Raji at No. 10? Still a lot of unanswered questions

The latest report is one that Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji will certainly not dispute.

Pro Football Talk, citing a league source, wrote this morning that NFL teams received the list of players who tested positive at the scouting combine. Raji was reportedly not on the list. (And, yes, it certainly is remarkable that the list of guys who tested positive for marijuana – and other substances — was sent to NFL teams on 4/20. But we digress . . .)

 

In his first and only public comments since the initial Sports Illustrated report that he had tested positive, Raji told me two weeks ago he had been assured that he was clean. I wrote about our conversation for the newspaper. And I wrote about it on The Blog.

 

I don’t what his representatives were thinking in having him go underground at such a crucial time. That kid should’ve talked to every media outlet in the country to set the record straight. Instead, it just so happened I lucked out and spoke with him during his visit to meet with the 49ers.

 

Anyway, NFL Network draft analyst and former Ravens coach Brian Billick said he hopes the damage hasn’t already been done. In addition to the reports of the positive drug test, Raji’s reputation has taken a beating in recent weeks with all the “innuendo” surrounding his character, Billick said.

 

Charley Casserly, the former NFL GM who is also with the NFL Network, said he believes Raji will be chosen in the top 10. If he’s not taken in the top 10, it’s because NFL teams might not be comfortable with him after doing their background checks. Can he be relied upon? Does he have passion for the game? Is there a fear his off-field decisions will affect him on the field?

 

Niners fans want to know if the 49ers will select Raji if he’s available at No. 10. Let’s look at the 49ers’ first-round picks under Scot McCloughan: Alex Smith, Vernon Davis, Manny Lawson, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Kentwan Balmer. There were no known issues of character risk with any of those players. The 49ers have taken some risks with players, but they’ve done that in later rounds.

 

It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction with Raji. That is why I’m very hesitant to rubberstamp him with the 49ers if he were to slide to No. 10. To a much lesser degree, the same goes with Alabama tackle Andre Smith, though Smith’s reported problems are not nearly as serious.

 

It’s five days before the draft, and here is how I rate the 49ers’ possibilities at No. 10, assuming Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Aaron Curry have already been chosen:

 

Take him if he’s there

WR Michael Crabtree

OT Andre Smith

 

Nice trade bait?

QB Mark Sanchez

 

Worth further discussion

DT B.J. Raji

OT Michael Oher

WR Jeremy Maclin

DE/OLB Brian Orakpo

 

Sleepers

DE Tyson Jackson

LB Rey Maualuga

 

Sorry, but not a finalist

CB Malcolm Jenkins

DE/OLB Aaron Maybin

DE/OLB Everette Brown

RB Knowshon Moreno

RB Chris Wells

LB Brian Cushing

*DE Robert Ayers

 

*late addition

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Looking forward to doing a live chat tonight on 49ersWebzone, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (PT). You’re invited to attend.

 

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