Roster Breakdown, Part 3

In part three of a series examining NFL rosters, National Recruiting Analyst Jamie Newberg take a deep look into drafted versus undrafted free agents. These findings will surprise many.

NFL Rosters Breakdown Series

Part 1 - Daddy, where are NFL players from?
Part 2 - Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?
Part 4 - Region by Region Positional Breakdowns
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools

Over the past few weeks I spent a lot of time researching the National Football League and each of their 32 rosters. Last week I unveiled the first two parts of my series examining where all the players come from. Part one looked at each state and which part of each state produced the NFL talent. Part two examined the conferences and college programs that populate the NFL.

In part three, I breakdown who made it in the NFL from a draft perspective. It is a deep look comparing drafted versus undrafted players. These numbers are surprising.

In today’s NFL, there are 2,178 players that comprise each of its 32 NFL rosters. Each team has 53 active players and up to a ten man practice squad. In addition, every pro team has players on injured reserve. Some occupy other lists such as suspension.

Of that total, 289 players [10.5%] were drafted in the first round. This number shouldn’t really be a surprise. These players were drafted because they were considered the best prospects coming out in their draft class. Some live up to that billing and some don’t. These guys tend to stick around the longest. The franchises also make a significant financial commitment because they are drafted so high. Some boom, some bust. Even if they don’t make it on the first go, they tend to stay around as someone else will give them a second chance.

The NFL consists of 219 second round draft picks and 208 third round picks. It’s interesting to note that the numbers of each round diminish as you go from the first round to the seventh round. Round four has produced 207 players while the fifth, sixth and seventh are almost identical, producing 162, 164 and 165 players respectively.

What I find fascinating is that 764 players in the NFL are undrafted free agents. That’s 35.1% of the NFL. Think about that number for a second.

These are the guys that were overlooked. They were too small or too slow. Maybe they were from a small school. Each one has a story as to why they didn’t get that draft day call from an NFL team yet they latched on to a NFL roster.

But of that huge 764 number I realize that the undrafted free agents make up most of every team’s practice squad. This is for good reason, as many are developmental players. Yes it’s a win now NFL, but at least something is in place to have some kind of roster spots for players that do have potential but are not quite ready to play on Sundays.

Now take the practice squad players out of the equation. For this exercise lets pretend that they don’t exist and not count them towards the overall number.

This lowers the grand total from 2,178 to 1963 players. So you have 215 practice squad players that went undrafted. Still, the number of undrafted free agents that earned a true roster spot is still 549 players or 28% of the NFL.

I find that to be a huge number and very surprising. It’s running back Arian Foster. It’s St. Louis starting quarterback Austin Davis who just helped the Rams beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. It’s Larry Donnell. It’s Vontaze Burfict. It’s Sam Shields. It’s Chris Clemons.

I can rattle off dozens.

Everyone wants to scrutinize general managers and player personnel departments over what they do or don’t do in a given draft. And with good reason; they are paid to scout, evaluate and draft the best possible players for their respective teams. Just as important though is sifting through every off-season’s player allotment and finding these hidden gems called undrafted free agents. These are the guys that make over a quarter of the NFL.

Carolina has the most undrafted free agents with 36 in total and 28 excluding practice squad. Cleveland has 33 in all and 25 if you take out the players on the practice squad. Detroit and Seattle both have 30 in all. Tennessee has the fewest undrafted free agents with 15 total and nine excluding the practice squad. Atlanta and Cincinnati both have 17 in total while Buffalo and Chicago both have 18.

(Click here to read about the numbers of NFL undrafted free agents on each roster.

Part 1 - Daddy, where are NFL players from?

Part 2 - Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?

Part 4 - Region by Region Positional Breakdowns
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools


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