How One Player’s NFL Draft Could Alter the College Football Playoff System

Today’s guest columnist is Richard C. Giller, Esq., a partner at Greenspoon Marder LLP.

College football players opting out of playing in bowl games garnered national attention in 2016 when, for the first time since the College Football Playoff (CFP) system was established in 2014, two top 10 NFL draft picks (Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey) decided to skip their last college football games. While their decisions sent shock waves through the sport, they did not impact their draft status since they were taken fourth and eighth, respectively, in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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Each year since then, dozens of college football players skip playing in secondary bowl games, but, so far, no player has decided to opt out of a CFP playoff game. That trend could change depending on where one player—Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams—is selected during this week’s draft.

Early in the second quarter of Alabama’s loss to Georgia in January’s CFP National Championship game, Williams caught a pass and headed up field. He made a cut and immediately grabbed his left knee. Williams crumpled to the ground in obvious pain, having torn the ACL in that knee. He underwent reconstructive surgery and his rehabilitation is reportedly ahead of schedule.

A torn ACL is not only a serious injury, it often shortens and even ends careers. When drafting an athlete who has undergone ACL surgery, NFL teams must weigh a number of factors—among them the risk of a second ACL injury. Contralateral ACL injuries, meaning an injury to the healthy knee, is “one of the most serious complications” after ACL surgery. Other studies show the risk of a contralateral ACL tear is as high as 25%. Additionally, the incidence of suffering a second ACL injury following ACL reconstruction “has been reported to be 15 times greater…


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