In January, there was speculation that Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey were hurting their draft stock by not playing in their respective bowl games. Well, Fournette and McCaffrey were drafted fourth and eight overall to Jacksonville and Carolina, respectively.
Michigan tight end Jake Butt, meanwhile, tore his ACL in an Orange Bowl loss to Florida State and fell to the fifth round before Denver gobbled him up.
The takeaway from this is fairly straightforward: NFL prospects must protect themselves.
“It was a talking point, it was definitely something that people noticed, and I think you’re going to see an increase in players protecting themselves – and honestly, you should,” NFL Network analyst Ian Rapoport said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The only thing you care about, I think, if you go to college – look, sports are great. I love sports. I played in college. It’s all great, right? But the only thing you want to do in college is put yourself in a position to have a successful life after college. That’s the whole point of why you go to college – besides to have fun and drink beer and all that other stuff. So McCaffrey and Fournette made the decision to make sure that whatever happened, they were in good position to succeed after college. Jake Butt did not.”
McCaffrey even turned down private workouts from various teams, opting to let his game film and Combine performance do the talking.
“I’m sure it pissed off some (teams)” Rapoport said, “but again, if you’re a great player, teams are going to take you anyway. So I would expect more people to be making more business decisions like these guys made.”
Rapoport believes that a handful of players will opt out of bowl games every year. That might be a big deal in December and January, but by April, it’s a forgotten story.
“I talked to a lot of GMs about McCaffrey and Fournette – a lot of them,” Rapoport said. “Not one mentioned having any problem with the bowl game. Nobody cared. It’s sort of like a talking point in public, but the actual football people, I think, were just happy that they were healthy.”
Thus, this trend will likely not affect a prospect’s bottom line, as one game typically does not make or break a star player – unless that star player gets injured.
“Obviously in college, you’re not professionals, for better or worse. But they’ve got to start thinking like them,” Rapoport said. ‘The sooner agents get into these guys – and unfortunately we’re seeing it sooner and sooner now and younger and younger – the more incentive there is for these guys to make business decisions. And we’re going to see a lot more of them.”