The Worth of Undrafted Free Brokers


NFL Offseason – Visitor column by Joe Mahoney

As a Broncos fan, I’ve all the time had an affinity for each undrafted gamers and late-drafted gamers (what are actually known as “Day 3” gamers, taken within the fourth spherical or later). This most probably stems from favorites of mine who had been each. Corridor-of-Famer Terrell Davis was a sixth-round draft choose of the Broncos. Considered one of my favourite offensive linemen, Tom Nalen, was a seventh-round draft choose. Over the previous quarter-century the Broncos have additionally developed some actually gifted gamers who had been UDFAs – Rod Smith (who needs to be within the Corridor of Fame), Chris Harris Jr., and Shaq Barrett. This received me serious about the relative possibilities of having an extended NFL profession in case you are a sixth or seventh spherical choose versus an UDFA. Earlier than we are able to dig into that query, we want to consider how fashionable NFL groups assemble their rosters and the monetary imperatives that drive these selections.

Due to monetary crucial, there’s quite a lot of roster churn within the NFL.

Desk 1. NFL Roster Churn, 2017-2022
Yr 90-Man
53-Man or
PS Slots
Draftees UDFAs Complete
New Gamers
per 53/PS Slot
2017 2,880 2,016 253 430 683 33.9%
2018 2,880 2,016 256 397 653 32.4%
2019 2,880 2,016 254 423 677 33.6%
2020 2,880 2,208 255 463 718 32.5%
2021 2,880 2,208 259 300 559 25.3%
2022 2,880 2,208 262 490 752 34.1%

There’s a risk that 12 months over 12 months about one third of the gamers within the NFL are “new” to the league. Undrafted players comprise roughly one-fifth of NFL rosters and provide the NFL with more value and snaps than the sixth- and seventh-rounds combined in response to Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports activities Edge. After all, the precise variety of new-to-the-league gamers who make a 53-man roster is way smaller than the 600-700 doable every year as you will note on this examine.

Many instances it’s going to take a participant, even a drafted participant, a 12 months or so to get “on top of things” within the NFL. Due to this fact, I gained’t concentrate on the 2021 draftees and UDFAs, since in wanting on the guys from 2017-2020, I discovered that many took two and even three years to search out their NFL area of interest (in the event that they ever did).

NFL franchises prefer to get snaps from Day 3 draftees and from UDFAs as a result of, in lots of instances, they must. A lot cap house is tied up their high 10 gamers that they should get snaps from “cheaper” gamers. Gamers drafted into the NFL get a assured contract, however excessive first spherical draft picks get a a lot bigger ensures than Day 3 draftees. Even when these guys by no means make a 53-man roster they’ll get a considerable (no less than by most requirements) payout. Brock Purdy, quarterback from Iowa State, was the final participant drafted within the 2022 draft (aka Mr. Irrelevent). In accordance with, he’s assured $77,012 even when he by no means makes the workforce or the apply squad for the 49ers. Now evaluate that to Carson Sturdy, who was signed by the Eagles as an UDFA. Sturdy has been assured $320,000. Quarterbacks are typically outliers for wage, so let’s evaluate one other end-of-draft man to a comparable UDFA.

Offensive deal with A.J. Arcuri was the 261st participant drafted in 2022 (by the Rams). He was taken instantly earlier than Purdy. Like Purdy, he may have $77,012 assured cash on his contract. I discovered eight offensive tackles with a better quantity of assured cash who went undrafted in 2022 (desk 2).

Desk 2. Highest-Paid 2022 UDFA OTs
Offensive Sort out School Staff Assured
Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi no faculty ARI $207,000
Ryan Van Demark Connecticut IND $175,000
Obinna Eze TCU DET $170,000
Ben Petrula Boston School CLE $150,000
Jarrid Williams Miami PHI $145,000
Kellen Diesch Arizona State MIA $140,000
Jalen McKenzie USC TEN $100,000
Tyrese Robinson Oklahoma WAS $100,000

The takeaway is that, no less than from a monetary perspective, it may be higher to be undrafted than to be drafted in the long run of the seventh spherical. For comparability, offensive deal with Verderian Lowe, who was taken No. 182 total by the Vikings, has $197,872 assured on his contract and solely Ndubuisi has greater than that. In accordance with, there have been 56 UDFAs who received extra assured cash than the fellows drafted on the very finish of the 2022 draft.

