If CFB season is delayed, could stars sit out to prepare for NFL Draft?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Like almost everything in this post-virus world, the 2020 college football season is in a state of great uncertainty. Even Dr. Fauci has pointed to the fact that it just might not be possible.

It will require a variety of unprecedented measures for the season to take place. Some players have expressed that they will accept these measures, along with whatever else it takes to take the field again. 

But that might not be true for all college stars. Every year more and more NFL-bound prospects skip their programs’ bowl games. The pandemic may be the push that makes some stars skip not just a bowl game, but the whole season.

The usual reasons skip: Even pre-virus, there were arguments for college stars to sit out.

  • The most obvious reason is injury. Every time a future pro steps on the college field, they’re risking millions of dollars in future earnings.
  • Just looking at last season, the tale of Tua Tagovailoa should show top prospects how quickly their draft stock could plummet. Luckily, Tua recovered enough and on time to still be selected fifth overall, but not everyone has the same fortune.
  • Sitting out also would also allow future draftees more freedom in how they train, doing what they think is best for their own draft prospects.
  • The top stars have already shown their talents. Trevor Lawrence could never take another college snap and still likely be the first overall pick in 2021. 

How a delay makes things worse: A delay in the season further increases incentives to skip.

  • Most athletic directors certainly seem to think a delay is inevitable in one form or another.
  • A delay could mean the season continuing well into Spring, with some speculating bowls taking place as late as June. 
  • In a better scenario, delays plus a shortened season would still mean games being played into at least late January. 
  • Both of these timelines present problems for stars with their sights on the 2021 draft. Future draftees rely on a break after the college season to recuperate and prepare for the NFL Combine in February. 
  • Even if the NFL adjusts its schedule to accommodate, players will likely get no off-time in between their college seasons, draft prep and NFL spring training. 
  • That much football with no break could easily lead to a rash of injuries among the 2021 rookie class. 

A season without stars: This logic only applies to a select few stars across the country.

  • The vast majority of student-athletes should still be suiting up come season’s start, whether that’s in August or January. 
  • For those with draft aspirations but who aren’t blue-chip first round talent, every game is an invaluable chance to raise their stock. 
  • Sitting out a single bowl game is one thing, but missing a whole season could easily tank a mid-round player’s chances. 
  • The decision gets even easier for players not aiming for the 2021 Draft, or the NFL at all. These individuals make up the vast majority of all rosters, even at top schools. 
  • These players won’t have to worry about a quick turnaround into draft prep, or tanking their stock with an injury. 
  • While a delayed season is certainly unfortunate for these normal student-athletes, it shouldn’t present them with any reason to not play.

Bottom line: Nobody knows what’s going to happen and things are changing every day.

  • But there’s a chance college football’s elite players will be faced with a tough choice, especially if the season is delayed.
  • This doesn’t mean the NCAA and athletics directors should rush to start the season. Safety is most important, and college football is more than its marquee superstars. 
  • After all, even if some familiar faces are missing, it will be great to have college football back on our screens.