Thursday, May 9, 2013
Raw numbers: Drafted players on rosters
By Kevin Seifert
One of the many tools we here at ESPN.com have at our disposal is a roster management database that allows us to sort in all kinds of fun and interesting ways. (At least to me. In May. After the draft. A month before minicamp. And 2 1/2 months before training camp.)
Here is one with significant NFC North implications. The chart shows how many original drafts choices remain on each roster, which are capped at 90 players in the offseason, and puts those figures in a league context.
The Green Bay Packers' strict draft-and-develop program makes them an unsurprising leader in this ranking. Half of their offseason roster is made up of players they drafted, including their 11-member class of 2013. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, rank near the bottom of the league with 27 drafted players on their roster.
I wouldn't consider this a definitive ranking of the league's best drafting teams. Internal philosophy can skew these numbers. The Packers' disdain for veteran free agency, for instance, opens more roster spots for drafted players while also providing additional compensatory picks when their pending free agents move on.
With that said, we should also note that most of the players who have led the Packers to a Super Bowl championship and two NFC North titles in the past three years were players they drafted. The list includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers; linebackers Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop; tight end Jermichael Finley; receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb; nose tackle B.J. Raji; and safety Nick Collins.
The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, have trended toward accumulating draft picks via trade and other means during the tenure of general manager Rick Spielman. In the past three drafts, they have selected 29 players -- of which 27 remain on the roster.
The Lions have had relatively low numbers and also had a few big misses. Of note: only two players remain from their 2011 draft, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and running back Mikel Leshoure.
When you look closer at the Bears, you realize they used two first-round picks and three third-round picks to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall over the past five years. It was a high price but it netted two critical players who are better than anyone the franchise has had at their respective positions in decades.
For various reasons, the Bears didn't have a first- or second-round draft pick in 2009 and 2010. They had a five-man class in 2011 and six-man classes in 2012 and 2013. That's why I think these rankings are a reflection of approach as much as draft success. Take it for what you will.