Chasing the Dream: What are the Odds of Making the NFL?

Frank Doyle | Updated Oct 04, 2017

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Just how hard is it for an NCAA football player to ever play a snap in an NFL regular season game? We broke down the odds. 

Every football player knows making it to the National Football League isn’t going to be easy, but that doesn’t stop them from putting in the countless hours of work on and off the field, all the while dreaming of one day suiting up for an NFL team.

Just how far-fetch are those dreams, though? Ever wonder exactly how difficult is it for some of the best football players in the world to go pro?

These NFL odds we compiled show it’s probably a lot tougher than you think.

Each year about 70,000 football players suit up for an NCAA team and only about 1.6 percent of those players will ever play a single snap in the NFL. To put that in perspective, the average person is just about as likely to have an IQ of over 132 than an NCAA player is to ever play in the NFL. For the record, an IQ of 130 will qualify you for Mensa.

And that’s just getting to the show – sticking in the NFL is an entirely different matter.

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The average NFL career currently runs about 3.3 years. With very little money guaranteed money in NFL contracts in comparison to other major sports, it’s a cut-throat business that makes it extremely difficult to survive in the league long-term. Competition for roster spots is brutal.

That’s part of the reason that it’s just as likely for an average male to be shorter than 5-foot-3 than it is for an NCAA player to play more than three NFL seasons.

From there, the odds get a lot longer for college players trying to make the next step. What are the odds of an NCAA player ever scoring an NFL touchdown? About 244:1, or the same odds you have of getting dealt a straight the next time you sit down at the poker table.

How about playing for football’s greatest prize, the Super Bowl? Well, the average person is about twice as likely to be born with extra fingers or toes than an NCAA player is to even play in the biggest game of them all.

Still, despite these long odds, each NFL team fills 53 roster spots every year, meaning 1,696 players are active players every season. And of course, out of that pool, the National Football League is fueled by some of the best athletes in the world.

These superstars are what makes the NFL’s wheels turn, but when you look at the yearly crop of NCAA players, it’s unbelievably unlikely that we’ll find a Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning. After all, superstars don’t grow on trees. Actually, the average person would be just as likely to date a supermodel (90,000:1) than an NCAA player is win an NFL MVP award.

So when you check out our NFL odds each week, keep in mind the odds these players have overcome to play in the big show every Sunday.