Plenty has been said about Jarryd Hayne’s defection to the United States. A lot has revolved around whether he could make it in the NFL.
The question shouldn’t be; “Does he have the talent?” He’s answered that himself. The issue for Hayne is that he’s facing off against players who have played the game for over a decade and who would be much less of a gamble than him.
But enough of the human perceptions and guessing, what are the mathematical chances of Hayne making it onto an NFL roster?
What first must be taken into consideration is that America has a population of over 300 million people.
The NFL is one of only three major sports, the other two being baseball and basketball.
As a consequence, the NFL has a massive pool of players to select from, much larger than that of the NRL.
In 2012 there were 67,887 players involved in American college football. All of them want to play professionally.
The NFL drafted just 253 or 0.37% of the players playing college football. Two years on and only 170 remain active players on an NFL roster. That’s a minute 0.25% of those players actually making a career out of the NFL
The “excess” 83 are either practice squad members, undrafted free agents or they have retired.
And these are players who have played the game their entire lives and are simply told they aren’t good enough.
Hayne’s acknowledged the massive challenge that’s ahead of him.
To further investigate his chances, let’s have a look at the current rosters.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, each with 53 players. That’s a total of 1696 players currently active.
There are roughly 464 players who occupy the positions of running back, wide receiver, safety and kick returner. The positions that Hayne is rumoured to be most interested and/or capable of playing.
Each side has between 3-5 running backs, 4-7 wide receivers and 3-6 safeties. Kick returners tend to double as running backs or wide receivers.
What does all that mean for Hayne? Well, each side is going to have virtually locked in two first choice running backs, 3-4 wide receivers and at least three safeties.
Hypothetically, Hayne could have a shot at filling one of nine open positions on each roster, totaling 288 free positions across the NFL.
Of course those are all estimates, not every franchise is going to cut that many players every season.
Hayne would also be competing with 100 practice squad members who play in his preferred positions and who have been training alongside an NFL squad.
I would ideally like to be able to narrow it down to a percentage chance for Jarryd to one day run out onto the NFL field, however with player movements and the unknown quantity of free agents that is nigh on impossible.
Hayne will also be doing what hundreds of other undrafted free agents will be doing. Training to get a shot at the Detroit combine.
Similar to the College combine, this combine is for those players who are free agents and are looking for another shot. It’s strictly invite only with players having to get through a regional combine first.
There’s also one thing that statistics can’t predict and that’s human curiosity. Hayne’s produced a lot of interest in himself and there just may be an NFL recruiter who is prepared to take a punt on him given his reputation.
This piece isn’t de-riding Hayne’s chances, it’s just putting them in perspective. Hayne’s task is rather simple. He has to get himself noticed.
If he can prove that he would be a useful player in two positions, he’d be in with a more than fair shot. His marketability to Australia puts him in a unique position among those athletes and may just be what pushes him over the line.