The 2020 NFL Draft promises to be one of the most eventful in the premier entry-level event’s 84-year history. With the draft being held completely online, picks being announced from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement, the potential for malfunctions, connection issues and general hijinks is very high.
Not lost in the madness, hundreds of young men will have their wildest dreams come true in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn an NFL roster spot… if their names are called by Goodell or whichever guest announcer makes the call.
The Joe Burrows and Chase Youngs of the world have no reason to fret, as their names are locks to be called by Goodell on the first night of the draft; their multi-million dollar contracts and fast tracks to superstardom await.
For NFL hopefuls from Division II programs, Slippery Rock University, in particular, those odds are not so high. In fact, they are virtually non-existent. The disparity between players selected from the Division I and II ranks is high, but just how high is it?
2,544 NFL prospects were drafted in the entry-level draft between 2010-19, of those players, only 43 were drafted out of Division II programs. That equates to roughly 1.7%.
With one selection in the 2,544 players in the 2010s, offensive lineman Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock produced 0.03% of NFL draft picks in the decade.
In a yearly breakdown, the numbers are not encouraging for Division II hopefuls.
- 5 out of 254: ~2%
- Rounds: 3rd, 91st overall; 4th, 135th; 5th, 164th; 6th, 180th; 7th, 238th;
- 3 out of 256: ~1%
- Rounds: 3rd, 72nd; 3rd, 94th; 7th, 238th;
- 3 out of 253: ~2%
- Rounds: 2nd, 45th overall; 4th, 144th; 5th, 147th Kutztown; 6th, 192nd; 7th, 226th;
- 2 out of 253: less than 1%
- Rounds: 5th, 146th; 5th, 165th;
- 2 out of 256: less than 1%
- Rounds: 7th, 232nd, 7th, 255th;
- 6 out of 256: ~2%
- Rounds: 3rd, 91st; 4th, 127th; 4th, 136th Bloomsburg; 6th, 195th; 6th, 198th; 7th, 236th
- 10 out of 254: ~4%
- Rounds: 3rd, 94th; 4th, 108th; 6th, 170th California Pa.; 6th, 183rd; 6th, 203rd; 7th, 216th; 7th, 217th; 7th, 227th; 7th, 231st; 7th, 233rd;
- 4 out of 253: ~2%
- Rounds: 2nd, 40th; 6th, 171st; 6th, 199th; 7th, 228th;
- 1 out of 254: less than 1%
- Rounds: 6th, 172nd Slippery Rock;
- 5 out of 255: ~2%
- Rounds: 3rd, 69th; 4th, 126th Indiana Pa.; 6th, 189th; 6th, 194th; 7th, 218th;
Averaging all the selections together, the average pick of a player from a Division II program falls toward the back end of the fifth round: the 168th pick.
No Division II player was selected in the first round and only two D-II players (Amini Silatolu, 40th in 2012; Adam Shaheen, 45th in 2017) were selected in the second round. A D-II player has been selected in the seventh round (13 times) more often than in the third and fourth rounds (five each) combined.
However, in the 2020 draft cycle, Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger has seen his name skyrocket across draft boards. Sports Illustrated‘s Kevin Hanson rated Dugger 51st in his Top 255 Draft Big Board 3.0. While Dugger may be selected in the first two rounds, Hanson doesn’t have another Division II player ranked inside his Top 255.
Five Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference players were selected between 2010-19, with Slippery Rock, California (Pa.), Indiana (Pa.), Bloomsburg and Kutztown each having a player selected.
In 2020, Slippery Rock’s Roland Rivers III will likely have the best odds of any PSAC player, and maybe even any D-II player behind Dugger, to be selected. The Harlon Hill Award winner in 2019, Rivers had a strong showing at his Pro Day with Villanova and he’s been working out with other professionals in the lead up to the draft after lighting up D-II competition last season.
Rivers faces a stacked hand, in terms of hearing his name called in the draft, as there were no Division II quarterbacks selected between 2010-19, and there were no D-II quarterbacks on active rosters in 2019.
Like many other Division II hopefuls through the years, the undrafted free agent route might be his best route to the professional level.
In the aftermath of the 2019 NFL Draft alone, 26 Division II players signed as priority undrafted free agents. That number does not even include former Slippery Rock standout Wes Hills who played the preseason with the Arizona Cardinals and scored two touchdowns during Week 16 of the NFL season.
Since 2017, Hills, Marcus Martin and Ian Park have signed with NFL teams following their respective drafts, and while only Hills made it to the regular season, each of them made it to the NFL.
In 2019, 49 Division II players, spread out across 26 teams, made the Opening Day rosters to start the season. A handful of those players, Adam Thielen, Tyreek Hill and Brandon Willams, have been Pro Bowl players in their careers. A handful of others, Matthew Judon, Austin Ekeler and Malcolm Butler to name just a few, have made crucial contributions to their teams.
With Rivers, Jake Chapla, Brad Zaffram and a handful of others from Slippery Rock looking to make their mark in the NFL from the Division II level, while the draft might not be their best way to get there, all it takes is one team to take a chance on them.
The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft will air on ESPN Thursday night at 8 p.m.