If Leonard Fournette is paying attention to his place in the news cycle, he might also be wise to check on Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's place, as well.
The Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback is expected to cash $3 million on a loss-of-value insurance claim after falling from a first-round NFL draft projection to a seventh-round pick in May.
"That claim is close to getting paid," Lerner said.
If payouts under such policies become more commonplace, it could be a promising plank in the bridge between top college underclassmen and a wise path to the NFL. Fournette, only a true sophomore, isn't eligible for the NFL draft until 2017, and some pundits have suggested this week that he should sit out his junior year at LSU to ensure his health and draft status.
"I think it's fantastic for the players," said NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah. "I think this kind of ties into the discussion about (Leonard) Fournette. Everybody's saying he should sit out a year, well, my answer to that is, (Willis) McGahee had a nasty injury, went in the first round, (Todd) Gurley had a nasty injury, an ACL, went in the first round. Sam Bradford had a nasty injury, goes with the first overall pick. (Then) you get a guy like Ekpre-Olomu, who gets the devastating injury, well he's got insurance. It's not like there's a doomsday scenario in place. (Former South Carolina running back) Marcus Lattimore is such an outlier."
LSU coach Les Miles said he knows Fournette has engaged in discussions about investing in such a policy. Schools have an assistance fund for student-athletes that is frequently and controversially used to cover the premiums on such policies, as Texas A&M did for Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi. According to cbssports.com, loss-of-value policy premiums can run $8,000 per $1 million of coverage.
Ekpre-Olomu, a former All-Pac-12 cornerback, suffered a severe knee injury as a senior last year, causing the drop in draft value. As a seventh-round pick, he'll reportedly earn $435,000 as a rookie. He is sitting out the 2015 season to continue his recovery, signaling a long rehabilitation for torn ACL with a knee dislocation. Lattimore suffered a similar injury, and rehab difficulties compelled him to retire from the San Francisco 49ers about 18 months after he was drafted in the fourth round in 2013.
When Ekpre-Olomu wasn't picked by the end of the third round, including compensatory picks, his policy triggered the $3 million claim.