We’ve all been there. Our last rookie pick is approaching and we need to decide whether to select a late-round NFL rookie or a UDFA (Undrafted Free Agent) sleeper. I’ve found myself in this situation many times and decided to do a little research to determine the success rate of UDFAs. Success rate is subjective, but for this article, I’m defining it as a player with weekly flex appeal for multiple seasons and has trade value. The results were surprising, especially given all the time spent by many of us on evaluating the “deep sleeper” class of players. Going back to 2016, the success rate of a UDFA becoming a dynasty asset, let alone rosterable, is less than 5%. Let’s review the last 3 years.
Robby Anderson is a solid asset and easily leads this class. With Josh Jacobs now in control of the Raiders backfield, Jalen Richard is an average asset and an unrestricted free agent next season so his future is uncertain. Peyton Barber appears to be the Tampa starter this year, but with a new coaching staff and the deep 2019 class I’m assuming they draft a running back. Geronimo Allison is an interesting player and at a crossroads in his career with having signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Packers.
Austin Eckler leads the 2017 class and is a quality dynasty asset as one of the best third-down backs in the NFL. Given the uncertainty of the Melvin Gordon contract situation, his value should remain high. Matt Brieda has been serviceable the past two years but the signing of Tevin Coleman and his inability to stay healthy has his arrow pointing down. Keelan Cole was a dynasty darling back in 2017 but a bust last season. The Jaguars signed free agent Chris Conley this offseason and Marquise Lee is returning, limiting any possible rebound opportunity for Cole. Corey Clement and Ricky Seals-Jones are fading assets who should be on your wire or traded if you can find a willing owner. I’m intrigued by Tim Patrick and believe he would have an opportunity if Sutton, Hamilton or Sanders were to go down with an injury. Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin flashed late last season and now sits behind the returning veteran Jason Witten.
The 2018 UDFA class was weak overall but provided two solid dynasty assets in Phillip Lindsay and Robert Foster. Lindsay took the fantasy community by storm last season earning him a pro bowl selection. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Royce Freeman leads the Broncos in carries this season. Robert Foster was Josh Allen’s favorite target late last season and was a flex for many owners down the stretch. Along with Zay Jones, the Bills added John Brown and Cole Beasley in the offseason - certainly not a ringing endorsement for Foster. Edwards, Adams and Kirkwood are all below average assets who will most likely be replaced in the next year or two.
That brings us to the 2019 class. Below are the UDFAs who have been popular on Twitter and most likely on many rosters. History tells us that only two or three of these prospects will become usable fantasy players this season. Bruce Anderson and Preston Williams would be my selections based on landing spots and opportunity. Anderson was handpicked by new head coach Bruce Arians, so he will get a good opportunity in camp to make an impression. Preston Williams had a really good season for Colorado State last year and walks into a wide-open opportunity for the rebuilding Dolphins.
As the data shows, the success rate on a UDFA is just over 4%. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule with players like Adam Thielen and Trey Burton, but for the most part, UDFAs provide us a year or two of production before slowly fading away into fantasy football history.
Let me know your thoughts on twitter @DynastyDeepDive.