The Decision: NFL undrafted free agents must decide their fate quickly

Posted by | May 13, 2018 .

Dec 15, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) carries the ball past St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long (91) at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

So you’ve made it. Congratulations. The feelings of euphoria and accomplishment has to feel great. Surely, many of people in the last 10 years or more have given advice to pick another career. Perhaps, even another sport besides football could be less risky. Additionally, many of scouts have told you that your’e not fast enough or tall enough to play on the next level. Sometimes, these words come from people that are in your immediate family.

Now the beliefs and doubts are irrelevant. The New Orleans Saints have called or maybe the Atlanta Falcons. Hopefully not, but I digress. All those years of hard work is now paying off. The NFL wants me. Now it’s time to celebrate right?

By and large, the odds have been beaten. Not many of players who tote the pigskin around get a chance to wear a full NFL uniform after 18 years old. This is true. However, the reality of the situation is a rocky road with plenty of ups and downs. Processing reality from perception is extremely difficult for many rookies that come into a mini camp or training camp. Moreover, this goes for the mid to late round picks too.

Going by the numbers

After training camp later this year, players are gonna fight to get on that 53-man roster. Perhaps 10 more may get lucky enough to make the practice squad. To put it this in perspective, 32 teams put on some form of a mini camp. Mini camps can range from tryout players, to undrafted free agents, to even veterans. The numbers can range from 50-100 players over a three day span. All this work to get a chance to make the roster later in July and August.

That means nearly 3,000 players are gonna be looked at and put through drills and tests. Only half that number will see the 53-man roster. The chances of hitting the superstar lottery after that gets even smaller. Still, there is somethings to keep in mind to improve the odds. NFL agent Blake Baratz elaborated a few years ago on what it’s like from the inside.

“Honestly, it’s so chaotic. The GMs and a lot of times even the scouts are calling about 20 players at one time. And they may even be calling the players directly. So if you have two or three of those guys, everyone is calling at the same exact time and they want a decision right then.”

 

There simply isn’t much time for some players to go through the process. Of course, this scenario is different for every player. There are also exceptions to the rule.

Iowa State’s Allan Lazard can relate. Here’s a player that ranked 80th by the NFL Network’s draft expert Mike Mayock. Lazard had full confidence that the phone would ring. The only question was when and what team would pick him up. Lazard waited for hours on end with family and friends at a draft party. And then the draft was over. Lazard was never taken after seven long rounds. Luckily, for Lazard, he did end up getting that call although it was after the NFL Draft this this year.

“A lot of ups and downs, for sure. Obviously, having some friends get drafted today was really nice. Obviously, I’m happy for their success. But going into this, I was very anxious, very ambitious and (hopeful). I’m very let down and disappointed at the way the result came out today, but this is nothing new to my life. I’ve always been the kid from Iowa who wasn’t good enough to play college football. Now I went to Iowa St, (it was) ‘Iowa State will never be good.’ Now I’m that kid that’s undrafted.”

 

Lazard was one of the lucky ones eventually. The Jacksonville Jaguars did pick him up. That came with a $40,000 guarantee as well. The signing bonus was high for an undrafted free agent.

That being said, the process is not for the faint of heart. Some players find their way after years of searching and due diligence. Do not feel discouraged if the first team doesn’t work out. Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner got cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994. This occurred after literally stocking shelves for a grocery and playing football for the Arena Football League. Warner eventually signed in 1998 with the St. Louis Rams. The rest is history. Just keep plugging along and maybe that shot will come.