For the last three years, we’ve totaled up the number of active NFL players drafted by all 32 NFL teams and listed them by total. We’ve seen it as a ‘stealth’ predictor of regular-season success, and a decent indicator of which teams will make the postseason.

Admittedly, this year, the numbers don’t support our three-year theory this year.

As we look at the totals for all 32 teams, the top five teams are quite the surprise. While there have been some surprise teams in the top 10 the last couple years (see 2015’s results here and 2016 here), this year, the top five teams are decidedly not looking like playoff participants barring a serious surge.

Cincinnati (60), San Francisco (54), Baltimore (52), Green Bay (51) and Oakland (51) are the first five teams in draftee totals. Their cumulative record so far is 8-12. Granted, it’s early, and only two of the teams (Cincinnati at 1-3 and San Francisco at 0-4) have losing records. Still, 8-12 is something less than a ringing endorsement of our study.

My theory is that this year is an anomaly because, in most cases, these teams are struggling with weak quarterback play. I’ve previously discussed how play under center can adversely or positively affect a team’s success, and also what percentage of a team’s success is dependent on the starting signal-caller. Four of the five teams’ starting QBs are in the bottom five of ESPN’s season rankings. The other quarterback is Aaron Rodgers of 3-1 Green Bay.

Here are a few thoughts on the rest of the full list.

  • While the buzz around the league is that analytics are the next wave, maybe the next wave should actually be letting your coaches do the bulk of your scouting, as the Bengals have always done. There are other teams that rely on the coaches to help in the decision process (the Broncos come to mind), the Bengals are the clear leaders.
  • Speaking of Denver, the Broncos are No. 6 with 50. Then it’s the Cowboys (49), Eagles (48), Texans (47), and the Browns (yes, the Browns) and Seahawks (tied at 46). Keep in mind that Cleveland’s new draft philosophy is to stockpile picks and hope for the best, so the Browns’ totals are a little skewed.
  • Turns out 45 former draftees active in the league is the median number. Four teams (the Lions, Chiefs, Dolphins, Steelers and Redskins) are tied with 45 former draftees still in the league.
  • Last year’s Super Bowl combatants, the Patriots and Falcons, finished No. 20 and 28, respectively. Again, I think the numbers are tainted by the fact that the Patriots have arguably the best quarterback ever and the Falcons had the 2016 NFL MVP under center.
  • Rounding out the bottom five with the Falcons with 28 draftees were the Colts and Saints, who each tied at 28. The Chargers were 31 with 31 draftees and the Bears were last with 28 draftees. Here’s where the numbers really checked out. The only two of the last five teams with non-winning records are the Falcons (3-1) and the Saints at 2-2.

Here’s the full list:

Team Total draftees
Cincinnati Bengals 60
San Francisco 49ers 54
Baltimore Ravens 52
Green Bay Packers 51
Oakland Raiders 51
Denver Broncos 50
Dallas Cowboys 49
Philadelphia Eagles 48
Houston Texans 47
Cleveland Browns 46
Seattle Seahawks 46
Detroit Lions 45
Kansas City Chiefs 45
Miami Dolphins 45
Pittsburgh Steelers 45
Washington Redskins 45
Carolina Panthers 43
Tennessee Titans 43
Minnesota Vikings 42
New England Patriots 42
Arizona Cardinals 40
Los Angeles Rams 40
Buffalo Bills 39
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 39
New York Jets 37
Jacksonville Jaguars 33
New York Giants 33
Atlanta Falcons 32
Indianapolis Colts 32
New Orleans Saints 32
Los Angeles Chargers 31
Chicago Bears 28