Ohio State CB Ward sits out Cotton Bowl

Dec 30, 2017 - 3:53 AM Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward escalated the trend of top NFL prospects sitting out bowl games when he skipped Friday night's Cotton Bowl matchup against USC in order to avoid potential injury.

Ward, a junior who will enter the 2018 NFL Draft, was one of two projected first-rounders who chose not to play Friday. North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb sat out his team's victory over Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.

Ward practiced with the Buckeyes leading up to the bowl game, with coaches knowing he would make a game-day decision, according to a statement from the school. Ward was on the sideline during the game.

"This was a very difficult decision that I ultimately had to make," Ward wrote on social media. "But at the end of the day, I feel this is the best decision for my family and I. I had countless conversations with my coaches about this decision well before the game."

What began as a trickle last season -- Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and LSU's Leonard Fournette sat out their respective bowl games -- has turned into a wave this season. Not only are more prospects bypassing the postseason, but doing so in bigger bowls, such as the Cotton, where the No. 5 Buckeyes played the No. 8 Trojans.

NFLDraftScout.com rates Ward as the 23rd-best overall prospect. Chubb is No. 5. Other likely first-rounders who did not play in this postseason are Florida State safety Derwin James (Independence Bowl) and Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams (Texas Bowl).

"Me and my family sat down and felt for me it was best not to play in this game," Chubb said in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I gave my all to this university for four years. I feel like one game doesn't define who I am as a person or a player."

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