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Could Trevor Lawrence skip his junior season at Clemson?

On Monday morning, Ben Standig, who covers Washington D.C. sports for The Athletic, published a piece on where things stand with the NFL, currently. In the piece, Standig polled 30 different agents with stakes in the NFL to get a sense of how the league is evolving amid COVID-19.

One of the anonymous agents in Standig’s story — when asked how the pandemic will impact the 2021 NFL Draft class — mentioned something that should catch the eye of any college football fan: “Well, quite candidly, I’ve talked to a number of top-tier prospects who right now are considering just skipping their junior or senior seasons and entering the draft.”

That same agent used Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence as a hypothetical example of this new, potential reality. This doesn’t mean that Lawrence — who was active on campus during the program’s Black Lives Matter protest — is one of those prospects. However, he certainly fits the description — perhaps more so than any other college prospect.

Before the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Lawrence even set foot on Clemson’s campus in 2018, the former blue-chip recruit projected as a top pick in the 2021 draft — if not the No. 1 overall selection. Most of what he’s produced in Death Valley, including Clemson’s national title in 2018-19, has reinforced those early projections.

While it seems likely that there will be some type of college football season during the 2020-21 school year, what benefit is it to Lawrence to return to college ball? (Now, at this point in Lawrence’s career, you could make this same argument even without the powerful COVID-19 element. But I digress.)

There’s no real way for Lawrence to improve his draft stock this season; he’s already viewed as the NFL top prospect. Playing college ball comes with a variety of associated risks specific to 2020, too, including the potential to catch the virus and get sick. Plus, who knows what the 2020 season will even look like in its final form. All of which could have an impact on a player’s stock.

Instead, Lawrence could train and workout in a more controlled environment, while avoiding some potential risk for injury, and show up eligible (three years out of high school) for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The hypothetical list of players in this category is short — no more than a dozen or so. But Lawrence tops that list. (It doesn’t seem like too big of an assumption to consider Clemson running back Travis Etienne in this group. The same could be said of Florida State’s Marvin Wilson, who also opted to return for his senior season in 2020. Etienne may not profile as a top 15-20 pick, but he surprised some by deciding to return for his senior season. Etienne is one of the top running back prospects for 2021.)

If Lawrence decides to return, it’s for things outside of his next step professionally. It would have more to do with him wanting to finish what he started at Clemson with his teammates, which has value, too. It’s just significantly harder to quantify.

 

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