You get the feeling there’s a certain segment of the college football universe that would have rather seen Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey sink like boulders in last week’s NFL Draft. But they didn’t, hearing their names called fourth and eighth overall, respectively, while Michigan tight end Jake Butt waited until the fifth round to hear his name called. Coupled with the fate of former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith‘s fall from perhaps the No. 1 overall pick to the second round of the 2016 Draft and it certainly has the making of a large-scale boycott of the 2017-18 college football bowl season.
At least that’s what some are bracing for.
Sports Illustrated‘s Pete Thamel talked to people all around the issue and found a variety of opinions. College coaches were fearful but reluctantly understanding. NFL personnel were apathetic bordering on encouraging, happy to see their free talent pool protect itself. Agents will surely poke and prod certain first-rounders to skip their non-Playoff games.
But what about the players?
Thamel asked one. Here’s what Penn State running back Saquon Barkley had to say:
“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley said. “But I’m not going to sit here and say I would never do it. I don’t know. I could be in a situation next year where I have close to two broken ankles, God forbid, or something going on in my upper body and I can’t play in a game if I’m considering playing in the NFL.”
Thamel made it clear Barkley hadn’t fully thought through the issue until the question was asked of him. Penn State won the Big Ten last season and will enter 2017 a favorite to win it again. Clearly, Plan A for Barkley and the Nittany Lions will be to reach the College Football Playoff and win this issue into irrelevance.
But if they don’t?
It’s simply impossible to say at this point for Barkley or anyone else. There were a lot of variables at play that led Fournette and McCaffrey to skip their 2016 bowl games, and the same would have to happen for any as-yet mystery players to do the same in 2017.