Is Jadeveon Clowney mailing it in until the NFL Draft?
Take Nerlens Noel, the top high school basketball recruit in the class of 2012. He would have been one of the first few picks in the NBA Draft if he had entered out of high school, but due to NBA rules, he attended the University of Kentucky for the 2012-13 season.
In February of his freshman year, Noel blew out his knee, tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season. While he was previously considered the heavy favorite to be selected first overall in the 2013 draft, the red flags regarding his health played a part in his dropping to sixth overall - he will make an average of $2.2 million less per year than the first overall pick. To top it all off, Noel will be off to a shaky start to his professional career, as he is expected back from knee surgery in December at the absolute earliest.
We now jump to football, which is very different in terms of on-field rules and regulations, but is extremely similar when it comes to the concept of prospects being physically ready to go pro before they are eligible.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the top rated recruit in 2011 by a large margin. If there was ever a player who could go straight from high school to the NFL, it would have been Clowney - an 18-year-old kid standing at 6'6'', 240 pounds. Like just about every other highly rated high school football player, Clowney committed to a school and got ready to start his collegiate career.
Questions began to surface during the 2012 season, however, when Clowney had established himself as arguably the best college defensive player in the nation. The issue was that Clowney was only a sophomore at South Carolina, and was not eligible to enter the NFL Draft. People began to wonder whether or not Clowney would even play as a junior. He was already the cream of the crop of the 2014 draft class, and had very little to gain by playing another season of college ball. He did have something to lose, however - what if he blew out his knee like Noel? By sitting out his junior year, Clowney could significantly decrease his risk of injury while focusing strictly on football and preparing to absolutely dominate the NFL combine.