On this blog, we’ve tried to highlight an overlooked metric that really correlates with NFL success. That metric is the total number of former draftees still in the league by team, and we’ve totaled up the numbers for three years running now.

This year, we moved our September roster analysis to our Friday Wrap email that chronicles the week in the football business (if you’re interested in receiving it, click here). However, we didn’t take a look at the last three years, so I decided to do that here. I think it gives a good look at which teams are doing things right on draft day, and how they’re being rewarded in the W-L area.

The numbers are below. Here are a few quick observations.

  • Most people expected the Vikings to struggle to win more than a handful of games this season after losing first Teddy Bridgewater, then A.P., by mid-September. However, the Vikes have been climbing the ladder when it comes to draftees in the league the last three years, going from No. 15 in 2014 to No. 8 last year and this year. Staying in the top half of the league all three years and in the top ten the last two has to be one reason the team has enjoyed such success.
  • The Vikings aren’t the only early-season success story that could have been predicted with the grid below. Check out the Eagles — despite some bumpy years under head coach/GM Chip Kelly the last few years, the team has done pretty well on draft day, and new head coach Doug Pederson has been able to take advantage of that. The consistent play of Carson Wentz so far has given the team just the bounce it needs.
  • Of the top ten teams listed below, only one (the Niners) hasn’t made the playoffs at least once in the last three years. Half have been to the playoffs at least twice, and the Packers, Bengals, Seahawks and Patriots have been all three years.
  • What’s more, the AFC East (Patriots), AFC North (Steelers and Ravens) and AFC South (Texans) are led by teams on this list, while in the NFC, the East and West divisions are led (Eagles) or tied (Seahawks) by teams on the list.
  • I know there’s one huge outlier in these numbers that can’t be avoided: the Niners. How can they be so far out in front despite so little on-field success the last three years? My only response is that there’s got to be a two-tiered approach here. The talent level that comes from these numbers must be coupled with consistent QB play. That’s why the Niners have struggled despite the number of winners the scouting department has picked, while the emergence of Kirk Cousins last year got the ‘Skins into the playoffs despite a lousy talent acquisition mark over the last three years. I believe the 49ers would still be at least a playoff contender had the team not been hit so hard by retirements the last few years.
Rank Team 2014 2015 2016 Total
1 San Francisco 49ers 59 59 54 172
2 Green Bay Packers 55 52 51 158
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 56 52 47 155
4 Baltimore Ravens 49 50 55 154
5 Cincinnati Bengals 48 50 53 151
6 Philadelphia Eagles 51 50 44 145
7 Seattle Seahawks 49 49 47 145
8 Dallas Cowboys 48 47 49 144
9 New England Patriots 50 46 46 142
10 Houston Texans 51 47 42 140
11 Minnesota Vikings 44 49 47 140
12 Denver Broncos 46 47 46 139
13 Miami Dolphins 48 45 44 137
14 Tennessee Titans 43 47 47 137
15 Oakland Raiders 44 44 47 135
16 Arizona Cardinals 42 47 44 133
17 Kansas City Chiefs 40 48 45 133
18 Buffalo Bills 41 46 43 130
19 St. Louis Rams 41 44 44 129
20 New York Jets 47 44 37 128
21 Cleveland Browns 36 44 45 125
22 Detroit Lions 41 43 40 124
23 Carolina Panthers 42 44 37 123
24 Jacksonville Jaguars 43 38 38 119
25 San Diego Chargers 42 40 37 119
26 Atlanta Falcons 46 39 31 116
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36 37 35 108
28 New Orleans Saints 31 40 37 108
29 Chicago Bears 33 38 34 105
30 Indianapolis Colts 36 35 31 102
31 Washington Redskins 32 33 34 99
32 New York Giants 39 30 28 97
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