The opposite a part of why drafted gamers and UDFAs make such an enormous portion of rosters is that veteran free brokers are considerably dearer. So franchises have a big monetary incentive to squeeze essentially the most snaps out of their draftees and UDFAs, to allow them to afford to pay the high-priced free brokers that they signal.

After all, we shouldn’t confuse assured cash with doable yearly earnings. League minimal wage for a rookie who’s on the 53-man roster for the complete season is $705,000. The excellence right here is that some UDFAs have the next assured payout than drafted guys if neither make the 53-man roster. The weekly wage of NFL apply squad gamers within the 2022 might be $11,500 – which means that they’ll make $207,000 in wage in the event that they keep on the apply squad for all 18 weeks of the common season. A man who’s on the roster for the entire season, however by no means performs a snap, will make about half of one million {dollars} greater than a participant who’s on the apply squad for the entire season. Whereas it’s uncommon, there are Day 3 draftees who find yourself on the apply squad as an alternative of the 53-man roster, however this does expose them to “poaching” by different franchises. For that reason, loads of valued Day 3 draftees are saved on the 53-man for many if not all of their rookie years in order to not expose them to poaching. Whether or not or not a Day 3 draftee is positioned on the apply squad as a rookie tells you an incredible deal concerning the worth that the franchise locations on that participant and their stage of worry concerning whether or not mentioned participant will/could possibly be poached.

An fascinating case examine in that is Matt Paradis, who was taken within the sixth spherical by the Broncos in 2014 (No. 207 choose). As a result of he performed a place of low relative worth (heart) for a lot of the league, he was lower/waived and spent his whole rookie 12 months on the Broncos apply squad. On the identical time, the Broncos saved UDFA offensive deal with Paul Cornick on the 53-man roster due to how skinny the Broncos had been at offensive deal with in 2014. The first starter at proper deal with was UDFA Chris Clark and the opposite backup offensive deal with was rookie third-round choose, Michael Schofield. The Broncos had been prepared to threat Paradis being poached with a purpose to hold undrafted offensive tackles on the 53-man roster. Paradis later developed into one of many higher facilities within the league earlier than his hips failed him.

The opposite essential distinction between late Day 3 draftees and UDFAs is that UDFAs get to decide on which workforce they attempt to make. For a quarterback this will make an enormous distinction since a participant like Carson Sturdy can select the Eagles as a result of he sees an opportunity to unseat incumbent starter, Jalen Hurts. For all positions, any UDFA can select to play for a workforce that is likely to be “weak” in his place to extend his possibilities of making the workforce.

I ought to observe that drafted gamers get a four-year contract, whereas UDFAs get a three-year contract in the event that they make the 53-man roster.

It’s fascinating to comply with the cash (assured cash) to see how a lot worth, or lack thereof, NFL entrance workplaces place on UDFAs. See Desk 3, which could possibly be seen as a measure of what number of “precedence” UDFAs every franchise has had over the previous three seasons.

I discover it fascinating that some groups similar to Seattle, Pittsburgh and Inexperienced Bay haven’t given a single massive assure to an UDFA over the past three years whereas the Cowboys have given out 27. There’s a massive distinction between entrance workplaces and the way they select to draw UDFAs. The Cowboys do it with massive chunks of assured cash. It could seem that in most years, groups have one thing like two or three “precedence” UDFAs that they signal. We’ll come again to this later we’re evaluating the success charges of sixth- and seventh-rounders to all UDFAs and “precedence” UDFAs.

So let’s shift to a dialogue of comparative success charges between late Day 3 draftees and UDFAs. Is there’s massive distinction in success fee for sixth or seventh spherical draftees relative to UDFAs?

We first have to outline “success”. I see six ranges of progressive success within the NFL:

  1. Making a apply squad
  2. Making the 53-man roster
  3. Enjoying no less than one snap
  4. Beginning a recreation
  5. Being the “starter” for a workforce (eight or extra video games began in common season)
  6. Incomes post-season accolades (Professional Bowl or All-Professional)

Let’s concentrate on every stage of success.

