It’s very easy for fans and experts alike to overhype draft prospects, and assume too much out of players who are being drafted out of college. I even found myself on draft day assuming a lot from players being taken in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds by the Buccaneers and other teams. Every player that gets selected in the draft has something about them that stands out and seems to fit the needs of an NFL team, so it’s easy to read through scouting profiles and watch highlights and convince yourself that a fifth round pick like Steven Means could be a star his rookie season. But of course, realism is needed, as not every draft pick is going to pan out. Just look at the “Where Are They Now” articles we ran on the site a few weeks ago, like this one, and you see a mix of players who made it in the league, and some who didn’t.
Then after the draft is over, there’s an even more hectic time of signing and inviting players to tryout for the team as undrafted free agents. These are players who are covered in tons of doubt, as they were apparently not good enough to make the NFL Draft’s 7 rounds, and clearly are lacking in some way. But would you believe that more undrafted players fill NFL rosters than players from any one round of the NFL Draft? It doesn’t take much thought on the math to realize that there are more undrafted players to choose from, but it also proves that undrafted free agents are a big part of the construction of an NFL team. The Packers, Patriots, and Broncos all had 16 or more undrafted free agents in 2012, and no team had fewer than 9 former undrafted rookies on the roster, according to this article by Syracuse University. In fact, in 2012, the Buccaneers had more undrafted free agents on the roster than first and second round picks combined. And while some of those players are just filler at the bottom of the roster…
Some of those players are guys like Donald Penn. Penn went undrafted out of Utah State, and even failed to catch on with the Minnesota Vikings before finding his way to Tampa Bay to eventually become the team’s starting left tackle and a 2010 Pro Bowl Selection.
So before you dismiss the undrafted rookies brought in this offseason, consider the size of the role they play in the construction of an NFL roster. A player like Deveron Carr, Evan Landi, or Chris Denton could be the next Pro Bowler that slipped through the cracks of the NFL Draft.
Of the undrafted rookies the Bucs have brought in, which ones do you think have the best chance at being stars in the NFL? Let us know in the comments below.