My friend Justin VanFulpen of FootballNextLevel created an interesting list today that you should check out. It’s a list I’ve been wanting to compile for some time, but haven’t ever gotten around to. You can check it out here. Basically, Justin ran down the number of players, by position, that have been drafted over the last five years. Though none of the totals come as a shock, it’s still a fascinating feature and I encourage you to check it out.
By the way, first a shameless plug: Justin and I collaborate on a weekly podcast on the football business. You can check that out here.
Anyway, it’s very interesting how many agents describe their clients as “late-rounders.” The draft is a funny thing, and you never know what’s going to happen on draft day. I get it. However, on average, three fullbacks are drafted per year. So how is it that every agent who reps a fullback claims his guy is a ‘late-rounder.’ The average number of kickers and punters drafted annually — combined! — is about three. Yet any time someone tweets about a punter/kicker, he’s almost always described as a late-round prospect. Well, unless he’s the top-rated guy at his position, he ain’t getting drafted.
This is one of the fundamental problems I have with draft coverage. Look, it’s entertainment, and trying to really deconstruct such things is like trying to fact-check an article from People magazine. Still, when you look at the number of late-round and undrafted players that make a real impact on the NFL, it’s substantial. So why doesn’t anyone take a real look at the number of players that can logically be expected to get a UDFA deal? It’s something I’ve always wondered, and it’s a number that I think is relevant as agents hope against hope that their clients will get drafted, or at least signed, in a week and a half.
Here’s an idea: let’s use Justin’s numbers to guess as to how many players per position will even get UDFA deals. If we total up the number of players by position are drafted, we get 254.8 (call it 255) over 15 positions. Breaking it down by percentage of draftees, here’s what it looks like QBs 4.3 percent; running backs, 8.2 percent; fullbacks, 1.2 percent; wide receivers, 12.3 percent; tight ends, 5.3 percent; tackles, 8.5 percent; guards, 6.4 percent; centers, 2.4 percent; defensive ends, 9.6 percent; defensive tackles, 7.6 percent; linebackers, 12.8 percent; cornerbacks, 12.9 percent; safeties, 7.1 percent; kickers, .7 percent; and punters, .5 percent.
Each team brings in, on average, about 10 undrafted free agents, so with 32 teams, that’s about 320 guys signed after the draft. Applying those percentages to each position, the number of non-draftees signed after draft, by position, is 14 quarterbacks (plus 11 drafted means about 25 on contract); 26 running backs (plus 21 drafted means about 47 on contract); four fullbacks (plus 3, or 7 on contract); 39 wide receivers (plus 31, 70 on contract); 17 tight ends (30); 27 tackles (49); 21 guards (37); eight centers (14); 31 defensive ends (55); 24 defensive tackles (44); 41 linebackers (74); 41 cornerbacks (74); 23 safeties (41); two kickers (4) and two punters (3).
Now, is there a place where you can truly find the top, say, 41 safeties available in the NFL draft? No, not really. The industry uses NFLDraftScout.com, and while those guys do a great job, they’re far from infallible. There are just too many schools, too many players, too many NFL teams and too many variables.
Bottom line, there is a finite number of players that can even be called possibilities as UDFAs. Keep this in mind as you hear the various players from smaller schools and less popular positions called “late-round or camp possibilities.”