Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was asked about whether he’d ever consider skipping a bowl game as his NFL career came into focus.
Pete Thamel of SI.com did the asking, noting, “He thought out loud as he spoke, changing his mind a few times. He said he’d never do it, then backtracked before he finished answering.”
Thamel related Barkley saying he agreed with Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette’s decisions last year — both skipped their bowl games and were drafted in the top 10. However, when answering for himself, he couldn’t definitively say one way or another what he will do.
“I would have a hard time doing it,” Barkley said. “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.”
Landing a high draft pick in Round 1 offers tremendous immediate financial stability. For example, Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie contract after being selected No. 4 overall last year will blow your socks off (details here).
Players nowadays see tremendous risk associated with playing a game that, in the overall scheme of things, they might view as meaningless. Just take a look at what happened to Jaylon Smith, who was considered a top-five lock before his final game with Notre Dame. Then he suffered a catastrophic knee injury that cost him millions of dollars, and he’s still not fully healthy as his second NFL season comes into view.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Barkley — a guy we’ve highlighted as a potential top pick in 2018 — ends up opting for safety and security as they focus on draft preparation, rather than one final shot at glory with his college teammates.