Top draft prospect Jeffery Simmons tore an ACL while engaging in pre-draft workouts. Which raises an important question for all top draft prospects: Why do it?
Even though Simmons was banned from the Scouting Combine due to off-field issues, he would have been expected to engage in the events of the Underwear Olympics at his Pro Day workout, and he presumably was engaged in training aimed not at preparing to play NFL football but to generate the best possible numbers when running, jumping, starting, stopping, etc. while doing the things that a draft prospect is expected to do.
In recent years, some top prospects have begun to skip meaningless bowl games and to decline invitations to engage in private workouts. At some point, the best of the best need to consider boycotting all of the pre-draft events, resting on their college performances and trusting the general consensus that they’ll be among the top players taken.
Scouts and coaches will strenuously object, but what will they do? If they don’t draft the player, one of their competitors will. And the prospect will be protected against the risk of plummeting draft stock that comes from a serious injury that would wipe out his rookie year.
Wherever Simmons would have been drafted, he’ll now go lower than he would have gone. Which means he’ll make less money on his rookie contract than he would have made.
It’s one thing for prospects who need strong pre-draft performances to improve their draft position to fully embrace and participate the process. It’s quite another for those whose skills and abilities already have earned them a place among the best of the best to accept the risk that comes from training to do a bunch of things that have no relevance to their football futures.
Good luck convincing these guys to opt out, however. They’re young and strong and they regard themselves as invincible and impervious to significant physical harm. The serious injuries that they haven’t suffered throughout highly successful football careers happen to others, not to them. Until they do.
While it won’t be easy to convince the best prospects to say, “The hay’s in the barn. I’m not going to participate in your made-for-TV dog-and-pony show,” it takes only one or two to take a stand and still get drafted early to persuade others to do the same. Just like it did with guys skipping bowl games and private workouts.
For the players, it’s simply a matter of good business. And these budding professional athletes need to start making good business decisions well before they’re officially in the pro football business. Simmons surely wishes he had. The question becomes whether his misfortune will inspire others to consider declining to spend two or three months doing a bunch of things that have no bearing on football in order to ultimately be drafted in the same spot they would have been drafted in the first place.