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Friday, April 3, 2009
Does bad news for Raji help Jacksonville?

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Could news of a positive drug test for former Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji at the scouting combine help the Jacksonville Jaguars?

ESPN's John Clayton said on the air since the report that it could drop Raji out of the top five, but not out of the top 10.

 
  AP Photo/Winslow Townson
  If B.J. Raji (90) is available at the No. 8 pick in the draft, the Jagaurs may be willing to overlook some off-field issues to take him.

The Jaguars are at No. 8.

Raji seems universally regarded as the draft's top player at his position.

New Jaguars general manager Gene Smith has talked about building from the inside out and told me last month that he'd like to reacquire the identity the team had when Marcus Stroud and John Henderson were paired in the middle of the defensive line and were regarded as the league's toughest interior tandem.

Raji was reportedly very good during Senior Bowl week. Jack Del Rio saw him up close, though he and his staff coached the other team. (Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, who pick sixth, got to work with Raji as they coached the North team.)

If the Jaguars check out Raji and are OK with him missing the 2007 season because of academics and are OK with the drug test and the direction he's heading now, they could find him a great value when their turn comes.

If that's the case, they are sure to be hoping that teams ahead of them like Seattle (No. 4), Cleveland (No. 5), Cincy (No. 6) and Oakland (No. 7) are turned off by recent developments. History, of course, suggests it wouldn't turn off the Bengals or Raiders if Raji's their guy.

I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. what bearing he thought a positive drug test could have on Raji's status. Here's what he said:

Williamson: Hard to comment on that one due to not knowing the specifics. What drug was found in his system? Is the entire thing confirmed? Assuming that it has been, it surely doesn't help Raji's cause, but there are several teams (Oakland, Cincinnati, Kansas City) who really could use him and Oakland and Cincinnati are prone to overlooking an off-the-field indiscretion or two. Still, it isn't like those teams do not have other needs, so a tie would probably go to a prospect other than Raji. However, the position he plays, his versatility at that position and the lack of anyone really close to him as defensive tackles go in this draft ensures that he will be off the board quickly. No way he gets out of the top 10 and I say 33 percent that he is there for Jacksonville. But ... Jacksonville all of a sudden could really benefit from the problems of two huge prospects in Raji and Michael Crabtree (injury). Both are among the best players in this draft, but Jacksonville might snare one at No. 8, which would be a home run.