LSU running back Leonard Fournette has become something of a poster child this year for criticism of an NFL rule that requires underclassmen to be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL draft. While Tigers coach Les Miles didn't address his star sophomore's NFL-readiness specifically Wednesday on the SEC media teleconference, he did acknowledge that, in rare cases, college players are ready for the NFL before those three years pass.
"I think there's probably guys that could enter the (NFL) draft, just like basketball, one and out, sophomores two and out, juniors three and out," Miles said, according to The Times-Picayune. "I think there's a style of athlete that can do that. They are rarer because in football, maturity and strength adds to their worth in what is the next level, the league. I'm certain there are those men that come prepared physically and emotionally to be a part an NFL regiment. There's very few of them."
As a true sophomore, Fournette (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) can't be ruled eligible for the NFL draft until 2017, at the earliest. He leads the nation in rushing with 1,352 yards and in rushing touchdowns with 15. He's considered the favorite for the Heisman Trophy. If there is anyone in the college game physically ready for the NFL before the three-year wait is up, it's Fournette, although athleticism isn't the only measure for whether a player is ready for a pro career.
The rule hasn't gone without a challenge, albeit a failed one.
Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett legally challenged the rule in hopes of entering the 2004 NFL Draft just two years removed from high school. After a federal judge initially ruled in Clarett's favor, a U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and Clarett was prevented from entering the draft.