Pro athletes like to smoke weed. This isn't breaking news. But even the NFL is amazed by the prevalence of marijuana use among draft prospects this year.
According to Sports Illustrated, one NFL personnel man says 10 or 11 potential first-round picks have used marijuana. An NFL head coach believed his team's draft board had marijuana users by the boatload, as one-third of players under consideration had some history with the drug.
"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," one NFL personnel man told SI.
The growing problem has led NFL decision-makers to reconsider how they evaluate players with marijuana use in their past. In previous years, a player who failed a drug test would be tossed off the board of most teams, but now, disregarding so many prospects just isn't feasible if a team wants to have on-the-field success. The consensus seemed to be that players now have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
"If you knocked everyone off your board who has experimented with weed, you'd lose about 20 percent of your board, not to mention disqualify a few recent presidents," one NFL head coach said. "A third sounds a little high to me, but it's not a rare occurrence to have a player with some pot use in his background. You have to make a judgment on each individual guy.'"
The admissions and subsequent breakout seasons from the likes of Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson have led some evaluators to throw out the old rule book in the hopes of landing a transcendent talent — a little college experimentation with weed will no longer hold them back. A lot of it comes down to a generational difference.
"Overall in the league, there's a bit of a different generation of decision-makers and people doing the evaluating," one team's general manager said. "Even among those of us who didn't [smoke pot], we had some friends who did, and we didn't judge them that harshly. So for some, it's a less-damaging red flag for a player to have that on his record."
In the face of an "epidemic," some people are thinking a little bit differently. While it may hurt you if you are a late-round pick, it takes an addiction, not just an experiment, to drop from a first-round grade. As so often is the case, talent trumps character.