Will Shipley Faces Decision: NFL Draft or Another Season with Clemson Football?

Will Shipley will play in the Gator Bowl, but hasn't decided about 2024. He may ultimately go pro, but opting into the bowl game instead of opting out shows Shipley doesn't have Clemson out of his system yet.

Nov 25, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) huddles with teammates.
Nov 25, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) huddles with teammates. / Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
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Clemson Football is still waiting on a decision from running back Will Shipley.

Shipley has confirmed that he will play for Clemson in the Gator Bowl and that he has no plans to transfer to another program. He has narrowed his decision to two options: return the Clemson for the 2024 season or declare for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Multiple players have already announced their plans to declare for the NFL Draft and that they will opt out of the Gator Bowl. The fact that Shipley has opted into playing the bowl game even though he is thinking about going pro tells me that he hasn’t gotten all the Clemson Football he wants yet.

That might be what the Gator Bowl is for, however.

There are multiple reasons why Shipley would want to start the clock on his NFL career. The professional ranks are not kind to running backs these days.

There are fewer and fewer examples of running backs that get a big payday on their second contract. Teams are hesitant to invest in backs after they have been in the league for a few years.

NFL players are bigger and stronger than ever before. Running backs tend to get injured a lot. Concussions figure into that quite a bit too. Those injured running backs aren’t always as explosive when they return, and they tend to become injury-prone.

The mindset is that it is better to start a running back's NFL career at 20-21 with less wear and tear than to be 22-23 with four to five years in college.

Shipley has been fortunate to have a running mate with Phil Mafah. They have been sharing duties, which allows both to keep more tread on the tires.

Nonetheless, Shipley has already had some nagging injuries at Clemson, and he was concussed this season. I can understand if he feels that it would be wise to start his NFL clock sooner than later.

Draft projections are all over the place for Shipley. Some are as high as a second round, others think he will be a Day 3 pick, but the vast majority agree he will be drafted. That isn’t a concern for Shipley.

While some positions might get a Day 2 grade and decide to return, there isn’t much point for a running back to do that. It’s rare for a back to be taken in the 1st round anymore.

As I said, Shipley playing in the Gator Bowl tells me he still has Clemson in his system, which also explains why transferring wasn’t an option that ultimately appealed to him.

Shipley not announcing an outright return tells me that he feels the pull of the NFL, and I do think that he will likely declare for the draft after he gets one final Clemson experience this postseason.


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