If you want to know how the league changes from year to year, you need to look at its composition. Which positions are becoming more highly valued? How are defenses countering offensive trends, and how is that showing up in the composition of the league?

There’s much more to look at than just draft picks. Each year, hundreds of undrafted rookies make teams as part of the 53-man roster or the practice squad. You have to really go inside the numbers to pull out the trends. Here are a few things we found:

  • It’s become rare to see a team carrying more than two quarterbacks. What’s more, we live in a golden age of passers with fewer than 10 teams beginning the season with a different starter from 2018. Still, that hasn’t stopped passers from getting signed at a steady rate. The number of passers repped by agents in each draft class is about 80, plus or minus five, and that’s been pretty consistent over the past five years. As a matter of fact, it’s been exactly 80 each of the last two years. When you consider that QBs are pricey to represent, it’s a questionable choice to sign them.
  • Outside of specialists (punters, kickers and long-snappers) and fullbacks, the position that sends up the fewest members per draft class is center. Only 22 made it this year; last year, it was even fewer (17). The silver lining? Of the 22 who made it to a team this year (UDFA or draftee), 19 were on the roster in Week 1. Last year, 17 of 20 (85 percent) made it from camp to the roster.
  • Last year featured an interesting anomaly (or a scary lack of talent): defensive ends, normally a pretty in-need position, succeeded in making teams at only a 20 percent rate (29 of 139). This year, those numbers rebounded in a big way as 62 of 144 defensive ends made teams (43.1 percent). Part of this can be explained as the position is going from being a traditional defensive end to an “edge” player who can be more of a linebacker. I expect these numbers to be resolved as we more forward and defensive end and outside linebacker differentiate themselves.

There’s plenty more to learn if you check out our grid, which is linked to each of the other four years that we’ve examined, going back to 2015. Another way to study league trends is to read our weekly Friday Wrap, which goes out in less than three hours (6:30 p.m. CDT). We’ve got more trends that we identified, but that’s not all. We talk about the college and football business every week for our thousands of readers.

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