By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) The NFL Draft Combine that convenes Tuesday in Indianapolis marks the opening of one of our sillier sports seasons, one in which the concepts of novelty and possibility often overwhelm reality.
Everybody loves what’s different and potentially better, and entire industries have been constructed to provide opinion and expertise regarding which college players should end up where and why. The draft is a confluence of sports and commerce that epitomizes what pro football has become, a trade fair and shopping festival that celebrates size, speed and athleticism, even as it still carries undertones of a shameful time in American history.
And so much of it is superfluous.
In September of last year, there were more undrafted players on NFL rosters (481) than first- and second-round picks combined (480), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And that was early in the season, before injuries opened spots for more players who never heard their name called at all. The number of undrafted players on rosters in total usually hovers around 25 percent and in some recent seasons has risen close to one-third of the league.
In the last decade, 24 percent of all running back snaps have been taken by undrafted players, according to HeroSports.com, as have 17 percent of snaps at offensive line, defensive back and receiver. These guys aren’t just on the ends of rosters but playing.
So no matter your NFL team, there’s a high likelihood that several players important to you in the seasons to come have little or nothing to do with anything you’ll be seeing or hearing in the coming weeks.