Get ready for another round of silly debates over what LSU running back Leonard Fournette should do with his football future. Fournette was already a well-known player to those who follow college football recruiting and have been actively watching LSU football, but this past weekend has seen him enter the national spotlight as more of a household name. Fournette’s smashing performance against Auburn, in which he showed superior physical strength and veteran-like awareness and patience to maximize the result of each play has catapulting him to the top of the Heisman charts and NFL folks are paying close attention. Unfortunately, the NFL will not be able to welcome Fournette to the professional ranks due to NFL rules preventing him from joining the league until 2017 at the earliest.
The New York Times published a story on the NFL rules and Fournette on Sunday, citing a guide from the NFL for college football coaches.
“The majority of underclassmen are not physically or mentally prepared to enter the [NFL],” the league states in a guide for college head coaches. “Most would benefit significantly from another year of college football.”
Fournette has suggested players may be physically ready to make the jump, but the mental fortitude is not always ready for that kind of change. It does not matter how physically gifted and crafted you may be if you do not have the mental maturity to handle the responsibilities that come with playing in the NFL.
Most would, of course, but sometimes there could possibly be an exception to that rule. Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett once tried to challenge the NFL rules feeling he was ready for the next level after just one year in Columbus. Fournette may be much more physically prepared than Clarett was at the time, but even he is not likely ready to jump right into the rigors of the NFL just yet. And recent history might suggest coming back for another year is probably best to get more of a sample of what any one player is capable of doing. Just last January NFL types were calling for Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones to leave the Buckeyes and enter the NFL Draft after three career starts (although an incredibly impressive three career starts). Jones returned to the Buckeyes this season and has now been pulled from the starting job just three games into the season.
It was just within the last couple of years national media types were seriously debating whether or not South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney should sit out the regular season and focus on training for the NFL Draft. Clowney, of course, played what would be his final season at South Carolina and went on to be a top draft pick of the Houston Texans in the 2014 NFL Draft. Do not be surprised if some fall into the trap of suggesting Fournette should consider sitting out the 2016 season so he can focus on the draft. The arguments that will be made may actually carry a little more weight than the arguments for Clowney. Running backs have a short life span in the NFL, and coming back from various types of injuries can be far more inhibiting than at other positions, like defensive end.