Don Banks at Sports Illustrated filed an interesting report today quoting a number of NFL executives and personnel people who are concerned about a marijuana "epidemic" in this year's draft class. Some of the dank details:
According to one veteran club personnel man, 10 or 11 players who carry first-round draft grades on their board this year have been red-flagged for marijuana use in college, an estimate echoed by two clubs' head coaches.
"Marijuana use is almost epidemic, with more guys having tested positive for marijuana at some point in their college background than I can ever remember,'' said a longtime team personnel man.
One NFL head coach told me this week that in this era of some states decriminalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, he has interviewed potential draft picks who didn't even seem to recognize their marijuana smoking constituted drug use in the eyes of the NFL.
That is indeed a lot of weed usage, but my guess would be that teams still don't know the full extent of it. That "10 or 11" guys are just the ones who got caught or will admit it -- the smarter and/or more casual smoker has no reason to go to NFL people and say, "Yes, I have partaken."
I guess there are a number of ways to look at it. If you said, "These guys have their NFL futures at stake, so if they can't lay off the weed, you've got to question their commitment," it would be hard to argue with you.
At the same time, recent rookie draft classes have been extremely productive, despite concerns about their weed usage. And with this particular draft class, I'd ask this question: If there's so much marijuana flowing through their systems, and it's such a concern, why is it still considered one of the best and deepest draft classes in a long time?
Could it be that a fellow could recreationally use marijuana in college, or even while in the NFL, and have it not adversely affect his performance in any way? I'm no expert, but it seems like that's a possibility.
Back on the other hand, if a guy's usage is absolutely out of control -- Charles Rogers comes to mind -- you can turn into a wasted draft pick.
Maybe there's no easy answer here. I think guys who have a problem as serious as that of Charles Rogers(notes) are probably pretty rare, but you've got to investigate the possibility. There's too much at stake not to. If you're going to completely blacklist a guy for some occasional usage, though, that's your right, but you might be missing out on a pretty good player.