(NASHVILLE) - Until there's a dependable football environment like DFI, the farm systems of Major League Baseball, or the European leagues and D-League of of the NBA, NFL coaches can only rely on college football's best programs, according to an NFL coach.
The mission of DFI is to provide game-ready players and life-ready men, which will provide an alternative track for developing talent. Until then, it's a party where only a chosen few are invited.
Of the 16,000 available football players who pour out of the universities annually, the best who get a sniff of the NFL arrive largely from the "greatest farm system in the world," according to Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel.
The newly appointed Titans coach also said that, besides talent, "character" is the greatest asset a rookie can bring to the dance.
"Nick Saban (Alabama) is our farm system," Vrabel said. "Urban Meyer (Ohio State) is our farm system."In the 2017 draft, 253 players were drafted. Of the NFL's 1,696 players, and less than 300 turn over each year.
Some of the best players in NFL history fell through the cracks of the draft and didn't get a shot in the NFL until they were signed as an undrafted free agent. Players that weren't originally drafted include Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and Warren Moon, along with recently retired Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Active players who went undrafted include Chargers tight end Antonio Gates and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. Basically, for teams looking in the right place, there could be a diamond in the rough out there.
Most professional leagues have minor league systems, but so far, not the NFL. University presidents are not thrilled with the idea of their programs being labeled a farm system - they want students-athletes to be students, then athletes, not athletes who are also students.
"When you compare it to Major League Baseball or the NBA's D-League, the NFL simply doesn't have that," says Phil Savage, Senior Bowl executive director.