Photo by Alex Mertz (for more of Alex’s work go to https://unsplash.com/@alexmertz)
September 23rd, 2020
By Mufaddal and Jacob
The #WeWantToPlay movement took shape in mid-August, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields leading the charge, and it seems like they achieved their goal. College football is back, and now just three out of the ten FBS conferences are not in season. The Mountain West, Mid-American, And PAC-12 conferences are not expected to play football this year due to lingering COVID-19 fears.
Although most D1 schools are taking the field now, that doesn’t mean that all of their players are too. Even before it was announced that some conferences were suspending season back in July, notable players were already opting out of playing football this year. For many of these athletes, the risk of catching COVID-19 while playing football wasn’t worth it because they were already projected to be 1st round picks in the upcoming NFL draft, or close to it.
This week on What’s The Midweek Matter, we’re going to take a look at a few of these players.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Sewell is a surefire top 5 pick. If the team picking first in the draft doesn’t need a quarterback, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went number one. Sewell is a force in the run game and sturdy in the passing game. According to most scouts, he does have room to improve his technique. He’s a high floor, high ceiling type of player.
Although it didn’t end up mattering because the PAC-12 doesn’t plan on playing football this year, Sewell opted out of the 2020 season citing health concerns. After that announcement, he signed with his agent, Joe Panos of Athlete’s First, and is now preparing for the draft.
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Another top 5 pick. Parsons was kind of unreal to watch at Penn State. Sometimes announcers will just say “he’s been all over the field” for any high caliber defensive player, but for Parsons, it’s true. Parsons is a true sideline to sideline defender. He’s quick to react to his instincts (which are amazing), he’s reliable in pass coverage, and, oh yeah, he was a defensive end in high school so he can also rush the passer.
In August, Parsons announced that he was opting out of the 2020 season to start preparing for the 2021 Draft, and signed with his agent.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley may not be a top 5 pick, but he’s definitely in the top 15. Farley’s story is wild because he was a high school quarterback, then switched to wide receiver for his first year at Virginia Tech, and then cornerback. He has only been playing cornerback for 3 years, but absolutely doesn’t play like someone who is new to the position. He is a willing tackler, smooth with his footwork, and quick when closing on receivers. He’s best in man coverage when he can be physical and assertive with receivers, while also sticking on them like glue.
Farley ended up outing out of the 2020 season because he had deep concerns about staying healthy. He also accused Virginia Tech of inadequate testing and masking policies.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Ja’Marr Chase is the best wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft, hands down, no contest. Chase set the single season SEC record for receiving yards and touchdowns as a true sophomore in 2019. His routes are crisp and consistent rep after rep, he knows how to get open, and he’s good after the catch. The only knocks on him are that he isn’t the most dynamic player after the catch, and once in a while he’ll drop a ball. Dude is a guaranteed first round pick, top 15 if I had to guess.
Chase opted out of the 2020 season in August, but it’s believed that this case wasn’t specifically related to COVID-19 concerns. Many people believe that agents just convinced him to skip a season.
Shaun Wade, CB, and Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State
Alright, I grouped both these guys together for a reason, but I’ll get to that in a second.
I think Shaun Wade is going to be a first round pick, but I know he isn’t going to be the first cornerback off the board. He’s quick, twitchy, and aggressive. He excels in press coverage, and is impressive when it comes to defending screens or runs. The downside to Wade isn’t really in his game, but more of circumstance, as in the last couple years his play has been overshadowed by that of Jeff Okudah.
Wyatt Davis isn’t the most flashy player, but he will make any offensive line better. His footwork is fluid, he has incredible body control, and can move extremely well for a big guy. His grandfather, Willie Davis, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and it looks like he inherited his grandfather’s genes.
Now, both these players had opted out, but they both had changes of heart. When the Big 10 said they’d return on October 24th, Wade and Davis decided they wanted to play, and opted back in. Wade says he had a verbal agreement with an agent, but never signed the paperwork, and we’re unsure if Davis did get an agent. It will be interesting to see how the NCAA handles this situation, because, per their guidelines, a player who has an agent cannot compete in NCAA play.
Opting out of the season makes a lot of players like the ones we mentioned. If you’re going to be a first round pick, and have nothing else to really gain from playing this year why would you? There are too many things that could possibly go wrong. Best case scenario, your play convinces a team to pick you 3 or 4 spots ahead of where you’d have been. Worse case scenario, you get hurt, and drop out of the draft entirely. If I was in this situation, I’d sit out.