Draft stock shouldn't drop for being honest   

Updated: April 20, 2007, 12:07 PM ET

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Calvin Johnson, Amobi Okoye and Gaines Adams, a trio of probable top-10 picks in next weekend's NFL draft, admitted during interviews at the scouting combine that they had smoked marijuana before.

Anyway, how's the weather?

Seriously, what's the big deal? This "news" matters even less than Vince Young's Wonderlic score. But in this new era of the NFL, in which player conduct will be scrutinized like never before, it will become just as overblown as Vince's test score.

Calvin Johnson

Kevin C. Cox/WireImage.com

The NFL is focusing on character issues these days, but it needn't worry any more about Calvin Johnson than any other player.

Smoking weed is against the law. Johnson, Okoye and Adams all should have just said "no." Same for all the guys who lied when asked the same question, and the guys that also told the truth but weren't big enough names to make Pro Football Weekly's story.

But this should not be turned into a character issue.

Character has been the buzz word of the Roger Goodell administration. By laying a smackdown on Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, Goodell showed that he will not tolerate players who embarrass the league with their off-field conduct. Further, the new commissioner is keeping an eye out for franchises that habitually employ players who can't stay out of trouble (and the headlines).

But those aren't really issues of character. The key is using good judgment, not being a perfect human being. NFL general managers aren't on the Nobel Peace Prize committee. When it comes to human resources decisions, it's more important to hire a smart guy over a good one. The one thing all employers must know about the people they pay is whether their employees know a good idea from a bad one, whether they know when risks outweigh potential benefits. That matters a lot more than whether someone got experimental once upon a time or partook in a recreation he may have outgrown.

With regard to drug use, what's most important is whether an athlete tested positive at the combine. Sure, players know months in advance that a drug test awaits them in Indianapolis, but that's exactly why it matters. The drug test at the combine weeds out the fools who know that a test is coming but lack the restraint and good sense to stay clean long enough to make it through that weekend. It's a test to see who can follow directions. It tests for judgment just like it tests for chemicals.

The guys who flunk the test at the combine would seem awfully likely to wind up in offseason headlines and on the business end of a four-game suspension. They will probably embarrass the general manager who puts his name on the line to draft them. They're bad news.

Amobi Okoye

Dennis Hubbard/Icon SMI

Amobi Okoye reportedly admitted to trying marijuana in the past, but how many draft prospects did the same thing and didn't admit it.

Johnson, Okoye and Adams didn't test positive for marijuana at the combine.

Not all NFL personnel men agree with me about the significance of previous drug use.

"It should scare [teams], especially when you see how laid back [Adams] is in his play," one team official told PFW in regard to Adams' admission.

Huh? Is he worried that Adams' pregame ritual is listening to a Peter Tosh record and lighting a spliff as he runs down the tunnel?

If Adams' motor doesn't stay on all the time, that's a problem. Is reefer to blame? Check the film of Warren Sapp, then answer that one.

That this even merits discussion means folks are making too much of this, just like too much was made of rumors last year that Young had a dreadful Wonderlic score. It's not that drug use should be irrelevant to personnel men, just like intelligence shouldn't have been irrelevant when evaluating Young. The problem is that simply asking whether a player has used a drug before says as much about a player's likelihood to have a drug problem as an aptitude test does about a quarterback's ability to read a defense. Both are examples of looking for the right answers, but using the wrong questions.

If the NFL is truly concerned with issues of character, it probably should be more concerned with finding the rats in its operation. For the second straight year, confidential information from the combine has become public knowledge. Last year, Young had to suffer the indignity of people questioning his mental capacity. This year, players were candid in their interviews, only to have the answer to an inflammatory yet insignificant question become a talk show item.

That's a real character issue.

An honest answer about marijuana is not.

Bomani Jones is a columnist for Page 2. Tell him how you feel at readers@bomanijones.com.


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