Behind The Scoreboard
The NFL Draft is over and the players who were selected now have a place to call home. So, what about the players who weren’t fortunate enough to be picked through the draft process? There were still plenty of talented draft eligible rookie players who were looking for professional teams to sign them for a spot on its offseason rosters.
This is when Undrafted Rookie Free Agency comes into play that follows the seventh round of the NFL Draft every year.
It’s very difficult to make a mark in the NFL as an undrafted rookie player, but throughout the years, some of the players were able to pull it off. Becoming an undrafted free agent is usually not a bad thing. Some players prefer to go undrafted than to be picked in the sixth and seventh rounds. Although both sides are hunting for a perfect match, these players can also gain some of the power back into their hands. Instead of being at the mercy of the draft process, the players are free to sign with any team. Some undrafted free agents will make the rosters during the training camp tryouts while the draftees could possibly get cut.
This year’s undrafted players included 30 underclassmen who left college eligibility on the table to turn pro. It was originally 103 draft-eligible underclassmen who made the decision to forfeit the remaining college eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. But 73 out of that group were drafted, including 22 in the first round.
It’s unfortunate when players go undrafted, but it is worth remembering that one individual who could turn pro for any number of reasons.
For instance, a few of the best undrafted free agents currently in the league are Dallas Cowboys’ offensive lineman La’el Collins (class of 2015) and Jacksonville Jaguars’ receiver Allen Hurns (2014). Just in the last few years, both players have emerged as some of the best players in their positions.
The 2000s featured a group of outstanding undrafted free agents. Kurt Warner went unpicked in 1994. Priest Holmes, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, James Harrison, Rod Smith, Adam Vinatieri, and Brian Waters are among the UDFAs who have become cornerstone players for their franchises this millennium.
A look further back and we will find more UDFA gems, such as Warren Moon (Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006), Larry Little (Hall of Famer 1993), Willie Brown (Hall of Famer 1984), Joe Perry (Hall of Famer 1969) and Richard “Night Train” Lane (Hall of Famer 1974). These gems had marvelous careers and none of them got picked in the NFL draft.