Making the League as an Undrafted Free Agent Remains Daunting as Ever

By Chris Lauderback on May 3, 2014 at 8:15a
Cordle, Boone and Brewster all made it to the NFL via the undrafted free agent route

Virtually every young man entering Ohio State's football program does so with the dream of one day playing in the National Football League. 

Sure, kids know the odds are against them but when you're young, there's an aura of invincibility that has yet to be tempered by the reality of talent at the elite collegiate level.

As the years pass, players begin to realize just how tough it is to put themselves in position to have a chance at the professional level but the self-confidence it takes to even survive college football is usually enough to make a player believe they have what it takes to play on Sundays. 

A select few are good enough to leave school a year early while a larger population will enter the NFL Draft knowing they will at least be taken by a team at some point during the seven round affair. Then, there's an even bigger pool of players praying their phone will ring with an offer to join a team as an undrafted free agent. At that point, the dream is realized but more often than not, the dream is painfully short lived. 

Last week, we looked at how the last eight years of Buckeye draft picks have seen a drop in production. Today, we look at just how tough it has been for Ohio State's undrafted free agents to find a niche at the next level. 

As of early April, there were 34 former Buckeyes dotting NFL rosters with just 12 of those players picked up as undrafted free agents. A first glance,the fact 35% of Buckeyes currently on NFL rosters made it after going undrafted feels like a high percentage but the reality is that the professional career of an undrafted guy is woefully short. 

In 2013, seven former Buckeyes signed undrafted free agent deals and six can still be found on NFL rosters (Stoneburner, Boren, Howard, Johnson, Wiliams and Sabino) with Garrett Goebel as the lone exception. 

Brewster played in 14 games last season including three starts

In 2012, however, three players signed undrafted free agent deals (Sweat, Shugarts, Brewster) but Brewster is the lone guy still on an active roster. 

In fact, of the 12 undrafted free agent Buckeyes still on NFL rosters, nine of them have three or less years of professional experience and none have more than five years in the league, paced by Alex Boone, a 2009 undrafted free agent who is currently kicking all kinds of ass in San Francisco. Of course, if not for his drunken early days, Boone would've never been undrafted in the first place because his talent was certainly NFL Draft worthy. 

Against those long odds, a contingent of Buckeyes not named Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, Carlos Hyde or Jack Mewhort hope to hear their name called during this year's NFL Draft which takes place next Thursday through Saturday. 

Corey Linsley and Corey Brown were invited to the scouting combine but while some think it's a virtual lock they'll be drafted, there are no guarantees. 

Christian Bryant, and Andrew Norwell project as possible 7th round selections with Kenny Guiton, Marcus Hall, C.J. Barnett and maybe Jordan Hall likely forced to wait until the event concludes to sign undrafted free agent deals that will secure them a spot at a camp, but nothing more. 

It truly is a crapshoot when projecting which undrafted guys might stick for a few years but assuming Linsley is drafted, I'll take Norwell as the most likely to carve out a role with none other than Smooth Jazz relying on a steady dose of intangibles and heart in an effort to carry a clipboard for a couple years. 


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Nutbuck1959's picture

I don't know, but it seems like a fairly high percentage of UFA from our side are still on rosters. Speaks to the quality of the player, imo.

Horvath22's picture

Going forward, it will be interesting to see these numbers as Urban Meyers draft classes gradually take over the OSU roster. None of his recruits wil be eligible for the NFL until 2015, and then only a handfull, since most of the class was already on board from the previous regime. Not until 2017 will we get a true reading on his recruits, NFLwise, when his 2013 class will be seniors.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Yesterday Mel Kiper brought up the Smoothster's name as a QB that could be a value selection for a team.

I could be imagining this, but I thought Kenny G was more interested in coaching than playing in the NFL...


BuckeyeDale's picture

COULD be...but really?  What was EVERY youth/high school/college football players dream from day 1?  And even if that is the final goal, the experience, the credibility, EVERYTHING about even being involved in football at any level is enhanced by just a cup of coffee in the NoFunLeague.


buckskin's picture

My dream was playing for OSU, not the NFL.

+2 HS
saltybuck61's picture

If I remember correctly he wanted to give the NFL a shot before coaching. However, I would expect coaching to be in his future.

+2 HS
Citrus's picture

Imagine Kenny spends a year or two in the league. He comes back to tOSU as a grad assistant. He would have a compelling story for recruits. "Ohio State made good on its promise to give me the best chance to play in the NFL. I worked hard and, just like Coach Meyer said, it paid off. Even though I was a backup I found my way to the league. Ohio State is now providing me with a great opportunity to become a coach. Come here, work hard, and your dreams are possible."

+10 HS
OSUEXT's picture

That's probably true, but spending time in the NFL would be valuable for a whole lot of reasons to his coaching career. The money even a practice squad season would bring (90k) would provide some financial security if he went on to be a grad assistant for 2 years. Also, being on an NFL roster is a valuable selling point to prospective recruits. Many players want the NFL dream, and saying "I know what it takes to make it in the league" would sway recruits your way. Finally, the NFL has some brilliant people in it. Say Kenny Guiton spent two years as a practice squad QB in New England or Denver. The chance to work with a Brady/Belicheck..etc would invaluable from a learning and networking perspective.  Kenny Guiton won't be a star in the NFL, but he loves football and will be a great coach, If you had an Urban and an NFL coach backing you, he could land a pretty sweet coaching gig in the next 5 years. Just look at Kliff Kingsbury. 

+1 HS
CincyBuckeye31's picture

As a Packers fan, I hope Stoneburner finds a way to see playing time in GB.  Doesn't look promising at the moment but you never know.

crusher's picture

I thought Offsides Shugarts just signed with Detroit

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men

-1 HS
DC-town's picture

I think this year in drafted free agent pool stands a pretty good shot with norwell, Barnett and Lindsley, but I think those three will all be drafted...smooth jazz will be a UFA if I were to guess, I think 'don't call me Philly' is a fifth round pick and would be higher if not for the crazy depth at wr this year if these guys don't get drafted they all have the talent to at least get a good look at the nfl

'Piss excellence' -RB

nw_ohio_Buckeye's picture

The "Great Dane" Sanzenbacher was an undrafted free agent and is still rostered with the Bengals. Always labeled "too small" & "too slow" Dane has found a way. Go Bucks!!

"The minute I think I'm getting mellow, I'm retiring. Who ever heard of a mellow winner?" ~ Woody Hayes