Player Retention in the NFL

Being able to evaluate, draft and retain talent is essential when building a successful NFL franchise. Teams that continually have success in finding serviceable players through the draft put themselves in a much better situation than teams that have to build their roster through free agency. Looking at the rosters this year and how teams are performing, this proves to be true. There is a massive discrepancy between teams that draft players who are able to contribute long term and teams with short-lived draftees.

NFL teams have an average of 23.4 of their own draft picks on their current roster. The Steelers and Bengals have the most with 33 and the Raiders have the least with 13. This number includes everyone from rookies to veterans and doesn’t distinguish if that player was good enough to earn an extension past the rookie deal. A more telling figure is how many players on each roster have been re-signed. For a team to sign a draftee to an extension, it means that the team was satisfied enough with the player’s ability and development to want to keep them onboard. It is a testament to the organization’s drafting skills and player development. The teams with the highest number of draftees that are on extension deals are some of the most successful franchises in the NFL, both in recent years and to start the 2020 season.

These are the nine teams with the most non-rookie deal draftees on their roster. Out of the nine, only the Bengals, Cowboys and Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl in the past 15 years. This year, these teams have a combined winning percentage of 65%. While this year has been an outlier in terms of needing as much veteran experience as possible to make up for a lack of preseason games and practices, these teams have had a great start.

For as successful as the teams at the top of this ranking have been, the teams at the very bottom have been equally bad. As a matter of fact, there are two teams in the NFL this year that have just one player each who they drafted and then signed to an extension: the New York Jets and the New York Giants. These two teams have a combined record of 1-13. Having just one player that they drafted and retained past the rookie deal is truly amazing and shows how they have struggled to draft and develop players. It is no surprise that both teams have quarterbacks that were selected in the top five in a draft in the past three years and have shown little improvement since. There are nine teams that have three or fewer draftees signed to an extension deal on the current roster and these teams have a win percentage of 37%, almost an exact inverse of the teams at the top of the standings.

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