Stay or Go? Decisions Loom For Injured Prospects

Photo: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are an inevitable component of a collision sport like football but that doesn't mean they don't suck because they are common. While I hate seeing any player get injured, it's especially troubling for high-profile NFL draft prospects that are underclassmen. Deciding to forgo college eligibility to pursue the NFL is a big enough decision that doesn't need the haze on a season-ending injury to factor in the choice.

Like every year, we've already seen a slew of underclassmen go down for the season. What does that mean for their looming decisions to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft? Let's examine the situations surrounding some of the most prominent prospects who need to decide if their next game will be on a Sunday or Saturday.

RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

After the UCLA game, Oklahoma announced Anderson suffered a right knee injury that would sideline him for the remainder of his junior season. Unfortunately, this is Anderson's third season-ending injury at Oklahoma. Two games into the 2015 season, Anderson broke his leg and was lost for the year. His bad fortunes continued the very next spring after suffering a fractured vertebra in his neck which cost him the 2016 season.

Entering the season, Anderson was the clear-cut top running back prospect in the rising draft class. He is a big, physical and elusive runner with a multifaceted skill set. While there have been a few risers, a healthy Anderson is the best back in the class.

Despite his most recent injury, I don't think it's out of the question for Anderson to declare for the 2019 Draft and capitalize on his status in an overall weak running back class. Heck, he still could be the first RB drafted.

Considering Todd Gurley and Willis McGahee were still first-round selections despite season-ending knee injuries of their own, the NFL hasn't dismissed picking injured running backs high in the draft.

The LAST thing Anderson needs is another unfortunate injury to add to his resume and it wouldn't surprise me if he entered the draft. His injury happened early enough in the year that he should be ready to roll for the start of his NFL rookie season.

OT Trey Adams, Washington

Entering the 2018 season, the task ahead for the 6-foot-8, 316-pound Adams was to prove he was healthy after missing the second half of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. Unfortunately, his senior season was over before it began and Adams had back surgery in early September.

You couldn't find a "way-too-early" 2019 NFL Mock Draft over the summer that didn't include Adams as a first round selection, but back-to-back significant season-ending injuries puts that in serious jeopardy. Taking a redshirt this season, Adams now must decide between the NFL and a playing for the Huskies in 2018.

Considering he wasn't able to prove his health in 2018, the mission remains the same in 2019. With that said, Adams would benefit greatly from another year of seasoning in college and showing NFL scouts that his injuries are behind him.

WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

(Give me a second, I need to clear this lump in my throat)

I am sorry if I am showing favoritism but I can't help it. Metcalf is a major draft crush of mine and the TDN staff. Watch him play. His traits are rare and special. His technique in his release, burst, size, length and ability at the catch point have me drooling.

I have confirmed with Kyle and the offer still stands.

Sigh... (wipes tears)

Metcalf has since underwent successful neck surgery. Leaning on Rebels' head coach Matt Luke's comments that long-term he will be fine, I trust that it's not a career-threatening injury. With that said, we only know what he know. This is a neck injury, not a knee. Gauging the timetable for return and severity of the injury is impossible with the limited information we have.

A healthy Metcalf is a top-10 caliber prospect but that's not the case. We need more information to speak to his decision but I cannot wait to see Metcalf on the football field again and watch his tantalizing skill set.

DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State

This decision has already been made. Bosa is onto the NFL.

After suffering a core muscle injury in the TCU game, Bosa stepped away from the Buckeye's program and is now focused on preparing for the NFL. But was it the right decision? It absolutely is. Bosa is destined to become a top-3 draft selection, even with these circumstances. That type of virtual certainty is not something a human being should walk away from.

Cue the short-sighted "he quit on his teammates" comments...

CB Mark Gilbert, Duke

Coming off a sophomore season in which he was the leading vote-getter among cornerbacks for All-ACC honors, Gilbert racked up 35 tackles, 15 pass breakups and six interceptions. A hot name entering the season, Gilbert suffered a season-ending hip injury on Sept. 8 against Northwestern. The Blue Devils have been one of the most snake bitten teams in the nation this season.

Another strong season in 2018 and Gilbert declaring for the 2019 Draft would've came as no surprise other than Duke players don't often leave school early.

A hip injury is never ideal, especially for a position where fluidity and flexibility in the hips is critical. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175-pounds, Gilbert didn't pop as an athlete from film study and was more reliant on instincts and technique.

I don't expect to see Gilbert in the mix for 2018 and reaffirming his talent against ACC competition is Gilbert's best course for 2019.

Written By:

Joe Marino

Chief Administrative Officer

CAO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.