NFL supplemental draft prospects face long odds
Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
any of the eight prospects available in Thursday's supplemental draft
be chosen, they already will have defied the laws of probability.
They face much steeper odds, though, when it comes to having a
productive NFL career.
a catch-up game all the way," said Chicago running back Harvey Unga,
taken by the Bears in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft,
but yet to appear in a game because of injuries and personal reasons.
"No matter how good a learner you are, you have to work so hard to get
Any player chosen Thursday will have missed all of
his new team's offseason OTAs and minicamps and will have less than
three weeks to get up to speed, mentally and physically, before the
start of training camp.
The task of earning a spot on an NFL
roster, even with the benefit of offseason work, is plenty challenging
enough. Taking the supplemental route is considerably more daunting for
It's a crash course and most players, well, crash.
hard, because you're kind of like the kid who starts classes a month or
two (into the semester)," acknowledged former tailback Tony Hollings,
selected by Houston in the second round in 2003. "You're behind from
Hollings, a former Georgia Tech standout, is the
highest-chosen player taken in the supplemental draft since 1999, and
his brief and nondescript history in the league kind of mirrors the
resumes of many supplemental prospects. Hollings appeared in 23
regular-season games for the Texans in three seasons (2003-2005) and
started just one contest. He logged 23 rushes for 102 yards and never
scored a touchdown. He never played a snap after '05 in the NFL, was
released by the New York Jets in camp in 2007 and kicked around Europe
with three different teams before retiring.
tales of players such as Unga and Hollings, regarded as two of the more
attractive prospects in the supplemental drafts of the past several
years, are prime examples of the general lack of intrigue in a lottery
essentially designed for "special case" players -- those who lost or
forfeited their college eligibility for various reasons. Even at the
most fallow time of the year for the league, news-wise, the
supplemental draft generates barely a blip, certainly nothing compared
to the rapt attention paid the regular-phase draft in April.
there's a reason: Ten of the 41 players chosen in the supplemental
draft since its inception in 1977, when the Seattle Seahawks tabbed
Notre Dame running back Al Hunter with a fourth-round choice, never
played a regular-season snap. Nineteen either never did (before their
retirements) or never have started in a regular-season contest. The
most recent four players selected in the supplemental draft --
defensive linemen Jeremy Jarmon (Washington, third round, 2009) and
Josh Brent (Dallas, seventh, 2010), Unga, and quarterback Terrelle Pryor (Oakland, third, 2011) -- have accumulated one start among them.
the former Ohio State standout, is one of the more compelling prospects
from the supplemental draft in recent seasons. He certainly wasn't
helped by the lockout last season and appeared in just one game for the
Raiders. But even with exposure to minicamps and OTAs this spring,
Pryor will be no better than the top backup for the Raiders.
even in the best of circumstances, supplemental players are well behind
the learning curve. And as noted above, there are various reasons, few
of them good and many of them off-field factors, for inclusion in the
The eight prospects for the Thursday
lottery are: Boise State defensive back Quaylon Ewing, Utah wide
receiver Josh Gordon, running back Adam Harris of Syracuse, tackle
Adrian Haughton of Iowa State, Carson-Newman linebacker Larry Lumpkin,
Georgia defensive end Montez Robinson, wide receiver Houston Tuminello
of McMurray and running back Ed Wesley of TCU.
Of the eight
players, Gordon, Wesley and Lumpkin appear to have received the most
attention. Gordon worked out for the representatives of 21 franchises
on Tuesday, and seems to be generating some buzz. But there are
character red flags around Gordon, who two years ago caught 42 passes
at Baylor as one of Robert Griffin III's favorite targets, but who was
suspended from the Baylor squad for allegedly failing a marijuana test,
then transferred to Utah, where he never played at all before he
entered the supplemental.
Gordon possesses NFL-level size, and
decent speed, but sustained a quad injury in his Tuesday audition.
There have been rumblings that some receiver-needy club might invest as
high as a second-round choice in Gordon. But only 11 of the 41 men
taken in the history of the supplemental draft were chosen higher than
the third round, and five of them were quarterbacks.
veteran area scout from one team, when speaking of the supplemental
draft in general: "You have to do your due diligence on these guys but,
given the lack of success rate, it's kind of a (boondoggle). To be
truthful, it's a pain."
Pain, not pleasure, has been the
experience of most teams that venture into the supplemental draft,
where they must forfeit a choice in the corresponding round in which
they select a player, in the following year's supplemental draft.
average player from the supplemental drafts has logged 42.1 appearances
and 26.0 starts. Even eliminating the 10 prospects chosen since 1999,
to make the games-played numbers a bit more relevant, the averages are
only 46.3 appearances and 30.6 starts.
Just five players taken
in the supplemental draft carved out careers of 100 games ore more.
Wide receiver Cris Carter, chosen by Philadelphia in the fourth round
in 1987, is the lone supplemental player to play 200 or more games.
Carter is the lone supplemental player to be a Hall of Fame finalist.
The supplemental draft has produced just six Pro Bowl players, Carter
accounts for half of the 16 berths in the all-star game, and only wide
receiver Rob Moore (Jets, first round, 1990), and nose tackle Jamal Williams (Chargers, second round, 1998), are the lone supplemental
picks beyond Carter to have appeared in multiple Pro Bowl contests.
hasn't been a Pro Bowl player who entered the league as a supplemental
pick since Williams and offensive lineman Mike Wahle (Green Bay, second
There have been some supplemental picks who panned
out, such as Carter; Williams; Wahle; Moore; quarterbacks Bernie Kosar,
Dave Wilson and Dave Brown; offensive tackle Jared Gaither; linebacker
Ahmad Brooks; defensive lineman Darren Mickell; and running back Bobby
Humphrey. But more often than not, there are busts such as linebacker
Brian Bosworth, defensive tackle Manuel Wright, and quarterback Timm
Only twice, in 1987 and '89, were there more than
two players taken in the draft. In the past 10 years, there were only
two instances with more than one player. For 1989, when a record five
players were chosen in the supplemental, including the quarterbacks
Rosenbach and Steve Walsh, two of the prospects never played a single
down in the league.
So the risk, it seems, is far greater than
the reward. And while the dismal history has not dissuaded players from
entering the summer draft, is usually has curtailed clubs from
participating, and that figures to be the case on Thursday as well.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The
Sports Xchange. He has
covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall
of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the
winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.
Supplemental Draft: Longshots At Best
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