Eagles

How long does a small school player last in the NFL?

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Usually, I work with small-school players at small_school_prospect_scouting. Today, we answer the question:

How long does one’s career last on average for a small-school player?

I will be sharing the data of 568 small-school players from 2000-2019 that were collected for this research article. I will showcase exactly the average of each position; however, I did combine cornerbacks, free safeties, and strong safeties for the sake of the position changes a defensive back will experience yearly.

Another rule for this article is only current FCS (Division I-AA), Divisions II and III, NAIA, and JUCO school players would be considered. Also, if a player’s football program was cut due to funding or was just discontinued from 2000-2019, that player would remain eligible.

(Position: Years average in the NFL)
QB: 5.47
RB: 5.58
FB: 6.16
WR: 4.71
TE: 5.35
T: 5.12
G: 6.4
C: 7.5
DE: 4.6
DT: 4.8
LB: 4.65
DB: 5.61
K: 8
P: 5.81
LS: 11

The main thing that is interesting is roughly all positions fair from the same average years: roughly 4-7 years in the NFL, with ⅔ of special-teamers lasting longer than the rest at 8 years for kickers and 11 for long-snappers.

A look at the percentages of how many small-school-turned-pro players have become Pro Bowlers at each position from 2000-2019:

(Position: percentage making the Pro Bowl)
QB: 9.5%
RB: 1.47%
FB: 38.8%
WR: 1.51%
TE: 0.04%
T: 0.93%
G: 0.03%
C: 0%
DE: 0.09%
DT: 0.03%
LB: 0.03%
DB: 0.11%
K: 80%
P: 0%
LS: 17%

In conclusion, small-school players have a decent NFL lifespan. The most successful are the longsnapers, kickers, and fullbacks. The less successful, at least exclusively in terms of pro career duration, are defensive tackles and linebackers. Over the coming years, the next superstars of small schools will hopefully drive these numbers up for the next decade.

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