Jabrill Peppers’s NFL draft stock just took a double-shot of bad news

Jabrill Peppers is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday. At least, Peppers was thought to go that early, but Monday brought a double-shot of bad news that may result in some NFL teams passing on the Michigan star.

First, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Peppers was flagged for a diluted urine sample, after he took his drug test during the NFL combine. That is tantamount to a failed drug test, and it could have some teams questioning his maturity and decision-making, if not his off-field proclivities.

“Peppers went to the combine. He was sick after flying there from San Diego. He has a history of cramping,” a spokesman for Creative Artists Agency, which represents Peppers, told Schefter. “Peppers was being pumped with fluids, drinking eight to 10 bottles of water before he went to bed, because he was the first guy to work out two days for the [linebackers] and [defensive backs]. He had to go through that first day, come back on second day, and that was the fear.

“So Peppers was pounding water and under the weather. He never failed a drug test in his life, nor tested positive before for any substance.”

Schefter, who probably shouldn’t expect a Christmas card from Peppers, subsequently reported (via Pro Football Talk) that some NFL teams were already dinging the versatile athlete for sitting out the Wolverines’ bowl game, a 33-32 loss to Florida State in December’s Orange Bowl. Schefter had reported at the time that Peppers tried to practice with a hamstring strain but ultimately decided, shortly before the game began, that the injury was too severe.

Other college standouts, such as Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, also skipped their teams’ respective bowl games, but they had announced their intentions to do so well ahead of time. According to Schefter, some NFL executives don’t like that Peppers’s decision came at the last moment, and they have downgraded him on their draft boards.

Add it up, and Peppers could be waiting to hear his name called much longer than he thought he would. Teams, always on the lookout for what they perceive to be character flaws, will have to weigh Monday’s reports against his considerable talent.

A New Jersey native, Peppers went to Michigan out of admiration for former Wolverines star Charles Woodson, and he nearly equaled the latter’s achievement of becoming the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. A linebacker and safety for the Wolverines, plus an occasional running back, Peppers also excelled as a kick returner, and he promises to provide unusual playmaking ability as a professional.

“You have to look at it, and every team is going to evaluate it,” Kiper said of Peppers. “You hear what his side says about what the reason was that happened — you’ve heard the same thing from Foster’s camp. You’ve got to look at it and evaluate it, and I think they made the point he’s never had any issues before.”

Kiper said that teams picking in the top 10 may well have eliminated Peppers from consideration for those selections, but he added, “I’m sure there’s some teams in the late first round that didn’t think they’d see him there that may see him still on the board at that point.”

Joe Thomas, an all-pro offensive tackle for the Browns who played college ball at Wisconsin, posted a number of tweets Monday arguing that players who test positive for a diluted sample should be tested again until they provide a sample that can properly be tested for evidence of drug use. “Tester should be able to see it’s dilute right when he receives sample and can then request more samples until it’s not dilute,” Thomas said on Twitter.

“No player should ever have a ‘failed test’ for a dilute sample. Especially at the combine where players frequently chug water to gain weight,” Thomas continued. He noted that players could be “chugging water to hydrate for a day of grueling physical testing. Lack of hydration leads to a significant decrease in performance.”

Foster reportedly told teams that his diluted sample was the result of a frantic attempt to counteract dehydration before the combine after he came down with what he thought was food poisoning. Peppers and Foster are set to begin their NFL careers in the league’s drug program; they will be discharged after 180 days if they cooperate with guidelines and have no further violations in that time.

Jabrill Peppers’s 2016 season for Michigan earned him numerous awards and unanimous all-American status. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Jabrill Peppers tests positive for dilute sample at combine

The NFL has notified teams that Michigan's Jabrill Peppers tested positive for a dilute sample at the scouting combine, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Peppers is the second NFL draft prospect to test positive for a dilute sample at the combine, joining Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

A source told ESPN's Schefter that Peppers, who has a history of cramping, was ill after flying to Indianapolis from San Diego, so he drank eight to 10 bottles of water as he was the first athlete to run for both the linebackers and defensive backs.

Although he worked out at two positions in Indianapolis, Peppers has said he sees himself playing safety in the NFL.

"Free or strong. I'm very fast, I'm stronger than the typical DB, tougher than the typical DB, since I played linebacker in the Big Ten at 200 pounds,'' Peppers said in February. "So that's anywhere from nickel, I can play some corner still. So we'll see. It's gonna be a fun process."

Foster told NFL that the positive test came after he tried to rehydrate himself after coming down with what he believed to be food poisoning. He said that, before the combine, he had been vomiting, cramping and suffering from diarrhea, and that he declined IVs and instead got medication from a doctor.

In the most recent three-round mock draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Kiper projected Peppers to be picked No. 15 overall by the Indianapolis Colts.

Here's what Jabrill Peppers' positive drug test means

Former Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers tested positive for a dilute sample at the NFL scouting combine in March, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Here's what that means and how it could impact his upcoming professional career.

Peppers did what?

Every draft prospect invited to the combine is asked to take a drug test. Peppers' urine sample returned with a water content high enough to qualify as "dilute," as specified in the NFL policy and program on substances of abuse. The policy defines a "dilute" sample as one that has a specific gravity less than 1.003 and a creatinine concentration of less than 20 mg/DL.

What's wrong with having a dilute sample?

One way to mask the presence of drugs in a urine sample is to dilute it by consuming excessive amounts of water. In other words, a person could attempt to beat a drug test that way. The NFL is sensitive to that and considers a certain level of dilution to be the equivalent of a positive drug test.

Couldn't dilution be coincidental or unintentional?

It's possible. Players preparing diligently for combine workouts, in essence for their first job interviews, could overdo it with the water and Gatorade. Sources told Schefter, in fact, that Peppers fell ill on the way to the combine and drank eight to 10 bottles of water to prepare for his running drills. The NFL policy attempts to set a threshold high enough to avoid the possibility of unintentional violations.

Yes. Foster told NFL that he fell ill with what he believed was food poisoning in the days leading up to the combine. He drank excessively to recover and rehydrate from vomiting, cramping and suffering from diarrhea.

Does this put Peppers (and Foster) into the NFL's drug program?

Yes. Per the policy, both Peppers and Foster will be placed into Stage One of the program. There is no discipline involved and each will be discharged within 180 days if they cooperate with a treatment policy and have no further violations during that period. If they do, however, they would advance to Stage Two. Violations while a part of Stage Two lead either to a fine equivalent to four weeks' pay or a four-game suspension, depending on the circumstances.

Do teams really care about a dilute sample?

Yes. Multiple violations of the drug policy, no matter the cause, take players off the field. At the very least, teams will need to look closer at those prospects to determine whether the combine test was an anomaly or if a potential problem exists. If nothing else, some teams also may question whether the player was simply too brazen to limit drug use, or be careful enough in hydration to avoid a dilute result.

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