Over the next few months, Kyle Trimble of Banged Up Bills will be profiling some 2019 NFL Draft prospects who may have medical concerns. Make sure to follow his work @BangedUpBills.
An interesting draft prospect on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage is Michigan State RB LJ Scott. The dynamic change of pace back had an up-and-down senior season in which he dealt with an injury that limited him to five games for a total of 79 attempts for 264 yards along with 10 receptions for 95 yards and 0 TDs. These are far from eye-popping stats that will attract NFL scouts and GMs willing to draft someone. Overall, he had a productive career as a Spartan with 586 carries for 2,771 yards (4.7 per carry) and 25 touchdowns. His lack of production can be attributed to a nagging ankle injury sustained in the loss to Arizona State early in the season. This article will attempt to identify the ankle injury and how this will affect his draft stock in April.
Let’s identify what we already know about the ankle injury.
- This was sustained on the second play of the second half of the Arizona State game on 9/8; he did not return. In the video at the 8:48 mark, in the upper portion of the video on the left side, Scott is seen running out of the frame, and right before he disappears, you see him jump up in the air like he was shot, and this appears to affect his right leg. As a result of this, he was removed from the game.
- He self reports the injury as a slight ankle injury in this video.
- He dressed and appeared to be available for the game next week against Indiana but did not play. As a result, he missed the next several games until Michigan on 10/20. He was able to play but did not produce much, only 10 carries for 25 yards. He played the next week against Purdue, racking up 15 carries for 52 yards, but he was allegedly re-injured during this game. He then did not play until the Redbox Bowl on 12/31, in which he had 24 carries for 84 yards. He had a slight hamstring injury on the left side that did not cause him to miss any time and finished the game.
- He originally intended to redshirt and stay a fifth year, according to reports in November. However, a month later he changed his mind and elected to enter the NFL draft despite having remaining eligibility due to the injury from this year.
- He missed the Senior Bowl with the previously reported ankle injury.
- He has since been invited to the 2019 NFL Combine.
Despite what we know from media reports, this still doesn’t shed a lot of light on things. Going down the list, I question a lot of things regarding this injury. In the original injury video above against Arizona State, he looks as though he pulls his right hamstring as soon as he pivots to the right. While not exaggerated as this video of a pulled hamstring, the sudden motion of something giving leads me to believe it is not an ankle. The video is incredibly poor, but outside of a mild low ankle sprain, which doesn’t seem to fit the mechanism, there isn’t a whole lot that can be seen to further identify the ankle injury.
If he did indeed suffer a mild ankle sprain as he indicated, it is rather questionable that he sits out six weeks with this injury. Ankle sprains can sideline someone for some time, but a slight ankle sprain as he described it? No, I don’t buy it. He was able to dress for the Indiana game but did not play, which makes things even more confusing.
In addition, watching the Purdue game, I did see him exit and not return, but I did not see a mechanism of injury to an ankle or any other body part. During each game that he played after the original injury, I did not see any visible bracing or taping to either ankle to further identify possible types of injury. In the games he did play afterward, he appeared to be effective running the ball, getting better each subsequent game. In the Redbox Bowl game, he had his best game of the season and did not appear to be limited. Something isn’t adding up from my vantage point.
Between his last regular season game and the bowl game was nine weeks. In that nine-week span, he elected to redshirt and come back for a fifth season but then turned around a month later and declared. Yet, despite playing his best game of the season in the bowl game he declined to participate in the Senior Bowl, citing his ankle injury. Looking at his MSU profile, there does not appear to be any other injury outside of a shoulder injury in late 2016. Without driving myself mad trying to find injuries that may not exist, it does not appear that he had any pre-existing injuries that would lead to his original ankle injury or re-injuries after the fact.
Scott was invited to the Combine and, barring any setback or news, is expected to participate fully. I can understand that guys don’t want to risk injury playing in meaningless games such as the East-West Shrine game or the Senior Bowl, but something about this Scott injury just doesn’t match up, and there have been no reports that he needed surgery.
What I think really happened was that he pulled his hamstring in the game against Arizona State but called it an ankle for whatever reason, possibly due to a competitive advantage? I’m not aware of any rules that require accuracy of injury reports in college or any penalties. A cursory Google search shows that nothing is mandatory right now, but that may change as sports betting increases in popularity. Due to the nature of his injury and how severe it was, he elected to rehab it and slowly work himself back into game shape; this would fit the timeline a lot more easily for a pulled hamstring than a mild low ankle sprain. This is also supported by the fact that while hamstring strains are able to be seen on video, they are more subtle to identify than a sprained ankle or knee injury. This injury was also early in the season and later in the game, so fatigue, conditioning, and hydration could play a role in the injury, especially if it is a muscle strain. At some point, he re-injured the area during the Purdue game then took over two months off to recover to play in the bowl game. Not wanting to re-injure his hamstring or another body part, he used the original diagnosis as an excuse to stay out of the Senior Bowl. The true test will be how he performs at the Combine and what the doctors find regarding his “ankle” injury.
It’s quite possible he injured his ankle, it really became a problem, and he invested in himself by not risking further injury by playing. He may have had an injury that wasn’t revealed initially, or just something the public isn’t aware of right now. I am far from infallible, but the tape doesn’t lie. If there is more information I am not seeing or new angles, I will be happy to be proven wrong. Either way, we have seen guys with chronic ankle injuries go on to play in the NFL. We have seen guys with hamstring issues early on in the season heal up and play through the injuries effectively. These soft tissue injuries will not be career killers by any stretch. In the end, something about this timeline and the injury itself doesn’t add up, which puts question marks on where he gets drafted and what truly led to his senior season struggles. I can not begin to think about where he would be drafted at due to talent and the mystery surrounding his “ankle”. My best guess is he’s a day three guy in the latter half of the draft, such as round four or five, though this is total speculation.
Thank you to Cover 1 for allowing me to provide injury analysis on upcoming draft prospects prior to the draft. If you like what you read, make sure to follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. Thank you for reading and GO BILLS!