I’m often accused of being too blunt, too cold, too hard in this space. Well, here I go again, I guess. Today I want to talk about the 2015 NFL draft class, and I’m speaking more of all draft candidates rather than just the ones that have been chosen.
If you are a player who was draft-eligible the first weekend of May, I’m sure it was absolutely crushing if you were not selected. It’s the sudden gravity of the situation and the realization that there will be no miracles. Well, today is really the day that marks the official end of NFL dreams for members of the ’15 draft class.
How come? All but six NFL teams had their rookie mini-camps the weekend following the draft, followed by the 49ers, Chargers, Redskins, Saints, Titans and Chiefs, who worked out their new players this past weekend. At these rookie mini-camps, teams welcomed mainly draftees, undrafted free agents and tryout players.
The difference between undrafted free agents and tryout players is poorly understood, but it’s really pretty simple. While teams can only draft or sign 90 players, they can bring in as many tryout players as they want. Some teams brought in 20 or 30, though for the most part these tryout guys are strictly bag-holders, guys to take the reps so the draftees don’t get too tired. One scout I spoke to called them ‘cheap labor.’ These guys are in camp, yes, but their odds are quite long. They do make rosters sometimes, though it’s not very common. But hey, at least they got to wear an NFL helmet for a weekend.
At least 1,000 players who signed with agents didn’t even make it to a tryout. This has meaning because I’ve seen dozens of pictures of players signing SRAs, their parents beaming proudly behind them. Sometimes they turn it into an event and have cookouts built around signing with an agent. Bottom line, they feel that SRA makes them NFL prospects. Not true. Many of these folks don’t make that realization until this weekend, when camps are closed and they understand no one’s calling.
Of course, many agents get the boot around this time. This is often because the player can’t come to grips with this reality. But it’s no less true.
Let me give one last disclaimer: there are always players that are passed over in the draft and even in undrafted free agency that wind up spending at least some time on an NFL roster. Still, if you just completed your last year of college football and still haven’t heard the phone ring, I encourage you to start thinking in terms of your life’s work.