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?