To begin with, let’s state that getting drafted is just not a assure of constructing an NFL roster or perhaps a apply squad. From the 2012 to 2019 drafts, there are 76 gamers who’ve never made an NFL regular-season roster. That is roughly eight per draft. (I didn’t take a look at what number of of those gamers made a apply squad.)

Stage 1: Making a Apply Squad

I didn’t actually look into how usually undrafted guys make the apply squad, however I can safely say that the speed is way larger than guys who make the 53-man roster.

Stage 2: Making the 53-Man Roster

There have been 756 gamers drafted on Day 3 of the draft from 2017-2020, 675 of them made a 53-man roster (89%). For those who focus solely the sixth and seventh spherical guys, there have been 383 and 325 of them made the roster (85%). Evaluating that determine to undrafted guys we discover that there have been 1713 UDFAs signed to 90-man rosters in 2017-2020 and 630 of them made the 53-man roster (37%). That may be a large distinction. The takeaway is that, when groups spend draft capital on gamers – even late Day 3 draft capital – they’ve a vested curiosity in giving these gamers extra of an opportunity to make the roster than UDFAs. Additionally they have an curiosity in defending their sunk value.

That being mentioned, if we concentrate on “precedence” UDFAs (the fellows who get $50k or extra assured), there are solely about 72 of them per 12 months. So over 4 years there can be one thing like 220. With 630 UDFAs making 53-man rosters from 2017-2020, it’s extremely doable that the success fee right here for precedence UDFAs is akin to and even larger than sixth- and seventh-round draftees. There have been 75 precedence UDFAs in 2020.

Let’s look intently on the two groups that had essentially the most precedence UDFAs in 2020 to see what number of of these guys made the roster.


  • Made roster in 2020: Francis Bernard, Ron’Dell Carter, Rico Dowdle, Sean McKeon, Sewo Olonilua
  • Made roster in 2021: Ladarius Hamilton, Azur Kamara
  • Didn’t make roster: Darius Anderson, Stephen Guidry, Luther Kirk (made Falcons in 2021), Aaron Parker (made Panthers in 2021), Charlie Taumoepeau


  • Made roster in 2020: Rashod Berry, Myles Bryant, J.J. Taylor, Isaiah Zuber
  • Didn’t make roster: Jake Burt, Scoota Harris, Will Hastings, Invoice Murray, Kyahva Tezino

Out of 20 precedence UDFAs from these two groups in 2020, solely 9 made the 53-man roster. That may be a far cry from the 85% of sixth and seventh rounders who made rosters from 2017 to 2020. Nevertheless, if we embrace 2021, we discover that 4 extra of the 20 gamers have made NFL rosters. Now 13 of those 20 UDFAs made an NFL 53-man roster in two years from their draft 12 months. I wasn’t in a position to take a look at the opposite 120 precedence UDFAs from 2020 and 2021 to see what number of of them made a roster over the previous two seasons, however my guess is that the success fee is larger than 65% for guys on groups with just one or two precedence guys.

One other manner that you possibly can interpret this distinction in success of constructing roster is that groups have sufficient scouting knowledge on their draftees to see the next likelihood of success for these gamers earlier than they draft them. That is the “there’s a motive participant X didn’t get drafted” argument.

Stage 3: Enjoying a Snap / Stage 4: Beginning a Sport / Stage 5: Being a Common Starter

See Desk 4 under to get an thought of how usually UDFAs really play in a recreation. These could possibly be particular groups snaps (and so they usually are) or common offense/protection snaps. The explanation that there have been solely 300 UDFAs on the 90-man rosters from the 2021 class was associated to the pandemic. As a result of the NCAA’s 2020 pandemic eligibility waiver allowed graduated seniors to return to highschool, the 2021 NFL draft had solely 657 declared prospects. By contrast, the year before, in 2020, 1,932 prospects declared.

