By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Elite college athletes, especially ones who are projected to be top draft picks, have the right to plan for their future and what is best for them.
In college football, some players are ending their seasons early to avoid getting hurt and losing draft value. Players skip regular season games as well as bowl games to avoid injury or to prepare physically for the NFL Combine to show NFL teams different aspects of their game outside of film.
College basketball has dealt with this problem for several years with what is called the “one and done” where players play for one year in college then head to the NBA when they know they will be at the top of the draft.
Bowl games for some seniors are a great reward for putting in hard work during the season. When it comes to bowl games for players who know they will be picked in the first round, they don’t want to risk playing when there is so much money waiting for them at the next level.
Staying healthy is extremely important for all athletes, and if they do suffer a serious injury, it hurts their place in the draft and their entire future if they are able to ever play again. Fans saw a dreadful injury happen to former Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who suffered a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl just months before he would get drafted. Tight ends rarely go in the first round or two in the draft, but he fell to the fifth round before being selected 145 overall to the Denver Broncos. This injury had an impact on where he was picked and, with each player picked before him, he lost money. Outside of money, the injury cost him playing time for his entire rookie season, a time where many players prove themselves to the rest of the league.
Two running backs, Christian McCaffery and Leonard Fournette, both skipped their bowl games in the 2016 season to prepare for the 2017 draft. By doing so, they avoided the possibility of an injury and went into the NFL as healthy backs ready to make an immediate impact. While this idea may seem selfish at first, it is what’s best for the athlete and the rest of their lives. In his junior and senior year at Stanford, McCaffery had 3,864 yards, which broke the previous all-purpose yards record held by Barry Sanders. He also finished second in the Heisman voting that year. Senior year, McCaffery led the country with 2,327 all-purpose yards even after suffering a hip injury. McCaffery, according to ESPN, told NFL decision-makers he skipped the game because he wanted to make sure he got to play with the best of the best.
“I just know I made that decision – it’s a career decision, it was a man decision – to try to protect my dream of playing and succeeding in the NFL,” McCaffery said. “And whether it gave me an advantage or not, I stuck with it, and I’m here now moving on.”
The most recent example comes from Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who was injured in a game against TCU earlier this season. Bosa is projected as a possible candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL draft or at least be in the Top 5. He would’ve missed several weeks of the season to recover and decided to go ahead and prepare for the combine and the draft. This decision is what is best for Bosa and all athletes who are in this situation.
While it does take away from what the viewer is expecting, the lives of the athletes are much more important than the entertainment factor. The professional level is the dream for all athletes growing up, and those who play in college and are good enough can taste just how close they are to obtaining that dream.