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Landing spots

Where do the undrafted have the best chances of making a roster? Tony Villiotti

Print This May 11, 2014, 10:05 AM EST

With the draft concluded, the next step in the player acquisition cycle is the signing of Undrafted Free Agents (“UDFA”). The subject of UDFAs was addressed in the recently published article entitled “Seahawks Wanted”. In that article, I discussed the brochure sent out by the Seahawks to agents representing UDFAs. The brochure was intended to make the case that Seattle was a good place for UDFAs to sign.

The Seahawks’ document also includes plenty of information about all NFL teams that provide insights regarding the comparative success with UDFAs of all teams. I relied completely on the Seahawks information for those insights, though, as I have not accumulated comparable, independent data. I am willing to accept the accuracy of the information as, by distributing it semi-publicly, the Seahawks would hurt their credibility if the report contained inaccuracies.

Looking at it from outside the industry, it seems to me that there are two major factors an Undrafted Free Agent should consider when considering where to sign. The first is whether they will have a real opportunity to make the roster of a team. The second is whether they will receive a chance to be seen and evaluated by multiple NFL teams.

While there are relevant factors that are not easily measured (e.g., depth at a player’s position), in this article I will focus on three metrics for the last four seasons (2010-2013):

• The percentage of UDFAs playing time during the preseason
• The percentage of UDFAs who make the 53-man roster of the team that initially signs them
• The percentage of UDFAs that make the 53-man roster of any team

The percentage of UDFAs playing time during the preseason

A team that provides a lot of playing time for UDFAs during the preseason allows those UDFA to put their performance “on tape” so it can be seen and evaluated by any team. This improves the player’s chances of landing on a 53-man roster. The level of playing time can be affected, of course, by injury, age of roster, etc.

The following shows the top 10, middle 11 and bottom 11 teams in terms of percentage of preseason playing time by UDFAs for the four-year study period.

Top 10
Packers, Cowboys, Eagles, Bills, Browns, Ravens, Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Jaguars

Middle 11
Seahawks, Rams, Bucs, Lions, 49ers, Saints, Vikings, Bears, Dolphins, Chiefs, Steelers

Bottom 11
Falcons, Bengals, Broncos, Texans, Cardinals, Panthers, Giants, Titans, Raiders, Jets, Redskins

The percentage of UDFAs who make the 53-man roster of the team that initially signs them

A team that has a high number of UDFAs on their final roster is typically a good place to be for UDFAs. This must be taken with the caveat that, as with most of these metrics, injuries and other factors play a role in who makes the roster. The presence of a high number of UDFAs on a roster usually means that UDFAs receive a fair shot of making a team and are not operating at a significant disadvantage when competing with draftees for a job.

The following shows the top 10, middle 12 and bottom 10 teams in terms of the percentage of UDFAs that made the 53-man roster for the four-year study period. It should also be noted that there is a wide range in the sheer number of UDFA signings over the 2010-2013 period, with the Rams leading with 101and the Giants having the fewest with 49.

Top 10
Rams, Patriots, Texans, Packers, Colts, Bears, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cowboys, Cardinals

Middle 12
Saints, Bills, Raiders, Chiefs, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, Jets, Browns, Dolphins, Eagles, 49ers

Bottom 10
Broncos, Bengals, Ravens, Redskins, Falcons, Steelers, Bucs, Lions, Vikings, Titans

The percentage of UDFAs who make the 53-man roster of any team

This metric takes the information from the previous metric and adds to it the number of UDFAs that were released and then made the roster of the team that subsequently signed them. This combination reflects the percentage of a team’s UDFAs that made all NFL rosters during the study period.

This can be an indicator that UDFAs are getting very good visibility. The following table shows the top 10, middle 12 and bottom 10 teams for this metric over the four-year study period.

Top 10
Texans, Jaguars, Bills, Colts, Patriots, Rams, Cowboys, Seahawks, Bears, Packers

Middle 12
49ers, Giants, Saints, Dolphins, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Redskins, Chiefs, Cardinals, Eagles, Jets

Bottom 10
Ravens, Panthers, Bucs, Browns, Falcons, Bengals, Vikings, Steelers, Lions, Titans

Summary

There are other metrics that could be considered in this analysis but these three cover most of the important aspects. To top off the analysis, I assigned an equal weighting to each of the metrics, with an overall rating falling out of the weighted performance in each category by all NFL trams.

Interestingly, the Seahawks are not at the top (that honor belonging to the Packers) but they did rank ninth, making them certainly one of the best destinations for UDFAs. Here are the teams ranked in order of being a “best place to live” for UDFAs.

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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