Players That Would've Challenged the One and Done Rule - NFL Edition

Photo: Sooner Sports

The one and done rule in the NBA has been one of the most controversial sports rules implemented in quite some time. From LeBron James to Kwame Brown, the argument for both sides of the equation have valid points.

For now, the NBA's rule states that "players spend at least one year in college. High school players who would otherwise have jumped directly into the NBA were instead playing in college for the required year before leaving and entering the draft—a phenomenon known as one and done."

On the flip-side, the NFL's draft rule for eligibility is that "players must have been out of high school for at least three years and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season."

In honor of the NBA Draft being today, I went back two decades to find college football players of the past all the way to the present to base the premise of who I think could have entered their names into the NFL Draft and been ready to compete right away following their freshman campaigns.

Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech (1999)

1998-1999 was a magical season in Blacksburg, Virginia. Then, head coach Frank Beamer had the program in the early stages of its peak and there was a home state kid under center for the Hokies. Vick's combination of speed, agility, and arm talent was unlike anything that we've ever seen at the position before.

As a freshman, he engineered the offense to a nation-best 40.2 points per game. The unique lefty also led the program to an 11-0 record that included a trip to the 1999 BCS National Championship Game against Florida State - the first freshman to ever accomplish that feat. 

Philip Rivers, QB, NC State (2000)

A program that was fresh off of recording a disappointing 6-6 season needed a spark. With Chuck Amato hired as the institutions next head coach, a spark was needed from somewhere. Rivers surprisingly gave them that much earlier than anticipated.

Breaking nearly 10 freshman school records, Rivers threw his way to 3,054 yards and 25 touchdowns, as he was voted as the conference Rookie of the Year. After such an impressive first season, many believed that he could survive the asking price of the professional game after his debut season for the Wolfpack.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh (2002)

Still one of the best college receivers that we've ever seen. His famous over the shoulder catch to highlight plays in general for the Panthers, Fitzgerald set freshman program records for receptions (69), receiving yards (1,005) and touchdowns (12).

From his size to mature routes, and always dependable hands, he was seen as the next biggest prospect following his freshman season despite him not being eligible to enter the draft.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma (2004)

One of the most highly decorated high school recruits ever, to this day, there are still some that believe Peterson had the mature physique in order to be a pro after he walked across the stage at his high school graduation.

He proved worthy of the praise. On 335 carries, he rushed for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. His freshman season for the Sooners is still the best in program history. A season that finished with a loss in the BCS National Title game against USC, Peterson became Oklahoma’s first freshman ever to be named as a First Team AP All-American.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, (2007)

Coming to campus as a quarterback, Crabtree had little awareness of the nuances of playing receiver. His first season playing the position, all he did was lead the country in catches (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22).

A prolific first season, many evaluators were enamored by Crabtree after only one season. Ultimately becoming a top-10 selection, many felt as if he was ready after playing just one year at the position, making him a prime candidate to execute the one and done rule. 

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (2009)

A program that was just beginning to lay the foundation of what it would eventually become, Kuechly was a supreme building block of it. Losing legendary defensive end Mark Herzlich to cancer during the season prior to (2008), the surprise emergence of the freshman linebacker took all by surprise. 

The heartbeat of the Eagles defense finished with a conference-leading 158 tackles and 13.0 tackles for loss, which led to him becoming an All-ACC First Team selection. He was also voted as the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, South Carolina (2011)

His Gamecock career speaks for itself. From being undoubtedly the most hyped five-star recruit in program history to the bone-crushing backfield hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl, Clowney's career was a memorable one.

As a freshman, he was a 6-foot-5, 260 pound phenom. The star defensive end recorded 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and five forced fumbles. Just like he did in 2014, there's zero doubt that he would've been in contention for the top overall selection if he was draft eligible following his freshman season. 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011)

The school that's now firmly entrenched as "Wide Receiver U", Watkins started the trend of star receivers. Tallying 82 catches for 1,219 yards, and 12 touchdowns, he set multiple program records, while still being arguably the best target in school history.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (2012)

Receiving his opportunity after an unfortunate off the field situation with another player, Gurley stepped into the spotlight in Athens and shined. In 14 games, Gurley accumulated 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns on 222 carries.

A First Team All-SEC selection, he joined Herschel Walker as the only Bulldogs rusher to record 1,000 yards during their true freshman season.

Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M (2014)

There aren't many humans gracing the earth that have the physical dimensions that Garrett possesses while also still being able to move at the pace that he does. His first season in College Station was a memorable one.

Collecting 11.5 sacks during his first campaign, he broke Jadeveon Clowney's freshman record (8.0) that was set in 2011. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, scouts salivated over Garrett's potential at 18 years old. 

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (2018)

It was widely known that Lawrence was special, but the hardest part for the Tigers coaching staff was knowing when to implement him. Officially handing him the keys following the fourth game of the season, Lawrence lived up to every bit of the hype. Totaling 3,280 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions, while leading the program to a 15-0 record and a national title victory, he became the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national title since 1985.

The hype surrounding Lawrence will only continue to grow and for now, there are plenty that believe he would've been the top overall selection last year if had he been draft eligible. 

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Founder of Former QB and Coach at North Carolina Central Univ.