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NFL Combine 2011: Ryan Mallett Faces Rumors Of Drug Use, Character Questions

The NFL Combine is a place for the airing of dirty laundry for many of the top NFL Draft prospects. If there's a skeleton in the closet or a dirty little secret, you can bet teams will poke, prod and ask about it. For Ryan Mallett, that means questions about a public intoxication citation and rumors of drug use that have never be substantiated.

Fair or not, Mallett is facing a barrage of questions, both by the media and by NFL teams, about whispers of drug use. He repeatedly shook off questions about the topic while refusing to answer the media's queries. But when one-on-one with coaches and general managers, Mallett will have to be candid and open, especially if he expects a team to spend a first-round pick on him.

The whispers about off-field and attitude problems, combine with his impressive physical tools, bring to mind a familiar comparison to those of us in the Northwest. Ryan Leaf's name has been bandied about in comparison to Mallett, and it's a link that makes sense in many ways. Leaf, like Mallett, had an impressive arm and the ability to make every throw a quarterback has to. Though Leaf had an NFL-ready body, his mind wasn't there, and his immaturity was ultimately his downfall.

The rest, as we know, is history. Leaf was taken as the No. 2 overall pick in 1998 NFL Draft and busted out of the league after a series of embarrassing off-field incidents with the San Diego Chargers.

Could Mallett, who cannot seem to shake questions about his maturity and character, follow the same path? Though he won't be taken as high as Leaf was, the risk associated with taking Mallett in the first round appears to be high.

If he can put it together, and master the mental side of the game, both on and off the field, his upside is through the roof. But if he can't -- something many teams appear to be worried about -- Mallett has the potential to be an expensive mistake for the team that drafts him.

Mallett and the rest of the quarterbacks hit the field on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadiums. For more on the workouts, check out our 2011 NFL Combine StoryStream.