Laquon Treadwell raised the collective hopes of the Ole Miss faithful on Thursday when he told ESPN's Mark Schlabach that his decision on going pro is "still in the air." The first-team All-SEC wideout and surefire NFL first rounder said he doesn't have "anything left to prove in college," but that he's incentivized to return for his senior season by a shot at winning the SEC and making it to the Playoff.
Even the most ardent realists among you are by this point conjuring up another year of Chad Kelly rainbows landing softly in Laquon's hands, defenders and records strewn behind him in various degrees of ruination as he gallops his way through the SEC history books and...
Look, I don't doubt Laquon's candor when he says he wants to get Ole Miss to a Playoff game. But as desperately as we fans would like to believe that decisions like this are influenced by selfless loyalty to the university we love, they are, in the end, a matter of cold economics. The fact of the matter is that the risks of coming back to play another season of free football simply outweigh the potential rewards -- after all, if anyone knows how abruptly a devastating injury can disrupt the best laid plans, it's Laquon.
It's not like there's much space for him to improve his stock, anyway. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both have him as the top pass catcher in the 2016 class and most mock drafts have him going to the wideout-needy St. Louis Rams, who would pick seventh if the season ended today. No receiver has gone more than three spots higher than that in the last eight years.
There was a time, of course, when the financial difference between No. 4 and No. 7 was pretty hefty. In 2010, the year before the NFL's current collective bargaining agreement was put into place, fourth overall pick Trent Williams signed for nearly $11 million more in guaranteed money than seventh overall Joe Haden. Last year, however, Amari Cooper made just $6 million more than Kevin White. Still a lot of money, sure, but it pales in comparison to what Treadwell stands to lose were he to get injured.
And that's assuming Laquon could significantly improve on his 1,082-yard, eight-touchdown junior campaign. He told Schlabach that he "might have put up twice the production" had he been healthy this season, but given the upcoming offensive turnover, there's reason to doubt whether Treadwell could do much better in 2016. We're not sure if Chad Kelly is coming back and even if he does, his ability to push the ball downfield will be limited by the loss of both starting tackles.
It's not like I'm trying to drive the guy off, mind you. (Quon, if you're reading this, forget everything I said up to this point -- you should totally come back, it makes perfect sense.) I'm simply saying that the opportunity to set himself financially for the rest of his life will almost certainly win out over whatever desires for another Playoff run he harbors.