Many will enter…few will win!

So, do you really want to leave college early and try your hand at professional football?

The 2019 NFL draft has just concluded.  There were 254 young men selected last week by the 32 National Football League teams during the seven rounds of player selections.

The eligible players automatically included all of the seniors and other players who have utilized their four years of college football eligibility.

The NFL rules also permitted college football players who participated for at least three seasons to leave school and declare eligible for the NFL draft. 

This season, there were 144 early entrants – players who put their names into the proverbial NFL draft pot-of-gold in Nashville last week. 

After all was said and done, though, 49 of those 144 players (34%) never heard their name called in the seven rounds of selections.  Based on the current NCAA rules, these 49 players are not permitted to return to play college football next season, either.

There is some good news for these players, though.  Many of these 49 football players will (or have already) signed with an NFL team as a free agent beginning on Sunday after the draft concluded. 

The bad news?  The odds of an undrafted player making it onto an NFL squad are quite low. 

NFL teams will make difficult decisions about players on next year’s team based on math, finance, and politics. 

Let’s look at the math first.  There are 53 players who made the final squad from the most recent football season.  NFL teams are permitted to carry an additional ten extra players (who each earn about $100K/year) on their developmental (or “Practice”) squad. 

This summer when training camps open, the NFL will allow each team to begin practices with a maximum of 90 potential players. 

Assuming no retirements or trades, that means that there will be a maximum of 27 new players (the seven draft picks plus unsigned free agents) competing to earn a spot on the roster/practice squad by the end of August. 

Now, let’s talk finance.  If the team just spent an additional $15 million per year to keep one or more of their veteran star players happy, then the payroll needs to be trimmed elsewhere. 

NFL teams will then look at the cost of keeping a few of their older (and much more costly) players and, potentially, replace some of them with the younger (and significantly cheaper) rookies or last year’s practice squad players.

In 2018, the NFL’s salary cap was set at $177.2 million per team.  If the star quarterback receives $25 million and his #1 receiver gets $15 million, the other 51 players can (theoretically) share the remaining $137.2 million (or about $2.7 million/player). 

In 2018, the NFL minimum salary for a rookie making the team was $480,000.  Many other veterans on the team will earn significantly more, so the team must keep an eye on its bottom line when making personnel decisions this summer on who to keep, trade, or cut. 

Then there’s also the politics of being drafted.

No matter how good or bad the #1 draft pick of your team performs during this summer’s training camp, it is likely that the team (which paid a significant amount of bonus money to their first round picks but significantly lesser amounts for Rounds 2 through 7) will keep that player on the roster for a least a couple of seasons. 

The draft “glow” also burns brightly for those selected with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks – at least for their first NFL season. 

NFL teams simply hate to admit that they goofed on during the spring NFL draft.  The team’s General Manager is responsible for the success (or lack thereof) for all player personnel selections and player development.  His job rides largely on the success of the seven annual draft picks.

For most of the college football players who went unselected last weekend in the NFL draft, they have or will soon sign with an NFL team who acted “interested” in them during the pre-draft workouts earlier this spring to become one of the 90 players at the team’s training camp this summer. 

They will get an opportunity to compete for a job, but the odds are against them. 

These undrafted free agents will have to find a way to impress the team’s coaches enough to keep them and release a veteran player, practice squad player, or one of this year’s drafted rookies to make the team.

Every year, there are a number of undrafted rookies who will make NFL squads. 

Several memorable NFL players were undrafted free agents and eventually became professional stars.  Undrafted college players such as Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams QB), Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys QB), Antonio Gates (Chargers TE), Jeff Saturday (Indianapolis Colts Center), James Harrison (Pittsburgh Steelers LB), and Warren Moon (Houston Oilers QB) all went on to have incredibly successful NFL careers.

To succeed in the NFL as an undrafted free agent, you will need loads of talent, a hard work ethic, and more than a little luck in order to defy the odds to have a lengthy and financially rewarding NFL career.    

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 19, 2019

In today’s edition of “Sweep-the-SwampCast“, our theme this week is about beating the gambling odds (or not). Some people have come up as big winners this week, while others, not so much.

