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Should Jadeveon Clowney and Marqise Lee stop playing college football now?

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Dean Lake
Dean Lake
Editor

David Moulton of Naples News posits an intriguing question: Would underclassmen who would be top 5 picks in the NFL draft - but are ineligible due to the "three years out of high school" rule - be better off taking a year off to avoid injury and avoid the possibility of their draft stock falling?

Moulton brings up the case of Marcus Lattimore, the Freshman of the Year running back for the South Carolina Gamecocks who had a devastating knee injury sophomore season. But Lattimore would have had to sit out two years to avoid that injury and be eligible for the draft. Perhaps a better example would have been Adrian Peterson, the Oklahoma running back who finished second in the Heisman voting his freshman year. Peterson missed four games his sophomore season with an ankle sprain and then broke his collar bone the Sooners' sixth game of his junior year. Peterson surely would have been the first overall pick prior to his injury, but questions about his durability led to him dropping to the seventh pick (and thus missing out on several million dollars).

There is no question Lattimore and Lee were ready for the NFL after their freshman years. Clowney was on many All-Freshman teams, and he certainly is NFL-ready now. Is there anything to be gained by these certain top 5 draft picks by continuing to play into their junior seasons? Wouldn't it be in their financial interest to take a year off, feed from the hand their agent, and ready themselves for the draft?

Cyrus Robertson
Cyrus Robertson
Columnist

This will happen, if not with these two then sometime in the future. This is what happens when you make a one-size-fits-all rule. Yes, some athletes are not physically ready for the NFL. But some are ready and risk their bright futures by continuing to play without any guarantee they will compensated if that risk leads to serious injury.

Kadeem Hooper
Kadeem Hooper
Contributor

Interesting dilemma. There are many reasons for them to stay, but once you put a price tag on it those reasons begin to lose their appeal. I agree Cyrus that this blanket rule is unfair to those who are clearly ready for the NFL.

Here's Clowney's interview tape: (http://www

Hyatt Wilcox
Hyatt Wilcox
Columnist

Why doesn't the NFL allow team's to draft younger players, but not let them play in games and limit their contact in practice? Seems like the perfect solution for the NFL. I'm sure the NCAA wouldn't be happy about it, though.

Abe Herrera
Abe Herrera
Columnist

This is an excellent question. Besides the argument of players 'not being physically ready' for the NFL, a big motivator for the current rule is to encourage student athletes to graduate. However, most NFL-ready athletes take off after their junior year anyway, so that doesn't really help graduation rates.
Honestly, it should be all or nothing: Either let the NFL scouts decide when a player is ready (and the player and his family make the choice on what they think is best for the athlete's future), or force athletes to graduate before they are drafted to the NFL. This half measure makes no sense and endangers athletes' futures, as Dean points out.

Lamar Ryan
Lamar Ryan
Columnist

Looking at this from the NFL side, this would create a lot more risk on draft day. There would be many more not-NFL-ready players entering the draft that may be ready in a couple years. You'll see some NFL teams taking the risk with these types of players, but if they don't pan out in the long run, it could cost some people their jobs rather quickly.

Asa Beal

Here's Clowney's interview tape: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gC44nP7ClxM, "Destructive Hit")