Desk 4. Success for UDFAs, 2017-2022
Yr On 90-Man
After Draft
Made 53-Man
a Sport
a Sport
(> 8 GS)
2017 430 155 140 75 25
2018 397 154 148 84 16
2019 423 138 135 76 20
2020 463 188 183 60 9
2021 300 109 79 15 1
2022 490

The one UDFA rookie starter from 2021, in case you might be curious, was Detroit Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs (9 video games began). For those who choose percentages, right here is the information from 2017-2020 proven in that format:

Desk 5. UDFA Success Charges, 2017-2021
Yr Performed
a Sport
a Sport
(> 8 GS)
2017 33% 17% 5.8%
2018 37% 21% 4.0%
2019 32% 18% 4.7%
2020 40% 13% 1.9%
2021 26% 5% 0.3%

I discovered it fascinating to see that about one in six starters within the league throughout this four-year span was an UDFA. After all this verifies what we see in Desk 6 (and builds on a examine that I did previously).

This examine didn’t rely particular groups specialists. With 22 beginning slots, you’ll be able to see that some groups don’t have to make use of UDFAs as starters whereas different groups are compelled to, usually on account of damage. Others need to use UDFAs as a result of these UDFAs outplay their draftees. The 2 highest values on this checklist are the 2013 Raiders and the 2019 Broncos. Each stuffed eight of these 22 slots with UDFAs – primarily on account of damage (necessity).

The UDFA starters for the 2013 Raiders (GS) had been MLB Nick Roach (16), OG Mike Brisiel (15), TE/FB Marcel Reece (15), WR Rod Streater (14), CB Brendian Ross (13), Jeron Mastrud (12), DE Jason Hunter (10) and OG Lucas Nix (10). I must also observe that an undrafted quarterback, Matt McGloin, additionally began six video games for them in 2013.

The UDFA starters for the 2019 Broncos (GS) had been CB Chris Harris Jr (16), RB Phillip Lindsay (16), ILB Todd Davis (14), ILB Alexander Johnson (12), OG Ronald Leary (12), OT Elijah Wilkinson (12), and OLB Malik Reed (8). Nostril deal with Mike Purcell began seven video games for the Broncos in 2019, so that they had been near having 9 UDFA starters. At one level in 2019 seven defensive starters for the Broncos had been both Day 3 draftees or UDFAs. The 4 extremely drafted defensive starters had been Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. The remainder of the beginning protection was made up of men that groups noticed little or no worth in on draft day.

This isn’t to counsel that heavy reliance on UDFA starters is an efficient technique. The 2013 Raiders went 4-12 and the 2019 Broncos went 7-9. In truth, if we take a look at the information of the groups with seven or extra UDFA starters in desk 6 we discover just one workforce with a successful document:

  • 2012 Rams (7-8-1)
  • 2015 49ers (5-11)
  • 2016 Bears (3-13)
  • 2017 Jaguars (10-6)

Let’s get again to the comparability although. How do late Day 3 draftees evaluate to UDFAs; how usually do they change into starters? We’ll begin by all gamers drafted on Day 3:

Desk 7. Day 3 Draftee Success Price, 2017-2021
Yr Draftees Starters Price Professional
1st Tm
2017 146 46 32% 5 5
2018 156 48 31% 3 3
2019 152 31 20% 4 1
2020 149 23 15% 0 0
2021 154 8 5% 0 0

Observe that the starter fee from Day 3 draftees tops out at about one in three throughout their four-year rookie contracts. That’s about double the common 12 months starter success fee for UDFAs (see Desk 4).

Combining the information from Desk 7 and Desk 4 for comparative functions we get Desk 8.

Desk 8. Evaluating Day 3 Draftees to UDFAs, 2017-2021
Yr Day 3
Day 3
Day 3
Starter Price
Starter Price
2017 146 46 32% 430 25 5.8%
2018 156 48 31% 397 16 4.0%
2019 152 31 20% 423 20 4.7%
2020 149 23 15% 463 9 1.9%
2021 154 8 5% 300 1 0.3%

Now, we had been together with Spherical 4-5 draftees above which skews the information rather more within the favor of the draftees. It will get extra fascinating should you concentrate on solely the Spherical 6-7 guys compared to UDFAs.