This is an audio-only podcast version of the show. Click on the bar above to listen or, better yet, subscribe via Apple Podcasts to hear an audio version of each of our shows! Go ahead…try it. It’s FREE!

Have a HAPPY EASTER!

Hype, Psyche, and the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is coming Thursday night!  And Friday night!  And during the day on Saturday, too!  Oh, boy!

Let’s say your favorite National Football League franchise gets to pick early in the first round of the draft on Thursday night.  By now, you may be emotionally on edge after being bombarded by all of the media reports about why your team needs to select Quarterback “A” vs. Quarterbacks “B, C, or D”.  Maybe your team should trade down or trade up?  Whatever we do, we cannot let another despicable team select our desired player!  Noooooooo!

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?  Maybe it is because part of the psychology involved with our addiction to football is the fun of feeling like you (and your friends) can draft, coach, and call the plays better than the management and coaches of your favorite team.

Did you know that not ONE single player drafted as the overall #1 draft pick in the last 13 drafts has won a Super Bowl ring?  In 2004, Eli Manning (who said he wouldn’t play for the San Diego Chargers and was traded to the New York Giants) was the last #1 overall pick who has a part of a Super Bowl championship team.

The process of selecting one of the top college football players on Thursday night is similar to going to the supermarket and trying to select the best steak for your weekend backyard grilling.

A steak which looks terrific to you (Cleveland Browns fan) may not look that good to the guys holding the #2 pick (New York Giants) or the #3 pick (New York J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!).  You may prefer that tasty T-bone, but those other two guys may be eyeing a succulent sirloin or, of course, a New York strip steak.

Every team looks at their options at the meat counter differently.  But, year after year, the best teams (such as the New England Patriots) always seem to make good choices at the bottom of selection order while the perennial losing teams (you know who you are) fail again and again.

Perhaps the best teams may simply use a better recipe to cook their steaks (coaching, training, player development/leadership) while the bad teams have a tendency to burn or under cook even the best steak because their kitchen team (management, coaches, players) doesn’t follow a successful recipe.

There is one more reason why the perennially bad teams show up at the top of the NFL Draft every year and make the same mistakes over and over again.

Pressure.

Pressure from the ownership is applied to the management to select a particular player who might help put more fans in the stands (example – QB Andrew Luck).

Pressure from the fans to find the most incredibly gifted and superior athlete ever before seen (QB Jamarcus Russell and DE Jedeveon Clowney come to mind) who will single-handedly lead their teams to the Super Bowl soon.  How is that working out, Oakland and Houston?

But the most intense and never-ending drumbeat of pressure is being applied (weekly, daily, and now, minute-by-minute) by the sports media.  Interviews and opinions are garnered from NFL owners, management, coaches, players, former players, media talking heads, and even the gang at Moe’s Bar.  Surely, they will know who is best player to select this season!

Regardless of how badly your team drafts, the sports media will emerge as the big winner year after year.  Just take a look at the number of television shows on ESPN, Fox Sports1, and others in the weeks, days, and hours (watch for the countdown clocks!) leading up to the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Those NFL pre-draft shows are there for one good reason.  Advertising revenue!  Viewers are willing to get emotionally involved with the selection of players by their favorite teams.

What other sport can draw large numbers of sports fans back to the television in late April?  Though the NBA and NHL playoffs have their dedicated fans, the National Football League remains the King of television ratings.

As we know, it’s good to be the King.

So, cue the Billy Joel classic hit, “Pressure“, as the Cleveland Browns are (as of this writing) on the clock with the first pick of this year’s 2018 NFL draft.

Will they select Quarterback “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D”, gifted running back “E” or even defensive stud “F”?  Or will they chicken-out and trade it away to some other team eager to move up to please their ownership and fans?

If the Browns decide to cut a deal with that first pick, the recent history of NFL bottom feeders suggests that there should be plenty of other organizations salivating to make a deal for the “perfect” player.

The clock is running.  Pressure’s on.

Caveat emptor, suckers!