Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, arguably the top prospect in the 2017 NFL draft, announced Monday he will play in the Texas Bowl against Kansas State, according to Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News.
"I plan to practice today and prepare to play in the bowl game with my teammates," Garrett said in a statement.
The announcement comes in the wake of a pair of star running backs, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, both deciding to skip their team's respective bowl games. Fournette noted his decision was in an effort to get healthy—he dealt with an ankle injury throughout the year—while McCaffrey said his decision would allow him to begin his preparations for the NFL draft, per Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post.
Not surprisingly, those announcements quickly fostered a debate about players' decisions to skip bowl games for personal reasons or whether it is a smart and practical decision to avoid potential injury. Jaylon Smith, for instance, was considered a top-five selection in the 2016 NFL draft until he injured his knee in the Fiesta Bowl, dropped into the second round and lost millions of dollars in the process.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott saw both sides of the argument:
But Garrett had previously said he wouldn't make a decision about entering the NFL draft until after Texas A&M's bowl game, making his decision to play in the game an expected outcome, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com.
The junior has once again been dominant, registering 32 tackles (15 for loss), 8.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. For his career, he's posted 47 tackles for loss and 31 sacks, and he is considered by many as the obvious choice to go No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL draft.
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote: "Garrett is the clear-cut best player in this class. That's my opinion, and it's the opinion of every NFL scout I've contacted in the last two weeks. If Cleveland can overcome the need to draft a quarterback No. 1 overall, Garrett should be the pick."
In that regard, many folks likely wouldn't have blamed Garrett for skipping a relatively low-profile bowl game to avoid injury and preserve his draft stock. Garrett never seemed likely to take that route, however.
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