NFL Undrafted Free Agents: Why Top Players Were Not Drafted

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NFL Undrafted Free Agents: Why Top Players Were Not Drafted
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Miami Dolphins pass-rusher Cameron Wake

The 2012 NFL draft has come and gone—hard to believe given all of the time and effort that goes into preparing for and writing about its lead-up. However, rest assured that rookie player procurement did not cease with Mr. Irrelevant at pick No. 253.

For most teams, in fact, the volume of their draft haul was easily exceeded by the number of undrafted free-agent signings they immediately secured in the aftermath of Saturday evening's closing bell. And for the hundreds of undrafted free-agent hopefuls and their respective representation, the signing process quickly arrived at a boiling point within hours of the conclusion of the draft.

The 2012 college free-agent crop is especially bountiful in the wake of the NFL's amendment to training camp roster maximums, augmented from 80 to 90 players, effectively creating an additional 320 potential NFL jobs if only for a few weeks during the preseason.

The rub is that a crucial recruitment phase, post-draft free agency, just became a whole lot bigger and more interesting. Due to the grueling physical demands of NFL play, the relative brevity of the draft and the chaotic nature of player projection, the UDFA ranks continue to be a low-risk, cheap and plentiful revenue stream for acquisition.

Given the previous points and in the wake of the newly increased offseason roster limits, I believe the NFL should strongly consider bumping the draft back up to 10 or 12 rounds. After all, the league previously ran at this length before it was eventually shortened to the current seven-stanza format we now know.

For a quick-and-dirty rundown of some of the top-performing former undrafted free agents, check out this piece from ProFootballFocus identifying players at every position. According to PFF, the highest-rated former UDFA in 2011 was former Penn State Nittany Lion, Canadian Football League alum and vaunted Miami Dolphin sack artist Cameron Wake.

If so many of these overlooked players go on to complementary, situational, starting and in some cases starring success, how do these men get passed over by every team after seven rounds?

With the frenzied throes of undrafted free agency almost completed for the 2012 class, this slideshow examines my top-rated prospect at each position and offers an explanation for their respective fall-outs from the draft.

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