Draft prospect Raji did not fail drug test

Boston College defensive tackle prospect B.J. Raji has been informed that he did not fail a drug test at the NFL scouting combine, which contradicts a report that surfaced last week that stated he did.

B.J. RajiRaji (6-2, 337) is considered the highest-rated defensive lineman in the draft and a top-10 prospect. The 49ers own the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. Obviously, Raji is a serious option for the 49ers if he is still available after the first nine selections.

His reputation appears to be on the mend after reports surfaced last week on SI.com and NFLDraftbible.com that he tested positive for drugs at the combine in February. Raji told me this evening the reports are inaccurate. His agents provided evidence in a statement earlier today and declared the “reports are untrue.”

“The biggest thing is trying to figure out how this started,” Raji said. “I couldn’t understand how this rumor became such a big splash in the media when there was no evidence – there was no substance to believe it. The last couple days, I was just trying to figure out: Who? What? Basically, why?”

“Now, I’m happy the truth is out. Obviously, it’s not going to be as big of a splash as the negative part. But as long as the coaches and the decision-makers know what is true, then I don’t need to be concerned with everybody else.”

The NFLDraftBible.com should take some heat over this because Raji wasn’t the only prospect they said failed substance tests. They also reported that USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews failed steroids tests as well.

The site should own up to the false reports, but I doubt that will happen.

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Report: Draft prospect Raji failed drug test at combine

SI.com is reporting that Boston College defensive tackle prospect B.J. Raji failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine in February.

B.J. RajiAccording to the NFL’s drug policy, a positive test for street drugs, which includes marijuana, puts a player into the initial stage of the NFL’s drug program. He’s then subject to random testing and subject to a fine or suspension if he tests positive again.

How this affects Raji’s draft grade remains to be seen. He missed the 2007 college season with academic issues, returned to Boston College and had a terrific senior campaign, recording eight sacks and 42 tackles, with 16 tackles for loss. He was a dominant force during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl and continued his momentum up draft boards after turning in good combine and pro-day workouts. His performances the past three months have some scouts believing he’ll be taken in the top third of the first round of the April 25 draft.

One source familiar with the positive drug test assessed Raji’s draft prospects by saying, “It’s a roll of the dice. If Raji stays clean and plays to his potential, you could have a dominant defensive lineman on your team. Then again, it does nobody any good if the kid is on the sidelines serving a suspension for a failed test.”

As the article notes, Warren Sapp tested positive for drugs before the 1995 draft and obviously he turned out just fine. But this obviously is horrible timing for Raji, whose draft stock couldn’t have been higher following excellent pre-draft workouts. My guess is that he’ll still be selected in the top 15, but this no doubt raises some red flags about his character.

Athlete Profile: B.J. Raji

B.J. Raji has never had much trouble with offensive linemen, quarterbacks, or even running backs. It’s those associate deans he’s had to watch out for.

Prior to his 2007 season at Boston College, he was assured by an associate dean that he only had to complete two summer courses to be academically eligible to play that season.

Unfortunately, he actually needed three — which meant that Raji would be academically ineligible for the 2007 season.

Raji was devastated when told the news by then-BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski. But instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for himself, he went to work: dominating for the Eagles’ scout team and hitting the gym hard every day.

Then, back on the field in 2008, he took all the frustration out on his opponents, exploding for 42 tackles and seven sacks from his defensive tackle position.

Given how well everything has ended up working out for Raji, it must be hard for him to stay mad at the associate dean who contributed to his missing the 2007 season. Raji currently stands poised to become a top-10 pick in April’s NFL Draft, with a very good shot at going in the top 5.

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Offseason Blueprint: Green Bay Packers

Notable Free Agents: Atari Bigby, S (restricted); Mark Taucher, OT; Michael Montgomery, DE; Colin Cole, DT.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $18,000,000

Draft Order: 9

Top Needs: OLB, OL, 3-4 defensive linemen.

Offseason Outlook: After hiring Dom Capers to run the defense, the Packers will move to a 3-4 defensive front next season. That means defensive end Aaron Kampman will move to one of the outside linebacker spots, while A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett will be the team’s starting inside ‘backers. The outside linebacker spot opposite of Kampman will be Brady Poppinga’s to lose, although Green Bay will likely bring in competition to push him for the starting position.

The Packers most pressing need this offseason will be finding D-linemen that can fit the 3-4 defensive front – especially at defensive end. Green Bay is in luck too, because after Julius Peppers (who was franchised by Carolina), the next best defensive ends on the market are Chris Canty (Cowboys) and Igor Olshansky (Chargers) – two relatively young linemen that are used to playing in a 3-4. Either way, they have to address both end positions because neither Michael Montgomery nor Colin Cole are expected to be re-signed and there are serious doubts that former first round pick Justin Harrell can be effective in a 3-4.

Even though they project Ryan Pickett to be the starting nose tackle, the Packers might consider drafting Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who stands 6’1” and weighs 323 pounds. He has excellent strength, can occupy multiple blockers and could easily play nose in a 3-4 scheme. And considering what the needs are for the teams selecting ahead of Green Bay in the draft, Raji should be available at No. 9.

If the Packers decide to go with Pickett at nose, another option for them in the first round is Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, who is athletic enough to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4. He could immediately challenge Poppinga for the starting outside linebacker position opposite Kampman and hopefully give Green Bay’s pass rush (the Pack finished near the bottom of the league in sacks last year) a major boost.

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Top 32 NFL Draft Prospects

Pete Prisco of CBSSportsline.com ranked the top 32 prospects in this year’s NFL draft.

Here are his top 10:

1. Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia: When he throws for the scouts, they will be in awe. There are some who think he locks on to receivers at times. But that can happen to young passers with big arms.

2. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: Think Derrick Brooks. He’s a run-and-chase linebacker who has good size at 240 pounds. He might be the cleanest player in the draft, the one with the fewest flaws.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College: He’s a power player who could not be blocked at the Senior Bowl. At 335 pounds, he also has good quickness.

4. Jason Smith, T, Baylor: This former tight end has great feet and plays with a nasty streak. He is 6-4, 300 pounds and has the frame to get bigger. He’s a better pass blocker, but will get better for the run as he matures.

5. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: He is the next Larry Fitzgerald. He’s big and strong. The once concern with him is his 40 time. But Fitzgerald wasn’t fast either.

6. Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia: He’s another tackle who is better as a pass protector than blocking for the run. Is that a bad thing?

7. Andre Smith, T, Alabama: He played left tackle at Alabama, but some scouts wonder if he’s not more of a right tackle. He’s the best run blocker of the three top tackles, but he has struggled with some speed rushers.

8. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC: He’s accurate, poised and his arm is plenty strong. The knock on him will be that he was a one-hit wonder. Don’t believe it.

9. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State: He’s a smart cover player who might not have blazing speed, but he plays fast enough. He’s easily the top corner in this draft.

10. Everette Brown, LB-DE, Florida State: Think Dwight Freeney. He’s short at 6-1 but has a great burst off the edge. He might even rise up this board as we go through the process.

Everyone is going to have varying opinions on which prospect is better than the next (everyone is an expert this time of year), but I think that’s a pretty solid top 10. I don’t think Sanchez is a top 10 prospect, but that’s just me. For the amount of talent USC had this year, he certainly didn’t dominant and I think he’s a raw prospect in that he’ll need a couple years to develop.

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