Pot issue won't affect these players' draft status

The draft status of Calvin Johnson, Amobi Okoye and Gaines Adams likely won't be affected because of their reported marijuana use, Len Pasquarelli writes.

Updated: April 20, 2007, 9:33 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Even in the limitless world of cyberspace, there isn't sufficient room to debate whether or not some NFL franchises and scouts practice a double standard when it comes to revelations of marijuana use by draft prospects.

But take this as NFL reality: While the league finds it difficult to accept potheads, it is even harder for teams to tolerate blockheads when evaluating draft-eligible players.

We make this distinction because, of the three highly regarded players reported by Pro Football Weekly to have conceded marijuana use during their combine interviews, none actually tested positive during the Indianapolis sessions. None of them, in essence, was a blockhead, a guy who went to the combine knowing in advance that a drug screening is part of the three-day process and still found it impossible to abstain.

There have been such blockheads in the past, guys who believed they would somehow find a way around the league's testing procedures and lost that gamble. Some of them lost their lofty draft status and a lot of money, too.

It isn't likely that the Wednesday night revelation by Pro Football Weekly about the three players it cited -- Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, defensive end Gaines Adams of Clemson and Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- will cause any of the prospects to plummet from the draft's top 10.

Johnson, in fact, remains a viable candidate to be the top player selected overall. Okoye and Adams, ranked by many teams as the top prospects at their positions, won't need a safety net to stop a fall.

As of Thursday afternoon, only Okoye, through his agent, confirmed that he apprised league scouts of his lone marijuana incident in college.

Potheads? Probably not. Blockheads? Definitely not.

Such flippancy is not meant to trivialize the seriousness of the problem. If you are an NFL owner preparing to invest millions of dollars on a prospect, you want as few red flags as possible attached to the player. The marijuana culture on college campuses, and in collegiate athletics, is not an issue to be treated cavalierly.

With the league's more stringent player conduct policy, one in which individual franchises can be sanctioned for repeatedly choosing at-risk players who go bad, teams figure to be even more aware of the marijuana issue.

But sometimes it really is necessary to parse degrees of poor judgment. Players who conceded at the combine that they had used marijuana -- and league sources have indicated to ESPN.com that there are other prospects whose names haven't come out yet -- used poor judgment in the past. But in their minds, it would have been worse to lie to the NFL interviewers about their indiscretions.

One of the three players named by Pro Football Weekly, ESPN.com has confirmed, was advised by his agent to come clean with the league if asked about marijuana. The rationale: Teams perform so much due diligence that they would likely discover any issues in their own investigations, and to lie about any such issue would just compound a club's suspicions. The player in question had already admitted marijuana use during a team interview at the Senior Bowl, and the agent felt that if one club knew of the admission, the other 31 were likely to find out as well.

Basically, if the Pro Football Weekly report is accurate, the players involved were just telling the truth in what the league likes to compare to a job interview.

That doesn't necessarily mean they should be rewarded for their candor. Honesty, after all, doesn't command a merit badge. But neither did the players expect their admissions to be made public. They certainly didn't count on being pilloried in the court of public opinion.

Instead, it appears they all did what they felt was right by admitting to a part of their past they probably understand now, somewhat painfully, was wrong.

Like it or not, that pretty much makes them typical college students. What it does not make them is blockheads and, because of that, their draft stock isn't likely to slip.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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