Not so long ago in a land not so far away CBS aired a show called “Early Edition.” The premise of the show was quite simple to follow; each morning our protagonist, Gary, would receive a copy of the Sun-Times on his doorstep like so many of us did. Gary’s newspaper was different than ours however because his newspaper didn’t contain the news for the previous day, it contained the news for the next day. Every morning Gary knew what was going to happen for the next 24 hours and he could choose what to do with that information. He could hit the corner store for a lucky lotto ticket, play the ponies, and perhaps even call his broker with a hot stock tip he wanted to try or he could take the altruistic route and save the world.
Assuming you have all seen the creativity of Hollywood unfold in your own living rooms for most of your lives you already know what happened each week in the show and know Gary is the type of man who can block out the devil on his left shoulder while using his new found fortune for good. But what say the rest of us? What about a 20 year old who has spent their life working toward one specific goal and knows they are on the doorstep of millions of dollars and the life they have always aspired to but doesn’t have the luxury of tomorrows paper (or the edition 3 months from now)? There is a decision the top tier players in college football who will be eligible for next years NFL draft are about to have to make and they are going to be making it very soon: do I play this season?
For a select group of college football landscape their stock might be as high as it can go. Playing the season gives them very limited upside with potential career ending downside. We have already seen this take shape more frequently in recent years as the best of the best rested to prepare for the draft (Jadeveon Clowney, Nick Bosa) or nearly had a career derailed from injury (Tua Tugavalioa) and this year we add in a risk factor never experienced with COVID-19. With that in mind, let’s look at 10 players who may have played their final collegiate game regardless of a pigskin flying through the air this fall.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson-The 6’6″ golden-haired man with the golden arm has compiled a 25-1 record as a starter, won a national title, two ACC titles, an Archie Griffin award, and an engagement. Had he been draft eligible after his FRESHMAN season scouts pegged his as the top draft pick. His follow-up sophomore campaign netted him another season where he completed over 65% of his passes with 36 more touchdowns and an increased passer efficiency rating. He also showed he could run.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State-The knock on Fields is always limited game film and that would likely not stop NFL teams from grading him as a top 5 talent. Fields completed 67% of his throws for an astounding 41 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. While it’s likely that he doesn’t want to end his collegiate career with that third interception, no once could fault him for heading to greener pastures.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon-Checking in at 6’6″ 325 pounds and an immediate boost to an NFL line is Penei Sewell. He’s been a two year starter at Oregon and won the Outland Trophy last season as a sophomore. He had some injury issues as a freshman but with the Outland year in his pocket he might be best served to preserve his health and ready himself for 2021.Embed from Getty Images
Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami-Rousseau redshirted his freshman season due to injury and then burst onto the scene last year. Listed at 6’7″ and 250 pounds he recorded an eye-popping 15.5 sacks last season on his way to ACC rookie of the year. On draft day he will be mentioned as a freak athlete more than once; Rousseau played defensive end, safety, and wide receiver in high school.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU-1,780 yards with an over 20 yard per catch average with 20 touchdowns. That led the FBS in yardage last season and set a new SEC record for touchdown catches. Some have been quick to credit Burrow with throwing him the ball but a quick glance at Burrow’s success in his prior stops might give more of an idea on who helped who’s draft stock here. Reportedly coming in around a 4.4 40 now won’t him either. With those numbers, records, and a championship ring he may not have much left to accomplish in college.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama-Surtain is a two year starter for the Tide and racked up good numbers as a sophomore starter on a top team. He comes into this season on the Bednarik Award watch list and possesses great size as a corner to compete at the next level.Embed from Getty Images
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama-Waddle is a little undersized at 5’10” and a generous 180 pounds, but you can’t coach speed and he has that in abundance. Clocking a 4.37 and showing his versatility as a punt and kick returner as well as a two year starter at wide receiver should make him a first round pick. Is adding more hits to a slight frame with an all SEC schedule worth a few ticks up the draft board?
Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State-Oweh redshirted giving us only one year of game film and only started one game last season, but he may have the measurables that scouts drool over. There are claims of him running a sub 4.4 40 and possessing a 36 inch vertical. At 6’5″ and nearly 260 pounds if he thinks he can get near those numbers at the combine with less wear and tear on his body Oweh could be a shocker on draft day and have shown good reason to train instead of play.
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue-Moore missed most of last season due to injury but there is no denying the talent he has. As a freshman he won the Paul Hornung award, was first team All Big 10, a consensus All-American, the Big 10 freshman of the year, his 2,048 all purpose yards were the second most in school history. He reportedly clocked a 4.33 40 and is as dangerous in the open field as anyone at the next level.Embed from Getty Images
Chuba Hubbard , RB, Oklahoma State-Hubbard was already undecided on returning to school or heading to the league prior to this season. Now he faces added pressures of the virus and dealing with a staff that seems to be forcing him to decide if his stance on social issues are more important or his career for the Cowboys. It would be easy to understand him taking a stance to prepare for the draft in an abundance of safety especially considering he would be unable to travel home to Canada to see family for the foreseeable future. After all, when you’ve rushed for over 2,000 yards what more do you really need to prove?
So there they are. 10 players who may decide to take a different path or glanced at their copy of tomorrows paper and said “I’ve got a city to save.” We will likely all second-guess them in the coming months if they choose to move on but we can’t fault them for looking at the headlines and deciding to go get that lotto ticket instead of saving Karen’s cat from the tree.
Let me know how right I am in the comments or @tgslevi or who I might have missed in the top 10.
Editors note: It was reported on Tuesday morning that Minnesota receiver Rashad Bateman has also opted out of the 2020 season.