|The Patriots chose Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round of the draft. (Associated Press)|
Hernandez has history of drug use
Patriots' 4th-rounder failed marijuana tests
Aaron Hernandez, whom the Patriots chose in the fourth round of the NFL draft Saturday, had earned the reputation as perhaps the most dangerous pass-catching tight end prospect.
He had also earned the reputation as a risky selection.
According to sources with three NFL teams, the Florida products precipitous fall was because of multiple failed drug tests for marijuana as a collegian.
Hernandez was open about his marijuana use at the Scouting Combine in February. He admits to it, said one longtime NFL executive who interviewed him there.
Its good he did that, said a college scouting official from one AFC team. But it was enough to scare people so that he fell through three rounds.
Attempts to reach Hernandez were unsuccessful and the Patriots didnt respond immediately to calls from the Globe.
The Florida tight end passed his drug test at the combine, according to the executive, so he wont start his NFL career in the leagues substance-abuse program. But because of his history, he is subject to more tests.
A source close to Hernandez said to his knowledge, the tight end failed just one drug test at Florida, in February 2008, but conceded the players marijuana use had been a problem and was the primary reason for his fall down the draft board.
The source added that the Patriots were aware of the circumstances.
The explanation Hernandez gave to teams in February was that his drug use stemmed from the 2006 death of his father, Dennis, who died of complications following hernia surgery while Hernandez was a junior at Bristol (Conn.) Central High.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the drug problem followed him to Gainesville, where he enrolled in 2007.
Its not like he failed one test, said the AFC college scout. He had repeated issues with it, to the point where you worry about whether hell be able to lay off the stuff at our level. To be honest, hes super talented and, even with the issues, Im surprised he fell as far he did.
Depending on who you talk to, some people thought he was a late first- or early second-round prospect. Eventually, the risk was overcome by the value.
An SI.com report in March had many in the league concerned about the high level of marijuana use among prospects.
One unnamed NFL coach estimated that one-third of players on his draft board had some sort of history with marijuana use that required an extra level of evaluation as part of the scouting process.
These kids, they dont get it, an AFC personnel director told the Globe. [Hernandez] cost himself a lot of money.
Hernandez played extensively as a true freshman at Florida and, after an injury to now-Eagles tight end Cornelius Ingram, moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore. The tight end broke out as a junior, with 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns, prompting a decision to declare early for the draft.
He posted those numbers despite sitting out the Nov. 21 game against Florida International.
Coach Urban Meyer told the media at the time that Hernandez wasnt ready to play, although it wasnt clear why.
Meyer shares a close relationship with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, so its likely the Florida coach helped allay any New England fears.
Hes not a tight end, hes a big receiver, but hes talented he can run and catch, a damn good athlete, the longtime executive said.
He had multiple positive tests, so he either had issues or hes dumb. One or two tests? Fine. But four, five, six? Come on, now youve got an addiction. Hes not a bad kid. He just has an issue.
Despite all of this, each NFL source the Globe spoke with lauded the Patriots for getting Hernandez with the 113th pick.
Thats tremendous value for a guy that couldve been a late first- or second-round pick, said the AFC college scouting official. You can cut a fourth-round pick. Youve got a good player there, and thats a bonus.
It comes down to when the risk outweighs the reward, said the AFC personnel director.
With the financial implications, and how theres more guaranteed money now, you have to weigh everything. And with your first-, second-, third- and fourth-round players, youre hoping for starters. So when is it worth taking the risk? The leagues not kidding around with this stuff.
On Saturday, Belichick said he was happy to snap up Hernandez to complement free agent addition Alge Crumpler and second-round pick Rob Gronkowski at the position.
He was a player that we, quite frankly, were surprised to have the opportunity to draft him in the fourth round, Belichick said. But Im glad we did. I think hes got a good opportunity to help us at that position. I think, with Alge, Rob, and Aaron, we have three players that give us good competition at that position.
Hopefully, they will complement each other.