The past week and a half has featured big stories and controversies with three potential first round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft; all of which are underclassmen. Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney decided to keep himself out in South Carolina’s game against Kentucky. Safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix was suspended for Alabama’s game against Georgia State for taking a couple hundred dollars from an Assistant Coach on the Tide staff who has been suspended. Tight End Colt Lyerla has left the University of Oregon for undisclosed reasons after being sat out for their game this week’s game against Colorado. Only one of these stories is likely to have a big impact on the stock of these players, which is Lyerla, and it remains to be seen just how much of an impact it will have.
Clowney was to have been the #1 overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft had he simply been eligible to declare for it. Most analysts and draftniks had basically come to the conclusion that Clowney did not have to play a single down this year to be one of if not the top pick in this year’s draft. It was even discussed as a viable option to protect Clowney from significant injury. Nevertheless, Clowney has played this year and the injury he is dealing with is one that will likely require surgery to repair. If Clowney had opted to have the surgery and miss games, no one could blame him as he is protecting his future earning power. There seem to be some coming out and criticizing Clowney now for pulling the plug this week and it was clear that Steve Spurrier was not overly thrilled with the decision and made it clear to the media that it was Clowney’s decision.
There will be some coaches that might not like this move by Clowney, but anyone who puts themselves in the shoes of Clowney should be able to completely understand this move. The NFL has a three year rule that mandates players are not able to go into the NFL Draft until three years after their high school class has graduated. It is a good rule. Every so often, there is a one in a million type player such as Clowney who is legitimately ready to make that jump earlier and it was clear Clowney was ready last year. If the function of college is to prepare the young man for a career, mission accomplished. He is ready. Clowney does not owe them anything.
Certainly, there is loyalty to the coaches and teammates he has there, which is why he is playing at all in addition to what people would hope is simply a love of the game of football. He is not earning anything at South Carolina. His earning power is in the NFL. Sustaining a serious injury would hurt that earning power. Insurance is not a cure-all as it requires him to stop playing the game forever should he cash it in. Even if that policy is $10 million, he would earn more than that in his first contract in the NFL as long as he does not suffer an injury that would be debilitating.
People may not like it in spirit, but Clowney is dealing in reality. It is his body in an incredibly violent game. This will have no impact on his NFL draft stock at all. The NFL is going to pay him. The issue solves itself real quick and if Clowney wants to make far more money, he will bring everything he has to it.
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is a situation that is all too common in college football. Plenty of players come from families that are not in great financial situations and they legitimately need help. It is unclear if Dix was simply trying to get by or if the money he borrowed was spent frivolously, but ultimately that will be the key factor for NFL decision makers on Dix when he ultimately goes to the NFL. This whole situation would suggest Dix is likely to declare for the NFL Draft, so he can start earning and taking care of his family.
No one likes the fact that it costs him games which hurts his team. There is an understandable question of selfishness and putting himself over the team. NFL personnel will ask around and try to gauge the character of the young man as well as his perception in the locker room. If he took the money to eat or to help out his family, they will not hold it against them. Again, if the issue is money, the NFL will take care of that by paying him to play. So unless there is another lingering issue, this will have no impact at all on his stock.
Lyerla’s situation is the most potentially problematic. The biggest problem is that Lyerla does not get to play and show off his skills. One of the issues that Lyerla was having in Eugene was the fact he was not getting the ball. The reasoning for why over the past year and a half, Lyerla got few opportunities to make plays with the ball in his hands is unclear, but as talented as he may be, it is difficult to use a high first round pick on a player that is almost entirely based on potential and what he does with the ball in his hands, so that could hurt his stock. As is always the case with the draft, it only takes one team and someone could take Lyerla without hesitating.
Although not as ugly a situation and not nearly as public, there was a similar sense of ugliness between Lyerla and Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich. After a game earlier in the year, Lyerla was unhappy with his limited role in the offense and some comments made by Helfrich. It seemed as though Lyerla was extremely likely to declare for the NFL as soon as he could. He was not used a ton when it came to being a play maker under Chip Kelly and even less under Helfrich. This situation got worse when Helfrich kept him out of this week’s game for a violation of team rules, which appears to have been the tipping point for Lyerla and prompted his exit.
While there may be fault on both sides ultimately, the key will be what happened and why Lyerla ultimately did leave. Quitting on a team does not go well in the NFL Draft generally. Marquess Wilson was a talented wide receiver at Washington State and quit the team as he made some accusations about his head coach Mike Leach. Wilson was drafted in the 7th round of the draft. Lyerla is arguably far more talented than Wilson but has to be worrisome.
Until the story comes out as to what actually happened with Lyerla and Oregon, it is impossible to say what impact this will have. The problem is that NFL personnel are forced to go only off of the tape they have of Lyerla and while he will have an opportunity to work out for teams, it does hurt him in that respect.
It is so easy for people to jump to conclusions and try to evaluate prospects’ draft stocks almost by the minute, but there has to be a logical reason for the gain or drop. The mention of Dix being suspended had some claiming it would hurt his stock. There was no other information available, but that was the conclusion many jumped; not just that it would have an impact, but discussing how much of one. In the end, the issue will likely have no impact on him at all. This is not something that is going to cause a team to pass on him that would have otherwise selected him. So while controversy surrounds three major prospects that all have first round talent, only one of the three is likely going to matter and it is still hard to gauge just how much of one until more information is known.