The league believes that this is the deepest NFL draft pool in years. It's also one of the highest. To that, we say: so what?
Poor Don Banks. He's covered football for 20 years, and probably never had to do a story like this. But when ten different personnel evaluators come to you and tell you that a ridiculous amount of prospects have used marijuana, well, that's a trend piece.
It's long been debated to what extent character should come into play when evaluating a player. It's also up for discussion what exactly "character" is supposed to mean. But with an estimated one-third of players on draft boards having some kind of red flag for marijuana, that discussion has been accelerated in 32 different war rooms.
Before you shake your head and bemoan the state of the NFL today, realize that this is America today. Remember the uproar, just two presidents ago, when Bill Clinton admitted trying weed once? Our last two have been more or less open about their drug use in college, and no one really bats an eye. Not to get all NORML on you, but smoking up isn't the horrible sin it once was. So it would be wrong to demonize players for it.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 47.5 percent of college students have smoked pot. So if the NFL sources have their estimates correct, the nation's best football players have stayed a heck of a lot cleaner than everyone else.
One coach got it exactly right when he noted that marijuana use is only a problem once it becomes a problem.
It's a matter of figuring out which ones smoke, and which ones have to smoke, because they really [are addicted],'' another head coach said. "It's like the drinking issue. You want to know if a guy drinks, or if he has a drinking problem. You're trying to find out and make that distinction with some guys.''
It's a fine line. Pot isn't going to affect a player's body, and probably won't get him into trouble outside the game. But it is a suspendable offense in the NFL, and missed games affect the team. Personnel guys have to evaluate that risk in the same way they would an injury-prone player. They have to make sure they're getting a Percy Harvin or DeSean Jackson, rather than a Ricky Williams.
Basically, they have to evaluate each player on his own merits. It's the same job, even in a changing landscape.