Undrafted Underclassmen

Posted on May 14, 2014


By Allen Rodriguez

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A lot has been made about the number of underclassmen who entered this year’s draft, and recently, much of the talk has been about the number of these prospects who went undrafted. So what’s going on?

If every underclassman went drafted, no one would suggest there was a problem. But people hear that 36 of the 98 went undrafted and it looks bad. But relative to the history of underclassmen in the draft, is it?

As usual, the data is slightly flawed [1], but here are some charts:

Undraft 3

Undraft 1

UNdraft 2

Ultimately, while more underclassmen went undrafted than ever before, more went drafted than ever before.

And 2014’s percent drafted (63%) is the same as the average since 1989, which is the cutoff simply because it’s as far back as I found data. The decline in the percentage of underclassmen who entered the draft being drafted is only recent, and it may be related to players wishing to get into the NFL quicker to get the clock started on the countdown to their second contract.

Here’s the real issue. The number of underclassmen who enter the draft is largely related to the chance each player thinks they have of getting drafted. Each year, X underclassmen declare themselves eligible. That value essentially sets itself such that about 63% of those players will get drafted. And the X rises just about every year as more underclassmen become draftable.

Now, the interesting thing here is that every year’s increase in underclassmen declaring fuels another increase the next year. Next year’s senior class will be relatively depleted because so many would-be seniors entered the draft the year before. So next year’s underclassmen will see a weak senior crop and that will make it more enticing for them to come out now. This, I think, is the greatest factor in the increase in underclassmen declaring.

But the bottom line is that players this year, collectively, were no worse in their self-assessment than average.

[1] Data for 1989-2012 is from ourlads. 2013 and 2014 are from CBS Sports and AL.com. The 2009-2012 data on CBS does not match the ourlads data. So something is a little off. It might be related to whether ourlads is counting players who forwent eligibility but did so after having earned a degree. I’m not sure. Regardless, the differences are small. But yes, the data isn’t perfect.

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