A few days after LSU running back Leonard Fournette announced he will skip the team’s season-finale bowl game, another running back is joining him. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey announced on Monday that he will not play in the Sun Bowl so he can focus on preparations for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The running back class is looking pretty strong, and McCaffrey is viewed as a potential first or second round pick. Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook are both guys that could go ahead of him. But even if they and others do, McCaffrey is looking at a big pay day next April.
There are not many players who are skipping their bowl games to prepare for the draft, but it seems like the number increased this year. And for running backs, who have a limited shelf life already, it makes sense to avoid potential injury in a game that really only serves to enrich the schools and conferences.
Some will say, well, he’s letting his teammates down. Former college quarterback and radio hot take artist Danny Kanell complained about the me first generation and players no longer playing for the team. Considering coaches get out as soon as they can, and players are getting no more than some insurance money if they do get hurt, it’s hard for me to get angry about a player looking out for themselves. And honestly, I don’t think most of their teammates would begrudge the player the opportunity that presents itself.
I’ve seen the argument, well why not skip two or three games, or the entire final season. As to that latter point, missing an entire year of football before heading into the draft does not strike me as the best way to prepare for the draft. Rashard Robinson was kept off the field his entire final year and seems to be doing OK, but the rust is still a potential issue for players. As for missing two or three games, I would be curious to see what the injury rate is for bowl games compared to the rest of the season. I wonder if not playing for two or three or four weeks raises the potential for injury in the bowl games. I have no idea of that, but it is something I find myself thinking about.
Whatever the case, McCaffrey will spend the rest of the year and into next spring training and preparing for the biggest point of his professional career. There are millions of dollars on the line, so I don’t begrudge him the ability to fully prepare for this critical moment in his life.