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Thursday, June 13, 2024

NFL opportunities come in different varieties for HBCU players

There were no HBCU players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, but there’s more than one way to earn a spot in pro football. Immediately after the draft ended, several HBCU players signed undrafted free agent deals while others will receive invitations to minicamp for a tryout.

But how even is the playing field between undrafted free agents and players who receive a camp invite?


The biggest thing that separates an undrafted free agent from a player on a tryout is the opportunity to make a team. Undrafted free agents have signed contracts which represents a second tier of investment by the respective team. In the rookie pecking order they are more of a priority than a camp invite.

There aren’t enough picks in the draft to select all of the players who will ultimately make final rosters league wide. Roughly thirty percent of the league consists of undrafted free agents. There are even opportunities for UFAs to have leverage in their situations. Undrafted players who are still a priority to teams can decide which team they’d like to go to if they have more than one suitor.


There are no contracts given out to players who are invited to a camp tryout. These players already come in as longshot chances because teams passed over the opportunity to sign them twice. Once in the NFL draft and once as a free agent.

The rookie minicamps will feature a mix of 40-60 players who are draft picks, undrafted free agents and other tryout players. The players there on a try out will need to do something impressive and do it quickly to stand out. The minicamps are only running for two to three-days. No two teams will conduct transactions the same way but generally 15-20 guys might get invited to camp and a couple of the invites might sign free agent deals when it’s over.

No one is guaranteed a roster spot in the NFL but the UFA is more likely to survive rookie minicamp and make it to the preseason over camp invitees. But the ultimate win is to make the regular season 53 man roster. During the offseason teams can carry up to 90 players.

Contract or not, the path to a 53 man roster is not a linear one, and one team’s cut can be another team’s treasure. Let’s look at HBCU player Emanuel Wilson from the 2023 class. The SIAC player of the year out of Fort Valley State wasn’t drafted. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent on May 12 and was released three days later. A week later on May 22, he signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent and made the 53 man roster.

Wilson appeared in seven games for the Packers, rushing 14 times for 85 yards, including a 31 yard run against the Los Angeles Rams in week nine.

All players at minicamp receive team-provided food, lodging and a per diem. During preseason training camp according to the NFL collective bargaining agreement, first year players receive $1,850 per week and veterans receive $3,200 per week in per diem.

NFL opportunities come in different varieties for HBCU players

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