'll instantly become a composed, responsible, upstanding citizen as soon as he signs his 30 million dollar contract, just like Jerry Porter instantly changed once he got paid... Right?
BJ is trouble, and I don't see Gene picking him with the #8 selection, that's for sure. There was such a stark contrast between interviewing Raji, and interviewing Barwin. Both are first round prospects, however, only one is the type of cat you want on your squad, while the other is clearly more interested in himself than he is his team/future.