The NFL Draft begins exactly two weeks from today. Teams will spend the subsequent three days putting all of their exhaustive film study, research, interviewing, and background checking to work.
They spend millions on this stuff, trying to get it right. In fact, I don't know that I can think of an industry where more is spent on getting it right in which they get it wrong so often. Some of it's not their fault. There's only so many spots in the NFL, math will wipe out a majority of the guys who are picked, particularly in later rounds.
But some of the misses have nothing to do with a player's talent. Some of the misses are either poor vetting, or more likely, a willful ignorance in which they gauge the likelihood of criminal activity against the likelihood of a guy making the Pro Bowl.
The Patriots saw value in 2010 when Aaron Hernandez dropped to the fourth round.
Up until that point, Hernandez was (as far as most of us knew) an avid weed enthusiast who hung around with an unseemly element back in his hometown of Bristol. If there were a Carfax for NFL prospects, there was no overt indication of his being capable of murder (possibly multiple murders, when his current ordeal is all said and done).
So the Patriots took a calculated risk, drafted Hernandez, a first round talent, in the fourth round, and for three seasons it looked like a genius move. In fact, they felt so good about Aaron Hernandez and his fit alongside fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski in Tom Brady's offense that they gave him a $40 million extension in the summer of 2012.
One year later, Hernandez was doing a perp walk out of his North Attleboro, MA mansion for murdering Odin Lloyd. Twenty-two months after that, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was having to testify in the trial for said murder. Needless to say, some teams (especially the Patriots) may be doing some double and triple checking on their weed enthusiast prospects the next couple weeks. Just in case.
Because the last thing you want to do is inadvertently draft a murderer, and on Wednesday morning, a jury in a Fall River, MA courtroom made it official (pending the automatic appeal granted by the state of Massachusetts) -- Aaron Hernandez is a murderer, guilty of murder in the first degree.
Here is the verdict, as handed down yesterday morning:
First degree murder in the state of Massachusetts carries with it a penalty of life in prison without parole, which in some sense now renders Hernandez's upcoming trial for an additional double murder in Boston in June 2012 (and the slew of gun charges against him in the Lloyd case) somewhat moot from a punishment standpoint. You can only pile on so many life sentences.
It was thought that the longer the jury deliberated, the better it was for the defense, and that Aaron Hernandez would be just one more rich athlete "beating the rap" because of his celebrity, but in the end, the jury didn't see Hernandez as the star tight end who helped the Patriots get to a Super Bowl.
They saw him as a sociopathic street thug who would shoot his "friend" in cold blood and leave his body to rot in an industrial park. As the verdict was read Wednesday morning, Hernandez looked back a few rows behind him in the court room. His mother and fiancé were holding each other, both crying uncontrollably.
Hernandez was then seen mouthing the words "It's ok" to both of them. All due respect, Aaron, to quote the great Marcellus Wallace:
"Nah man, it's pretty f**king far from ok."
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