The NFL draft is in place to send the best college football players available to the big leagues to begin their careers. Based on that definition, the NFL draft will fail in its mission this year.
There are without a doubt many excellent players entering the draft this year, but the 2013 class will be without college football’s best player. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney presents a possible challenge to the NFL’s eligibility rules, and puts into question what the NFL wants to accomplish with these rules.
College football players qualify to enter the draft after they complete three eligible seasons, meaning that once a player finishes a redshirt sophomore or true junior campaign, they can enter the draft. Clowney is a true sophomore, and he is also labeled as the unquestionable best player in college football. It’s hard to argue against that notion.
Clowney toyed with offensive linemen all season, proving himself to be a freakish combination of size, speed, and quickness. Clowney will go 1st overall to any team regardless of need because he is that good. His Outback Bowl evisceration of Michigan running back Vincent Smith shot him to national fame, but college football followers already saw how special this guy is.
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Despite his incredible talent and high probability of success in the NFL, Clowney is forced to risk his future during the upcoming college football season. That is why some experts are proposing that Clowney should sit out the entire 2013 season.
In theory, this is a perfectly reasonable idea. Clowney can lose millions and millions of dollars if he suffers any type of devastating injury, and it’s only logical to come to the conclusion that he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. It’s hard to imagine his stock falling other than if he suffered an injury, and if he didn’t play football for the next year, any team with the 1st pick would grab him without second thought.
People who propose that Clowney sit out a year don’t understand the culture of football. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable proposition that he could strongly consider, if not for the culture of football.
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III tore his ACL in a playoff loss to Seattle, despite the fact that he was noticeably hobbled prior to suffering the injury. Griffin stayed out on the field because he knew that, as a team leader, he realistically had no other option besides toughing it out. The culture of football demands that players go out on the filed unless they are physically incapable of doing so, and this even applies to different situations.
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Jadeveon Clowney could sit out the 2013 college football season and preserve his body for a nice NFL salary, but he would lose the respect of his peers in the process. As logical and reasonable as it is, Clowney probably doesn’t even consider sitting out the season as a legitimate option. He knows that, on top of the bounty that would be put on his head throughout the state of South Carolina, he would likely have trouble commanding respect from professional teammates.
The fact that Clowney is in this position speaks to the questionable effectiveness of the NFL eligibility rules. If a player like Clowney can even contemplate such a possibility, something is not right. There are probably a lot of players who aren’t ready for the NFL after two seasons, but freaks like Clowney make the case that the NFL is potentially harming its future young stars.