Three years ago, Malcom Butler was a little-known cornerback from West Alabama. He was not selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. In fact, he wasn't even signed immediately after the draft. He didn't agree to a contract with the Patriots until nine days later. Nine months after he signed a three-year $1.5 million contract, his goal-line interception of a Russell Wilson pass in Super Bowl XLIX delivered a fourth Lombardi Trophy to Foxborough.
Butler is one of the hundreds of undrafted free agent (UDFA) players who get a shot in rookie minicamps, training camps or during the regular season each year. Only a fraction make an impact, but the league is laced with players whose NFL dream seemed far-fetched after college.
All undrafted players defy odds and expectations, but the odds are much smaller for some positions. Tony Khan, senior vice president of the Jacksonville Jaguars and noted analytics guru, posted a photo of the positions with the highest percentage of snaps taken by undrafted players.
Though Malcolm Butler contributes to the 17 percent of all defensive back snaps taken by UDFAs over the last decade, running backs sit far above them, and all other positions. A staggering 24 percent of all running back snaps since 2006 have been taken by undrafted free agents:
The percentage of #nfl snaps played by undrafted players since 2006 has been similar for almost all of the position groups, except for running backs and quarterbacks. Approximately a quarter of snaps leaguewide at running back have been played by undrafted players, whereas only a tenth of snaps at quarterback have been played by undrafted players.