Would Saquon Barkley skip a Penn State bowl game to protect NFL Draft status?
One of the most controversial topics before, during, and after last weekend’s NFL Draft centered on whether or not college football players should sit out of their team’s bowl game to protect their NFL Draft status.
The issue came to the forefront for a pair of running backs, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, a few months ago when both decided to not to play in their teams’ respective bowl games, both considered minor postseason affairs, to ensure they’d be healthy and become the first-round picks they were projected as. They weren’t the only college players to do so, but among the most notable.
Some sources said NFL teams would hold it against them, while others applauded the move as smart.
The issue is far from solved, as arguments continued about whether or not the two started a trend, and there’s little common ground between those who believe college players should do it and those who do not. At any rate, neither was penalized, as Fournette went No. 4 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars before McCaffrey went No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers.
Why is it relevant to Penn State? Well, because the Lions have their own potential top-10 pick, junior running back Saquon Barkley, of course. He’s eligible to declare for the NFL Draft after the 2017 season, and as long as he’s healthy, most expect him to do just that.
What would he do, though, if he had to make the choice Fournette and McCaffrey made?
“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley told Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel recently, who adds in the story that Barkley told him that each decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.
“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.”
Head coach James Franklin also spoke to the outlet, saying:
“I don’t mean this as a knock to any of these guys, but especially at the running back position, you didn’t get there by yourself,” Franklin said. “Those offensive linemen had a big part of your success. Those tight ends and quarterbacks had a big part of your success.”
Early 2018 NFL mock drafts are already touting where Barkley could end up, with some suggesting he’ll be a top-five pick. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller calls him the draft class’ No. 3 overall player, even though he has yet to declare, and Walter Football calls him a top-3 pick, too.
It’s why the debate on what Barkley should, and will, do is surely to rage on as the wins, and/or losses, pile up in State College this fall.