Desk 9. Spherical 6-7 Success Charges, 2017-2021
Yr Spherical 6-7
Starters Starter
2017 69 22 32%
2018 82 15 18%
2019 81 12 15%
2020 76 8 11%
2021 75 3 4%

Desk 9 reveals us that over time even sixth- and seventh-round picks can discover starter roles within the NFL and this occurs at a considerably larger fee relative to UDFAs from the identical 12 months. Look to 2018 for a very good comparability. There have been 82 guys taken within the sixth or seventh spherical that 12 months and 15 of them had no less than one season of 8 or extra video games began. There have been 397 UDFAs in 2018 with solely 16 of them changing into starters with no less than one season of eight or extra video games began. For 2018, the possibilities of changing into a starter had been about 4 instances higher should you had been drafted within the sixth or seventh spherical than should you went undrafted.

Nevertheless, should you take a look at the precedence UDFAs, of which there are roughly 70 per 12 months, you’ll be able to see in Desk 9 that the speed of discovering starters on this group is about the identical as discovering starters within the sixth or seventh spherical and could possibly be a bit of bit larger. If we assume 70 precedence UDFAs every year, then 35% of those gamers from 2017 turned starters, together with 23% of those gamers from 2018 and 29% from 2019. These numbers are all larger than the speed of Spherical 6-7 picks who change into starters. The chances go down in 2020 and 2021 for precedence free brokers (to roughly 13% and 1.5%, respectively) however the percentages for Spherical 6-7 picks went down in these years as properly.

Stage 6: Postseason Accolades

As you’ll be able to see in Desk 7, there have been 12 cases of Day 3 draftees getting a Professional Bowl nod and 9 first workforce All-Professional alternatives, however there’s a catch. Nearly all of these had been particular groups alternatives.

Professional Bowlers

  • TE George Kittle
  • S Eddie Jackson
  • PR/KR Tarik Cohen
  • P Michael Dickson
  • P Jake Bailey
  • RB Aaron Jones
  • G Wyatt Teller
  • DE Maxx Crosby
  • DE Josh Sweat
  • Okay Jake Elliott
  • Okay Matt Homosexual
  • PR Hunter Renfrow

First-Staff AP All-Professional

  • TE George Kittle
  • S Eddie Jackson
  • PR/KR Tarik Cohen
  • P Michael Dickson
  • P Jake Bailey
  • DB Desmond King
  • PR/KR Jamal Agnew
  • Okay Jason Sanders
  • PR/KR Braxton Berrios

Solely three of the All-Professional alternatives had been place gamers whereas six of the Professional Bowl alternatives had been place gamers.

I used to be solely capable of finding three Professional Bowlers from the 2017-2020 group of UDFAs: Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson in 2021, Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard in 2019-2021, and Broncos operating again Phillip Lindsay in 2018. I ought to observe that J.C. Jackson was named second workforce All-Professional in 2021. There have been different UDFAs who made the Professional Bowl or All-Professional throughout this stretch (Chris Harris Jr., Alejandro Villanueva, Shaquil Barrett, A.J. Bouye and Adam Thielen to call a number of however none of them had been from this four-year block by way of their draft 12 months).

So what are the takeaways?

  • The success fee for “precedence” UDFAs is just not a lot totally different from sixth- and seventh-round draftees.
  • Discovering Professional Bowl gamers in Rounds 4-5 is a bit more frequent than discovering them in Rounds 6-7 or as UDFAs, however all are very low likelihood.
  • Discovering All-Professional gamers as undrafted free brokers is exceedingly uncommon.
  • Financially, it is likely to be higher for a participant to go undrafted as he can get a a lot larger assure than if he’s drafted within the seventh spherical, and even the sixth.
  • Groups are financially incentivized to get offensive and defensive snaps from UDFAs as a result of these gamers are low-cost (usually) and most groups’ wage constructions are high heavy with actually important percentages (going up yearly) of their cap house tied up of their top-10 earners.

Joe Mahoney is a analysis chemist who lives in Memphis and writes concerning the Broncos and the NFL usually at Mile High Report. Most of his writing has an analytical focus. You’ll be able to comply with him on Twitter at @NDJomo76.

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