One of the early season items of interest to me each September is the Rookie count for NFL teams when they announce their initial 53-man rosters and reserve lists. I am always curious to check out which Rookies, and how many, made each NFL roster. At this point, I do not overly concern myself with Practice Squads primarily because they are so fluid. Any team with serious interest and confidence in their Rookies cannot in good conscious sign a player to that list without realistically expecting to lose some of those players to other teams as injuries develop.
So, the numbers and comments below are based on rosters as they appeared on Sept. 2, after initial Practice Squads had been added by most teams. As I compose this piece, the rosters from Sept. 2nd are being tweaked every day by some teams. It should also be factored in that some Rookies listed on Reserve lists will disappear from those lists as injuries and suspensions end.
CARDINALS: One of the expected bottom feeders for the 2019 season have initially played it smart by keeping 12 Rookies (10 roster/2 reserves). The only drafted rookie not on their initial roster was CALEB WILSON, their 7th Rounder. He is on their initial Practice Squad. Glad to see that the team looked at the big picture, and chose to rebuild their roster with their Rookie class. The gem here is of course starting Rookie QB KYLER MURRAY.
FALCONS: The team is a bit thin with 7 Rookies on their 53-man, and none on their reserve lists. Interestingly, at least for now, their initial Practice Squad had 0 Rookies on it. Their only cut of a drafted player was WR/RS MARCUS GREEN from Round 6. Their plan of starting both 1st Round Picks, LINDSTROM & McGARY, is still in place though McGARY is a bit questionable after another heart procedure during Camp.
PANTHERS: This team is also a bit thin on Rookies for my taste. They kept 6 of 7 draftees (not GODWIN/WR/R7) and 1 URFA. However, like the FALCONS, they have no Rookies on their reserve lists or Practice Squad. My gut tells me that with the heat being on HC RIVERA and his staff, they felt better about going with more veteran players right now.
BEARS: Da BEARS had only 5 Draft Picks to work with this year, and 4 of them made the team roster. 3 more URFA’s are initially on the Reserve lists. Clearly, the coaching staff felt best with a veteran roster, although it is still expected that RB DAVID MONTGOMERY will see considerable action splitting time with TARIK COHEN and MIKE DAVIS. The initial roster, in addition to being light on Rookies, listed 9 players that are 30 or older. The roster clearly indicates that it is ‘win now’ time in the Windy City.
COWBOYS: It’s also “win now” time in COWBOYS country, but the JONES family continues to use the Draft as their primary roster building tool. 7 Rookies are on their 53-man, and 4 more are on their massive Reserve lists. 5 drafted Rookies man the regular roster, and another is an injured reserve member. Two drafted Rookies were cut (JACKSON/CB & WEBER/RB), while 2 URFA’s (GIFFORD/LB & KNIGHT/OG) made the roster in their place. The bulk of the Rookies, except for POLLARD/RB and HILL/DT, are expected to help primarily on Special Teams this season.
LIONS: As MATT PATRICIA molds his roster to his taste, this year’s Rookie group numbers 12, with 11 of them on the 53-man. Their 2, 7th Rounders, NAUTA & P.J. JOHNSON, were waived, but NAUTA has been signed to the Practice Squad. Only HOCKENSON and TAVAI are expected to play starter’s minutes, while several others will fill part-time roles. With 8 more 2nd-year players, the youth movement is clearly on.
PACKERS: As I predicted on multiple radio programs, the PACKERS kept all 8 of their draftees on their initial roster, although STERNBERGER/TE has already been IR-ed, and in the TED THOMPSON legacy, the team kept an URFA (SHEPHERD/WR) on their 53-man, and 2 more as Reserve list residents. 1st Rounder DARNELL SAVAGE is currently listed as a starting S, and there is speculation that ELGTON JENKINS will take over an OG slot in the near future. TY SUMMERS/LB may see starter’s time, at least initially, while OREN BURKS does injury rehab.
RAMS: A Draft strategy by GM LES SNEAD, was to get extra Picks in an attempt to add depth to their roster. With 10 Rookies on their 53-man, it appears that he has done just that, with a few eventually earning starting jobs, most likely. 7 of their 8 draftees made the 53-man, with DAKOTA ALLEN being re-signed to their Practice Squad. That leaves 3 URFA’s on the roster as well. One URFA is also on reserves.
VIKINGS: RICK SPIELMAN counts on his draft efforts to build the base of the VIKES roster. This year was no exception, with 12 total Picks in his tool chest. 10 of those Picks made the 53-man, and the team added CHIEFS draftee FIELDS/CB at cut down time. Two draftees (SMITH/LB & MITCHELL/WR) started the season on their practice Squad. The team also added DILLON/TE from Dolphins’ cuts. Draftees CUTTING/LS and BRADBURY/OC are starters, while MATTISON/RB looks to be the top RB back-up behind DALVIN COOK. Also expect IRV SMITH/TE to see plenty of action as a back-up receiver. Overall, 12 Rookies are on the 53-man, with 1 on Reserves. Also as a side note, their starting Practice Squad featured 8 Rookies total. Youth will be served in MINNESOTA.
SAINTS: The team whittled its Draft count down to 5 Picks as it traded for vets, and paid off the DAVENPORT debt. 4 of those 5 Picks made the roster, while the 5th was signed to the Practice Squad. In the SAINTS tradition under PAYTON/LOOMIS, they ended up with 3 URFA’s on their roster, plus one more on reserves. They also had 4 URFA’s on their Practice Squad. Expect McCOY/OC and GARDNER-JOHNSON/CB to have quasi-starting jobs, and see plenty of playing time. Overall, the team is all-in for a Super Bowl run before BREES retires, and their biggest additions were in the form of veterans, with 9 of them new to the roster.
