Might be a little bit early to discern a trend here, but there has been a major decline in recent years in the number players selected at the draft being released prior to their rookie seasons. In fact, as of this weekend’s roster deadline, by our unofficial count, the number of players selected at the 2019 draft who were released prior to the start of the season was the smallest since the league went to a 7-round draft back in 1994. Overall, just 24 players selected at the 2019 draft were released prior to Saturday’s deadline. That’s two less than in 2018, the previous low, when 26 draftees were released prior to their rookie campaigns. In contrast, that compares with 30 after the 2017 draft, while the figures were 33 in 2015 and 36 in 2014. What isn’t clear at this point is whether the past two drafts were just particularly strong drafts with more college players coming out more pro ready or whether teams are simply hanging onto their picks longer, either because they are essentially cheap labor in an era of the tight salary cap, or they simply want to give their young players a little longer to develop and prove themselves. Time will tell!
At the same time, another 19 of this year’s draft picks were placed on a reserve list, either IR, PUP, the non-football injury list or the did not report list. That’s actually slightly higher than in recent years when the average figure for recent drafts was in the 15-16 range. It is also worth noting that since the initial 53-man rosters were set last weekend another 4 drafted players were placed on IR including New England WR N’Keal Henry, the Pats’ first round pick this year, and Denver QB Drew Lock, a second round selection.
Not surprisingly, most of the draft picks who were released this past weekend were selected in the later round picks. Indeed, 16 of the 24 drafted players who did not make their team’s opening day roster this weekend were selected in the 7th round alone, while 4 were taken in the 6th round, and 3 in the 5th round. In contrast, only one player selected in the first 4 rounds was released on cut-down day. That was former Florida ER Jachai Polite, a third round pick by the NY Jets. The fact that Polite, the 68th player selected this past April, was released prior to the start of the season makes him one of the earliest drafted player ever. At the same time, though, 12 players taken in the first 4 rounds are currently listed on one of IR, PUP, or the NFI list including three first rounders: former Alabama G/T Jonah Williams, who was selected 11th overall by Cincinnati, Tennessee DT Jeffrey Simmons and the afore-mentioned Henry of the Patriots. In contrast, there were only 4 form the 1st fours rounds listed at this time last year.
When all the dust had settled on Saturday, a half dozen teams had clean sheets based at least on the number of players who made the team’s opening day roster as Baltimore, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami and the LA Chargers each had all of their 2019 draft picks on their original 53-man opening rosters. In fact, it was the second year in a row that the KC Chiefs, one of the favorites in the AFC this fall, kept all their picks from that year’s draft. Meanwhile, several other teams including Arizona, Buffalo, Denver, Green Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington did not cut any of this year’s picks, but did list at least one draftee.
At the same time, another half dozen teams ended up releasing more than player. In fact, not only did Cincinnati end up releasing two players – 6th round LB Deshaun Davis and 7th round CB Jordan Brown, but the Bengals also ended up placing two other picks on a designated list including their first rounder Jonah Williams. Dallas also cut two players – 5th round CB Michael Jackson and 7th round RB Mike Weber, while listing a 3rd. Meanwhile, 4 other teams – Detroit, Indianapolis, Minnesota and Pittsburgh each ended up releasing two of this year’s picks.