Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Split Decision 12.21.16: The Choices of Fournette & McCaffrey

By Jason Disantis, @JasonInCLE

I get it.

I understand.

I don't blame them for their decision, but I don't agree with it.

Following the lead of Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey recently announced that he is going to sit out the Sun Bowl, bringing his college career to an end.

The biggest difference for these players between college ball and the NFL is that the players can finally start treating the game, and themselves like a business.  Heaven knows NFL teams will.

These players are protecting their biggest investments...  Themselves.

Both of these players are projected as first or second round draft picks and an injury in a bowl game can cost you A LOT of money.  Just ask Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.

For those not familiar, Smith was assuredly going to be a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft before a devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl tore his ACL, LCL, and left him with nerve damage in his leg.  Smith dropped to the second round because of that injury.

Whats the difference between a top five and a second round pick?  Roughly $17 million dollars, give or take a couple million.

But despite the pain and injury, the lost money, and the time spent missing the game he loves, he doesn't regret it.  Recently Jaylon Smith tweeted out his thoughts on that game and the high profile players currently sitting out saying: "Honestly.  With everything I've been through, if I could go back to Jan. 1st I'd play again.  #ClearEyeView"

Another top ten talent was also playing in that game, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott was drafted no. 4 overall and never thought about sitting out Ohio State's last game.  Elliott tweeted out:  "All these young guys deciding to skip their bowl games.  I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in that scarlet and gray."

Elliott also tweeted: "One last time to honor your university and one last chance to play with your boys who will be your brothers for life."

"And there is a difference between no coming back for your last year and not finishing your last season."

"I just know how much I loved my university and the guys I played with.  My last game was the most memorable moment form my college career."

And within Elliott's tweets lies my own thoughts on McCaffrey and Fournette.

How often do you hear these guys talk about their teammates as being their brothers?  Being their family?  Guys they go to war with?

Well, not all of your "brothers" are going to the NFL.  Only a small percentage do.

How many seniors are on those teams, playing in the last game of their careers?  How many are playing in their last chance at a bowl win, and now doing it without their best player?

Fournette and McCaffrey obviously understand what is on the line for themselves during these games.  But there is something to be said for understanding what it means for everyone else as well.

Will it affect their draft stock?  Maybe.

If I'm a GM looking for a running back and I have Fournette and Florida State running back Dalvin Cook neck-and-neck, I could easily be swayed in Cook's direction because of this.  And McCaffrey isn't even a sure-fire first round pick.  If McCaffrey played like he did in last years Rose Bowl (amassing 368 all purpose yards), he could possibly solidify himself as a first round pick.  The difference between guaranteed years and money from first to second round and even within the first round can be significant.

Myles Garrett is another all-world talent who currently projects as the first pick in the NFL draft next spring.  But unlike McCaffrey and Fournette, Garrett is going to play.

Why would he risk injury and losing millions to play in a "meaningless" bowl game you wonder?

Garrett recently tweeted: "You play because you love it, not because you can make money from it."

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