DRAFTMETRICS has not previously taken a close look at the source of undrafted free agents. Do they
come from small colleges that are lightly scouted by pro scouts? Are they the products of major colleges
that get overlooked as scouts focus on their more highly touted teammates? Or do they come from both
in roughly the same proportion as players who get drafted?
DRAFTMETRICS addressed this issue by reviewing the composition of players who started games in the
2008 through 2012 seasons, representing a total of 56,320 games started. Information on starts by
drafted players is also included to give a more complete picture. Following is a summary of the findings:
The next table is based on the same data and shows the “market share” of the schools in each category
for both drafted and undrafted players and the number of colleges with starters in each category.
This analysis does not provide a definite answer regarding the source of undrafted starters but does
highlight the following:
• 14.3% of all games during the five-year period were started by undrafted players
• Players from the Automatic Qualifying conferences were the prime source of talent among undrafted players, but not to the degree they are with drafted players.
• Roughly half the starts by undrafted players were by players from Automatic Qualifying conferences with the other half coming from teams lower in the “food chain”
• There is evidence, discussed below, that suggests that certain major producers of football talent are so heavily scouted that a player with a scintilla of talent from those schools is considered a safer choice than a more talented player from a smaller school
The following table supports the contention that there is a draft bias toward certain colleges. This table shows information for ten of the major producers of NFL talent.
The following table at least partially contradicts that contention. This table lists the top 10 colleges in
the number of starts by undrafted players. Seven colleges from the Automatic Qualifier conferences are
included in this top 10.
This top ten list does present some startling information. First, Kent State is the leader among all colleges in games started by undrafted players. It gets even better. Kent State has more starts than the combined total of the 10 major colleges listed above (258 vs. 177). Further, Kent State and Maine (a college with no starts from drafted players) account for over 5% of the total starts by undrafted players. Who would have guessed that one? It is also worth noting that five schools (Maine, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Richmond and Eastern Illinois) account for nearly 40% of the starts from undrafted players from the All Other Colleges.
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