NFL draft hopefuls are preparing for their final games during bowl season for their respective schools. However, some notable stars have decided to skip their bowl games in order to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey have both announced they will not be gearing up for their bowl games so they can focus on pre-draft workouts.
Fournette, who has been battling an ankle injury for the majority of the season, wants to rehab his ankle so he can be 100% for the NFL draft. The LSU star running back, who just recently signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency, finishes his collegiate career with 3,830 rushing yards (4th most in LSU history) and 40 TDs.
McCaffrey, who was the runner-up in the 2015 Heisman Trophy race, has decided to sit out the Sun Bowl in order to focus on pre-draft workouts.
The decision to skip these bowl games, in what would’ve been the final collegiate games for these young men, has caused controversy. Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb says that “it sets a bad example for the kids”, while former Ohio State running back and current Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliot sent out a series of tweets earlier today:
Zeke goes on to say he had no idea the players were battling injuries.
These announcements by Fournette and McCaffrey comes in light of what occurred last year when former Notre Dame linebacker and potential #1 pick Jaylon Smith suffered a significant knee injury during the Fiesta Bowl, a game Ezekiel Elliot just happened to be playing in. Smith tore his ACL, LCL and endured nerve damage. The injury prevented him from preparing for the draft, dropping his draft stock in the process. Smith ended up being a 2nd round pick for the Dallas Cowboys but the knee injury has kept him off the field for his rookie year.
The impact of these announcements has changed the way top-level NFL prospects approach bowl season in the future. Myles Garrett, who is the favorite to go #1 overall in next year’s draft, has said that he plans to play in Texas A&M’s upcoming bowl game.
Last summer, there were suggestions that Garrett should’ve sat out his junior year so he can be healthy for the NFL. However, Garrett was strongly against this, saying that “You play because you love it, not because you can make money from it.”
But money seems to be a huge issue for players. Had Jaylon Smith been a top-5 draft pick, he would’ve gotten a guaranteed 4-year, $23.5 million deal. Instead, he wound up with a 4-year, $6.5 million deal. He only received $900,000 in compensation. So essentially, the Fiesta Bowl injury cost Jaylon Smith close to $20 million dollars. Christian McCaffrey’s insurance policy states that if he suffered a career-ending injury, he would receive a tax-free $5 million.
Here’s my personal take on the issue. If we’re talking money, the decisions of two star running backs to skip a meaningless bowl game where neither will get paid in order to prepare for a future where they can make millions is the right decision. Had the players skipped a National Championship or a prestigious bowl game such as the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl, then fans would have the right to question them. What happened to Smith is a one-in-a-million shot, but a career can be cut short in an instant. And nobody is questioning a person’s love for the game by sitting out one game. Fournette and McCaffrey are taking into consideration their futures on a career they’ve wanted to pursue since they were kids. It’s the start of a new trend and the Jaylon Smith effect has become the new reality of college football.