Once again draft class pretty much survives the Turk … One of the fears associated with last season’s odd college football season in which some teams played radically shortened schedules, while others, including just about everybody outside the FBS ranks, didn’t play at all, is that pro teams just wouldn’t be able to get the best reads on prospects for the 2021 draft. And that could lead to more mistakes in the drafting process. Turns out, though, those concerns may have been overstated, at least from the perspective of how many drafted players ultimately made their team’s initial 53-man roster. Indeed, there was almost no difference in the number of this year’s draft picks who did not make their drafting teams opening day roster compared with recent years. By our unofficial count, 25 players selected in this past April’s draft did not make their original team’s 53-man roster (and one of those – former Ohio State CB Shaun Wade, a fifth round pick by Baltimore that was traded to New England earlier this summer, actually stuck with the Patriots. In fact, that’s the same figure as in 2020 and just one more than last year when 24 players selected at the 2019 draft were released prior to the deadline. And the figures over the past three years have been pretty much the lowest since the league went to a 7-round draft back in 1994. The current numbers, for example, compare with 30 after the 2017 draft, while the figures were 33 in 2015 and 36 in 2014. If there was a difference for this year’s draft class, it’s that somewhat more than last year ended up on the reserve list. This year, for example, 15 players selected at the 2021 draft were placed on either injured reserve, the non-football injury list or some other reserve list, compared with just 10 in 2020. However, the number of draftees that end up on a reserve list has tended to fluctuate somewhat randomly over the past decade.
Not surprisingly, most of the draft picks that were released this past weekend were selected in the later round picks. Indeed, 19 of the 25 drafted players who did not make their team’s opening day roster this weekend were selected in either the 6th or 7th rounds; 9 from the 6th and 10 from the 7th. At the same time, 5 taken in the 5th round (including Wade) didn’t make an opening day roster, while this was the case for just one player selected in the fourth round – WR Dez Fitzpatrick taken 109th overall by Tennessee, the highest player released this year. In contrast, no players selected in the first three rounds this past spring were released prior to the deadline, though, four were placed on a reserve list including Jacksonville RB Travis Etienne, the 25th player selected in April, who will miss the season after undergoing surgery earlier this month.
Overall, almost half (13) of the league’s 32 teams did not release any of their drafts picks, although some of those did put at least one player on a reserve list. Of the teams that ended up keeping all their picks on the active roster, Dallas led the way keeping all 11 of their 2021 picks on the active roster. Meanwhile, the NY Jets had ten, Atlanta and the LA Chargers nine each; Cleveland had 8; San Francisco and Detroit both had 7; Houston had 5 and Seattle three. Carolina probably also deserves a shout out as the Panthers kept 10 of their 11 picks on the active roster, while the other, a LS taken in the 6th round went on IR. At the other extreme, New England only kept 4 of its total of 8 picks on the active roster, although they did add a 5th when they traded for Baltimore’s Shaun Wade, while Minnesota starts the season with just 7 of its 11 picks on the active roster, although three of those that didn’t went on a reserve list.