Making it to the NFL: What Are The Odds of Getting Drafted?

Were you ever an athlete good at your respective sport, while having fun playing it? If you have, odds are the thought of becoming a professional athlete has crossed your mind. But what are the actual chances of that happening? If you play the sport in high school and college, how much do those chances increase?

If you want to be a professional football player in the NFL, you must start your football career early. Playing in high school is virtually mandatory. According to the NCAA, there are about 1,086,627 high school student athletes that play football across the country, with 310,465 of them being seniors.

The NCAA has 70,147 student athletes, including over 20,000 freshmen. For college seniors, there are nearly 16,000 looking for an opportunity to play professional football. However, the average amount of NCAA athletes drafted to the NFL is 254. That’s 1.6 percent.

The total number of players eligible to be drafted isn’t available, but a rough estimate can be made. There are 115 colleges with NCAA Division-I football programs, and some can offer up to 85 scholarships per year, but every team also has walk-on players. Therefore, let’s say there are and average of 110 players on a Division-I team. That brings us to a total of 12,650 players.

Assuming there are between 10 and 20 seniors on each squad, that means there are 1,725 players who are about to exhaust their eligibility. Add in Division-II school on top of that, equaling approximately 25,300 student-athletes and 3,450 seniors.

Another dynamic to consider is how many college football players declare for the NFL draft early as a redshirt sophomore or junior. On average, there are about 50 players who do this, still leaving 3,500 seniors hoping for a chance.

In 2011, there were 254 players drafted by an NFL team, but the journey doesn’t end there. They then must compete with veterans, players from other leagues, people already secure on the roster and undrafted free agents to maintain a spot on the team.

Therefore, you must be a special kind of athlete to get through this successfully, playing well enough for at least 2-4 years to make an impression on one NFL organization.

Being a professional football player is not just about being talented or having an incredible amount of skill, but a little luck is also involved. Being at the right place, at the right time and in front of the right people while performing is crucial.

I don’t believe the careers of football players are based on luck, but making it all the way to the NFL involves making a lasting impression to help you stand out from other skilled players at your position. If you don’t have the best tryout of your life, that roster spot may never come. If you do get one and your skills dwindle quicker than anticipated, that roster spot will be short-lived.

When athletes talk about “the love of the game,” it’s great to hear they love and believe in it so much to eventually become a professional. When looking at the statistics, the odds aren’t great, but there are a few people that put in the work — mixed with a little bit of luck — to accomplish their dream.

great to think that you believe in it so much that you will make it to the pro’s. But when you look at the statistics, the odds are not very good. But there are those few people that believe in it enough and work hard enough and make it to a professional team and accomplish their dream.


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