GIANTS: GM DAVE GETTLEMAN has a rebuild plan for the G-Men, just ask him, and it starts with the Draft process. 8 of 10 drafted Rookies made the GIANTS initial roster, one more is on reserves, and another on the Practice Squad. 7 of 10 Practice Squad names on Labor Day were Rookies. 5 more reserve list names are Rookies. That gives the roster 13 Rookies, plus practice squad. GETTLEMAN also continues to trade off marginal vets for more future Draft Picks. JONES/QB may be getting most of the hype, as QB’s do, but the most immediate help should come from Rookies on D, like BAKER/CB, CONNELLY/LB, LAWRENCE/DL, LOVE/CB, and especially edge-rusher OSHANE XIMINES. Despite skepticism in the media and fan base, the crusty GETTLEMAN may just have an effective plan developing.
EAGLES: HOWIE ROSEMAN, the personnel guru, who got the EAGLES roster righted pretty quickly after the ill-fated CHIP KELLY experiment, seems to have an interesting approach to the Draft process. It looks like a philosophy of ‘less is more’ quite often. For instance, the opening day roster last week had only 5 2018 Draftees on it. The 2019 opening day roster has 4 drafted Rookies on it, plus 2 URFA’s. ROSEMAN has very specific targets in mind early in his Drafts, and once again traded up to make sure he got OT ANDRE DILLARD, who is expected to replace 37-year old LT JASON PETERS by next season, if not sooner. The EAGLES netted only 5 draft selections this year, and their QB prospect in Round 5, CLAYTON THORSON, was let go when rosters were trimmed to make room for JOSH McCOWN (40-years old) to back-up WENTZ, while SUDFELD heals an injury. Despite the small number of Rookies, watch for ARCEGA-WHITESIDE/WR, and MILES SANDERS/RB to get considerable playing time as the season progresses.
49’ERS: GM JOHN LYNCH believes in the Draft process, and proves it with 8 Rookies on his roster and 2 more on Reserve lists. The coaching staff was sold on MITCH WISHNOWSKY/P during the pre-season. If/when NICK BOSA gets healthy, he will provide the added pass rush they were looking for in their strong DL group. As they rebuild their receiving group, watch for DEEBO SAMUEL and JALEN HURD to gain more and more playing time as the season progresses. SAMUEL has historically been a TD machine for all you Fantasy Freaks to watch closely. Watch for KENTAVIUS STREET, who redshirted his 2018 season with an ACL injury and rehab, to emerge as an additional edge-rusher for the D, in what really will be his Rookie season as a NINER.
SEA HAWKS: GM JOHN SCHNEIDER, another TED THOMPSON protege’, showed once again how much he believes in the Draft process by trading around until he had been able to select 11 players in April. 9 of those draftees were on the opening day 53-man roster, with the other 2 on reserve lists. SCHNEIDER seems quite adept at getting volume drafts when he needs roster fattening, balancing talent with Cap space, and finding guys who will fit the SEATTLE locker room. I also give credit to Coach CARROLL for embracing the idea of youth, and developing his players with weekly job competition. Not every team can play the player acquisition like this team does. This year, the WR group got the rebuild with draftees JENNINGS, METCALF, and URSUA, all making the roster. Their lone UDFA on the 53-man was huge-body BRIAN MONE/MICHIGAN/DT, who looked very solid in the pre-season. Don’t know exactly how he fits in here, but how can I not mention a guy named CLOWNEY, who they just rented for one year. JOHN SCHNEIDER’s wheeling and dealing, usually related to the Draft, makes my head spin, but he usually ends up smelling like a rose.
BUCCANEERS: Clearly, the GLAZER family, who own the BUCS, think quite highly of GM JASON LICHT, and LICHT is a ‘building through the Draft’ devotee’. The BUCS had 8 Picks, and 7 of them are on the opening day roster. The missing Pick, 7th Rounder TERRY BECKNER, is on the Practice Squad. Interestingly, under the guise perhaps of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’, the team took 3 DB’s in the Draft for the second straight year. And all 3, BUNTING, DEAN, & EDWARDS, made the roster. They join all 3 of last year’s DB Picks on that roster. The expectation still exists that first rounder DEVIN WHITE/LB/LSU, who was hurt much of Training Camp, will be a very productive inside-backer to replace VFA KWON ALEXANDER. Perhaps the biggest Rookie boost will come from MATT GAY/PK, who might finally solve the revolving door of PK’s for the team. 3 Rookies are on the reserves list, giving the team a total of 11 Rookies. As a side note, the initial Practice Squad list showed all 8 signees as being Rookies.
REDSKINS: I find it quite interesting that the ‘SKINS roster is populated by 10 Rookies, 9 of them drafted. Their final draftee, BRYCE LOVE, is on the reserve list. I label it as interesting because many folks claim that using team President BRUCE ALLEN as a de facto GM leaves the team at a decided disadvantage. Not sure that I see that argument with another 8 draftees from 2018 also on this year’s roster. First Rounder DWAYNE HASKINS/QB looks likely to be a backup this season, unless KEENUM gets hurt. Based on Training Camp and pre-season work, the hope is that they can work to develop him in practice the whole season, if possible. Starting potential is still high for HASKINS, but having only one season, albeit a great one, as a college starter, leaves him under-prepared to start for the time being.
Based on my roster printouts, that adds up to 135 Rookies on NFC active, 53-man rosters to start the season. Early next week, I’ll summarize the Rookie count for the AFC.