AUSTIN — One year ago, a large number of Texas Longhorns opted not to play in the Texas Bowl against Missouri.

Malik Jefferson, Deshon Elliott, Connor Williams and Holton Hill were all juniors this time last season.

All four decided prior to the Texas Bowl they would not return to Texas for their senior seasons and instead enter the NFL Draft. All did not suit up for the Texas Longhorns for the Texas Bowl either.

It’s becoming a popular trend for NFL hopefuls not to play in their team’s bowl game to preserve their health. The motivation behind this is dollar signs and draft stock, which are both associated with a player’s health.

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Case in point, current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. On New Year’s Day in 2016, Smith suffered a serious injury to his left knee as a linebacker for Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

Prior to this injury, Smith was projected to be selected early in the NFL Draft. He fell to the second round, costing him millions of dollars.

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys gambled with that selection, but it has paid off. Smith sat out the 2016 season and miraculously made his debut in 2017. And this season, Smith is a significant part of the NFL’s fifth-best defense.

For those who expect to be taken in the first three or four rounds of the NFL Draft, not participating in a bowl game is something to consider.

In fact, a pair of Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys have already made that decision, including OSU running back Justice Hill.

As for the Longhorns, keep an eye on receivers Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Colin Johnson. Both are juniors and both have big decisions to make, considering both are highly regarded NFL receiver prospects.

Johnson’s 177 yards receiving against Oklahoma last Saturday was a Big 12 Championship Game record.

Both Johnson and Humphrey have eluded to playing in UT’s bowl game. When asked about entering the NFL Draft and forgoing his senior season at UT, after the loss to OU in Arlington, Humphrey said, “We’ll see!”

Lil’ Jordan’s mom would prefer he stayed but Tweeted that she respects her son’s decision.

On the defensive side for the Longhorns, Charles Omenihu, Charles Nelson, Kris Boyd, Davante Davis, Gary Johnson and Breckyn Hager are all senior NFL hopefuls. All are expected to play in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.

But junior defensive back Brandon Jones appears to be returning. After the loss to OU in the Big 12 Championship Game, Jones said, “I just want to be able to hopefully get back here and have different outcomes.”

The deadline for college football prospects three years removed from high school is Jan. 14, 2019.

The 2019 NFL Draft will take place in Nashville from April 25 to 27.