Every years, college football players who are old enough to vote, smoke, serve in the military, and in many cases legally drink make the adult decision to stop playing football for free and to attempt to play football for money. Even if the NFL and the NCAA would prefer that they continue to play football for no pay and, in many cases, an education they neither want nor take seriously but instead actively work to undermine at the express or implied urging of their coaches in order to devote maximum attention to football.
So when a chunk of those players inevitably aren’t selected in a seven-round draft, the guys who weren’t picked become the cautionary tale for next year’s crop of players who may choose to leave the NFL’s free farm system prematurely.
Here’s the first line from NFL.com’s article regarding the 37 underclassmen who weren’t drafted in 2018: “A record 106 underclassmen who were granted early eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft entered Thursday hoping to receive the call of a lifetime, but only 69 did.”
Is it really a “call of a lifetime” if it comes in round six or seven? At that point, it’s better to be undrafted, so that the player can pick his next team instead of having his next team pick him. This allows the player, while working with his agent, to find the best place to learn, to develop, and ultimately to win a spot on the 53-man roster, based in large part on the existing depth chart at the player’s position.
The draft has only seven rounds (down from 12 and as many as 30); a roster has 53 spots. Plenty of undrafted players can and will make it in the NFL. As noted last night on Twitter, the drafted quarterbacks in 2003 were Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, Dave Ragone, Chris Simms, Seneca Wallace, Brian St. Pierre, Drew Henson, Brooks Bollinger, Kliff Kingsbury, Gibran Hamdan, and Ken Dorsey. Undrafted that year was a guy named Tony Romo.
So to those 37 players who weren’t drafted: Don’t let the NFL, your college coaches, or anyone else allow you to live in regret. Be optimistic, be determined, and be hopeful to make the most out of your talents at the next level as an undrafted free agent. You’ve already made the decision to not spend another year of playing football for free, so it’s not like you’ll make any less money this year as a result of your decision to try to play in the NFL.