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Will NFL Draft prospects start opting out of the College Football Playoffs?

by Michael Hanich | January 12, 2022 at 4:32 p.m.

Every year rages a debate regarding whether it is ethical for players with high NFL Draft stock to opt-out of non-college football playoff games and prepare for the NFL Draft. There are no rules that forbid players to opt-out of their team's bowl games to potentially preserve their bodies from injuries as they prepare for the NFL Draft.

In the Outback Bowl, Arkansas's star wide receiver Treylon Burk and Penn State's star wide receiver Jahan Dotson both opted out as they prepared for the upcoming 2022 NLF Draft. Both Burks and Dotson are regarded by many NFL Draft analysts and scouts as potential first round selections.

Other noticeable opt-outs this bowl season included Oregon edge rusher and potential first overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, Mississippi State offensive tackles Charles Corss and Ohio State star wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

These players opted-out of their teams' bowl games to save themselves from potential major injuries that former Michigan tight end Jake Butt and former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith experienced in their non-championship level bowl games. Butt tore his ACL in the 2016 Orange Bowl while Smith tore his ACL and LCL in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. Both players were considered first round prospects, but Butt fell to the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft while Smith was cautiously drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The debate against players opting out of bowl will only intensify as Alabama's explosive and speedy wide receiver in Jameson Williams tore his ACL in the second of the 2022 National Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Williams was seen walking gingerly on his own after halftime as he wanted to play, but was advised not to by Alabama head coach Nick Saban. He will have surgery and is expected to be 100% back to explosive speed soon enough.

Williamson is a first round caliber wide receiver for the 2022 NFL Draft and regarded as one of the best receivers in college football. After the major injury, his Draft stock has been down as there are questions of whether Williams will regain his elite speed again. ESPN Insider still has him as the top wide receiver and the best overall prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Sport Illustrated's Zack Patraw has Williams as the third receiver selected and 23rd overall to the Las Vegas Raiders in his latest NFL Mock Draft released on Tuesday. USA Today's Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz has Williams as the fourth receiver selected and the 30th overall player selected by the Kansas City Chiefs, which would be perfect for his playstyle. Finally, CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso does not have Williams selected at all in his latest NFL Mock Draft released on Wednesday. He had five other wide receivers selected in the first round of his Mock Draft.

The impact of his injury has certainly affected his NFL Draft selection opportunities to the point to where some teams and their scouts might be cautious of him.

Williams's injury might also be an indication on future prospect's path to the NFL Draft.

When a multiple-year contract worth millions of dollars and a stable NFL career is on the line, there will be concerns and caution, especially from players who have had dreams of playing in the NFL since childhood. The careers of Jake Butt and Jaylon Smith have not been the same since those terrible injuries in their bowl games. While Jameson Williams' ACL injury isn't as severe, he has a long road to getting back to his prime before playing again.

Print Headline: Will NFL Draft prospects start opting out of the College Football Playoffs?


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