We’ve heard the idea bandied about before the regular season. Star player is contemplating sitting out the season based on risk of injury to his presumed high draft value in an impending draft. Jadeveon Clowney was the catalyst to so many a hot take based on the mere suggestion of the application. Ultimately he played his junior year before declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft.
The first name from the 2017 Draft Class to become apart of the ‘preserve a player’ ideology is LSU running back Leonard Fournette. A prospect that has drawn comparisons to All-Pro back Adrian Peterson, the thought is that Fournette is a can’t miss prospect at the position. Fournette and LSU head coach Ed Orgeron have come to a mutual decision that Fournette’s final carry will have been in Florida game that was made up and that he was not expected to participate in because of injury, but coaxed himself to suit up after a pregame scuffle with a Gator’s assistant coach.
Fournette’s absence from the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl that squares LSU against reigning Heisman trophy winner quarterback Lamar Jackson takes a bit of the shine off of the spectacle, yet is unlikely to be a major deterrent. You know, like holding a college playoff game on New Years Eve, but that’s beside the point.
— Christian McCaffrey (@CMccaffrey5) December 19, 2016
Recently through Twitter, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey also opted to no take part in the Cardinals Hyundai Sun Bowl contest against North Carolina. Citing a need to begin preparation for the NFL Draft, McCaffrey is projected to be an early round selection. Both Fournette and McCaffrey are coming off a junior season in which both missed games due to injury toward the middle of the season. While both are closer to 100% than they were during the season, being healthy before months of pokes and prodes, questions and evaluation after next, it’s a wise personal decision to being preparation for what is one of sports most gruelling interview processes.
In the wake of the decision, there are some ripples in the college football time continuum that need to be addressed.
Will this become a trend moving forward for prospects to skip bowl games? Perhaps. Flashback to 2015’s Fiesta Bowl where Notre Dame took on Ohio State in a matchup that had scouts drooling over the quality and amount of pro prospects taking part. Unfortunately, we witnessed a devastating knee injury to LB Jaylon Smith where he tore both MCL and ACL in his final game before likely being a top-10 prospect. For that reason it’s not unreasonable for a player whose stock is high enough to the point where they have more to lose than gain in skipping the bowl game.
The idea however does not apply to a large group. There are only 10 prospects that can and will be selected within the first 10 picks. That is hardly a spec of a fraction when it comes to considering the draft on the whole. While there are risks with playing a football game after a long bowl season, that risk existed in the first game, the first rep of spring practice and a handful of other instances. Instead of looking at bowl season as unnecessary risks, they’re a great platform to further provide proof in the form of good film, camaraderie among your teammates who you’ve battled with, and trip somewhere in the country before you get back on the grind for evaluation period and participate in the all-star circuit.
The conservative eyes view withdrawing from your team to focus on the draft as selfish, because it is. For a player that has done their time, played the three years after high school to become eligible for one the life’s greater paydays is a surreal dream. The move does not originate out of spite, more so capitalism. Cashing in on a talent that has profited others moreso than themselves. The mortality of the football warrior has been a trending topic for years now: medical reports, analysis, lawsuits arguing the health of those who take up the sport as well as the consequences from numerous collisions over the span of career.
While it’s hard to make a #HOTTAKE about announcements, we’re quite sure there will be some that are made, let’s wait and see what comes from the path. Condemnation would to too haste to preside over the topic. Given that both players in the matter play the same position, one that subjects them to more blows over the course of a career it makes sense that they would exercise caution where possible. When they get to the NFL, that preservation will be key to not only a long career, yet the health of the individual, their family, and perhaps in a larger scheme the game as well.