Every year, a great debate begins over how teams should build their rosters. Do they concentrate on selecting college prospects in the draft, or do they spend money on veterans who are hitting free agency? What is the "right" way to build? The popular consensus is that the "good" NFL teams build through the Draft, while teams desperate to turn around a slumping franchise turn to free agency as a quick-fix.
How true is that consensus, however?
SB Nation recently took a look at all 32 NFL franchises, tallying the number of players from each round of the NFL Draft who are still with the team that selected them. While their break down does show the round-by-round selections for every team, we are going to look only at the total draft picks from each team.
|Team||Draft Picks on original team's roster|
|Green Bay Packers||42|
|San Francisco 49ers||39|
|New England Patriots||37|
|St. Louis Rams||33|
|New York Jets||32|
|San Diego Chargers||31|
|Kansas City Chiefs||29|
|New York Giants||29|
|New Orleans Saints||23|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21|
The Miami Dolphins, a team who has seemingly been on a spending spree the last few offseasons, signing big name free agents, sit in the upper half of the league with 32 of their draft picks still on their roster. It's obviously fewer than teams like the Green Bay Packers (42), Atlanta Falcons (40), and the group of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers, all of whom have 39 of their selections still on the team.
It is, however, more than teams like the Philadelphia Eagles (23), New Orleans Saints (23), Indianapolis Colts (23), and Denver Broncos (28).
The Houston Texans, who selected first in the 2014 Draft, have 35 of their selections on the roster, the ninth most in the league, while the Seattle Seahawks, the Super Bowl Champions, have one less at 34 picks remaining on their roster.
The Oakland Raiders, who are constantly picking early in the Draft, are tied with the AFC Champion Broncos with 28 drafted prospects on the roster.
Essentially, there's no way to correlate draft choices and success. Some teams manage to hold on to their selections and win. Some teams seem to allow players to walk away in free agency, yet still win. The same appears to be true for clubs that are losing.
Since SB Nation has the round-by-round breakdown for the Dolphins, I thought I would throw it in here. As Dolphins fans, we are used to the team hitting on later round picks, but missing on earlier round selections. Based solely on players still with the team, however, Miami has been fairly consistent, across all of the rounds, save the sixth.
|Team||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6||Round 7|
The obvious point through this is the fact that quality still overcomes quantity. Building through the Draft only works if you are selecting the right people. It also indicates that you can win in the NFL with free agents, as the Broncos are clearly showing.
In the end, perhaps the real answer is not to build your team through the Draft, or through free agency, but as a combination of both. In Miami's case, that appears to be exactly what's happening - and hopefully happening successfully.