Back in the spring, the consensus around the NFL appeared to be that the 2018 draft was a pretty good one. And while it’s hardly a perfect measure, at least based on the number of players selected this past spring who made their respective team’s 53-man opening day roster, this year’s draft class indeed did just fine thank you very much. In fact, as of this weekend’s roster deadline, by our unofficial numbers, fewer players selected at the 2018 draft were released prior to the start of the season than any other year since was the smallest number the league went to a 7-round draft back in 1994. Overall, just 26 players selected at the 2018 draft were released prior to Saturday’s deadline. That compares with 30 after the 2017 draft and is slightly less than the previous low recorded in 2106. In contrast, the figures were 33 in 2015 and 36 in 2014. At the same time, another 16 of this year’s draft picks were placed on a reserve list, either IR, PUP, non-football injury or did not report list, which is around the average figure for recent drafts.
Not surprisingly, most of the draft picks who were released were selected in the later round picks. Indeed, 21 of the 26 drafted players who did not make their team’s opening day roster this weekend were either selected in the 6th (8) or 7th rounds (13), while 4 players selected in the 5th round were released. In contrast, only one player selected in the first 4 rounds was released on cut-down day. That was former Florida State OT Rick Leonard, who was a surprise pick by New Orleans with the 127th pick overall late in the 4th round. At the same time, though, 4 players taken in the first 4 rounds were listed on one of IR, PUP, or the NFI list including former Georgia G/T Isaiah Wynn, New England’s first round selection (#23 overall) who will miss the year with an Achilles injury.
The fact that New Orleans was the only team to release a player selected in the first four rounds last year was a bit of a harbinger for the Saints who were also the only team that released as many as three of this year’s draft class. For the record, the Saints also released safety Natrell Jamerson, their 5th round pick, as well as CB Kamrin Moore, their 6th round pick. If there is any consolation for the Saints is that both Jamerson and Moore were claimed off waivers by Houston and the Giants respectively. In fact, only three other teams – Cincinnati, Oakland and the LA Rams – released as many as two of this year’s picks.
In contrast, when all the dust had settled, a half dozen teams had clean sheets based at least on the number of players who made the team’s opening day roster as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Tampa Bay and the NY Jets each had all of their 2017 draft picks on their original 53-man opening rosters. Meanwhile, several other teams including Baltimore, Detroit, San Francisco, Washington and the NY Giants did not cut any of this year’s picks, but did list at least one draftee.