As most of you have probably heard by now, two of college football’s stars have decided to forego their respective bowl games to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft.
This is an unprecedented move, and people have been bashing them all day:
First of all, Donovan McNabb, your two DUIs in a 13-month span sets a bad example for the kids. Hop off your high horse. Ezekiel Elliott, you left Ohio State after your JUNIOR year, so you wouldn’t actually “do anything to play one more time with your brothers in that scarlet and gray.” Finally, ‘anonymous assistant GM,’ you and I both know that you will do anything to have one of those two men slip into your lap on draft night.
Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are Heisman-caliber athletes who also play one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports. Both young men are projected to be first round selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, which means that their future earnings heavily outweigh what they make as a college athlete ($0.00). 2016 1st rounder pick Ezekiel Elliott signed a 4 year, $24,956,341 contract, to put it into perspective. Leonard Fournette has been nicked up over the past 2 years, and is currently nursing an ankle injury. Last time I checked, even prospective NFL running backs are only given one pair of ankles in their lifespan. With a $25 million payday in the near future, it makes absolutely no sense for Fournette to risk further injury in the Citrus Bowl. On the other hand, Christian McCaffrey has been relatively healthy throughout his entire college career. His decision to skip the Sun Bowl was definitely more surprising than Fournette’s, but the risk does not outweigh the reward. Just look at former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith.
Jaylon Smith was a projected Top-5 pick in the draft and was expected to make at least $23.5 million. He went on to play in the Fiesta Bowl and suffered a gruesome knee injury that required him to get carted off the field. He ended up being selected 34th in the draft, signing for a guaranteed $4.5 million instead. The long term financial impact of his injury is still to be discovered, as Smith is actively rehabbing and training to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He did have a $5 million insurance plan on his health, but if he is unable to play football again, he will have lost over $14 million in potential earnings in the NFL. ESPN’s Danny Kanell thinks that Jaylon Smith’s insurance claim is NOT a good example of why players should skip irrelevant bowl games:
Once the numbers are crunched, it’s absurd to look at the Jaylon Smith incident and think that it’s an unwise decision to learn from his experience. Smith may only receive $900,000 in claims if he ends up being a decent NFL player. He was awarded $700,000 for slipping out of the 1st round of the NFL Draft, and an additional $200,000 for the 2 spots in the 2nd round that he fell to. If Smith plays up to 4 games, and then realizes that he cannot play football, then he can collect more money from his claim. Now, a $4.5 million salary with an additional million in insurance is no chump change. You and I could live comfortably for the rest of our lives with that money. But when you look at the numbers and realize that potentially tens of millions of dollars were taken away from Jaylon Smith, how can you blame Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey for sitting out their meaningless bowl games? (Note: Fournette does have two separate $10 million insurance policies on him.)
I cannot emphasize the word meaningless enough when describing these bowl games. They’re not skipping the College Football Playoff, or the Rose Bowl, they’re missing the Citrus Bowl and the Sun Bowl. Besides the playoffs and a handful of the ‘historic’ bowls, college football bowl games are nothing but last-ditch money grabs for teams to halfheartedly take on a team they likely wouldn’t face anywhere else. Half of these games are in exotic locations and have a few thousand fans that just happened to be in the neighborhood in attendance. Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal are slated to play unranked North Carolina in Texas. Leonard Fournette and the LSU Tigers are slated to play Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals in Orlando, Florida. That should actually be an entertaining game, but once again, it is merely an exhibition game that gives the winning team a trophy to collect dust in the AD’s office.
These two young men are beginning a trend that we will see for many years to come. It will be interesting to see how the NCAA handles this impendent crisis. This could potentially be a breakthrough in the ongoing argument regarding compensating college athletes. But that argument is for another day. I commend Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey for their smart business decisions, and their teammates do as well.
To the best teammate, roommate, and brother I could have asked for, thank you. I have never met someone with fire, dedication, and passion for the game like you. Your work ethic and attitude towards the game is infectious and made us all better players. The BEST player I have ever seen and the hardest worker I have ever watched, go ball at the next level brother. Thank you for everything you have done for this program, our teammates, and this team. It's been a tremendous honor. Love you forever, C✊🏽
Teammates expressed support for the decision.
“We hate to see him have to sit out for this last bowl game, but it’s the best decision for him personally,” said fullback J.D. Moore. “I wouldn’t want anyone to go out and play if they weren’t 100 percent.”
Senior Tre’Davious White, who chose forego the draft to return for his senior season last year, understands why Fournette is handling his own path differently.
“His decision is way tougher than mine,” White said. “Not playing in the bowl game, I know that hurts him. He wanted to contribute to this win that we’re going to get. It’s an unfortunate thing. But I support him in every way.”
As for their impact on the NFL, both Fournette and McCaffrey are projected first rounders and should be utilized immediately and often. Leonard Fournette is top-10 caliber, and is drawing attention from the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and the New Orleans Saints. He obviously would be a star for a bunch of other teams, but there’s no way he slips past those three teams. McCaffrey, on the other hand, is projected to be a mid-to-late first rounder, and his all around skills would make him an immediate fit for the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, and the Denver Broncos. Whoever drafts these two men will have a smart, healthy, and reliable RB for years to come.