Two years ago, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney was advised to sit out his junior season in college as an injury-free bridge to fulfill the NFL's requirement for draft prospects to be three years removed from high school, according to Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier. Now, the same idea is being floated for LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who won't be eligible to apply for early NFL draft entry until 2017.
Fournette responded to the chatter, via Twitter:
Clowney said much the same thing when he was asked about the possibility of skipping his junior year. Playing as a junior, although he drew criticism for not playing through minor injuries and had his effort questioned at times, clearly didn't hurt Clowney's draft stock -- he was chosen No. 1 overall in 2014 by the Houston Texans. According to NFL Network's Marshall Faulk, Fournette should stay on Clowney's three-year path.
"I'm telling you, sitting out, it takes a while to get you back into the speed of things," Faulk told The Dan Le Batard Show. "Just watch. Adrian Peterson, he sat out last year, he's going to have good game-bad game, good game-bad game. You saw him put the ball on the turf a couple times Sunday. You need the reps. I hope that LSU is smart about how they use him. He pretty much has no quarterback. He has no quarterback in the sense of a guy that can really throw the ball down the field to take some of the pressure off of him. I see that they're kind of shrinking his carries, but he's a workhorse, bell-cow kind of guy. He will be the first running back or the first player taken when he does come out, though."
Sophomore Brandon Harris, the quarterback to whom Faulk referred, hasn't attempted more than 17 passes in a game this year and is barely averaging 100 yards passing per game. There is no question Fournette is, for now, the entire show in Baton Rouge.
But the notion that an injury as a junior would have a devastating effect on Fournette's career couldn't be more antiquated. Decades ago, a torn ACL might have meant the end of a career or, perhaps, permanently taken a step away from a player like Fournette. At one time, recovery took a full year and players didn't feel back to full strength for another year after that. Today, players are returning to action from a torn ACL in months, not years.
There is no doubt a big reward awaits a talent like Fournette.
But for those suggesting he sit out to avoid injury, the risk is overblown.