Tuesday, NFL teams made their cuts to 53 for opening week, and Wednesday, they started populating their practice squads. Though teams will continue to tweak their rosters during the run-up to next weekend, we thought it would be interesting to take a snapshot of the rosters to get a sense of how the 2021 draft class shaped up.

The complete list of drafted and undrafted players who made rosters or practice squads in some form or fashion is here (sorry, pay link). As for analysis, here’s what we came up with.

  • We counted a total of 715 players who signed standard representation agreements with agents in the ’21 class. Of that total, 517 were either drafted or signed to UDFA deals (an unheard-of 72 percent of signees; usually, that number is closer to a third, at best). It’s important to note that there were no three-day mini-camp invitees this year; if there had been, and we would have included them in the total, the number of players who received some level of NFL engagement would have been near 90 percent. In other words, players who opted to stick around this year — especially fringe prospects — made a big mistake.
  • Eighty-one undrafted free agents made practice squads, while 42 made the 53, injured reserve, the non-football injury (NFI) or Covid lists.
  • The practice squad is usually the repository of a team’s draft picks and UDFAs that didn’t make the 53, but other teams look elsewhere to fill their slots. The Giants were the most aggressive about looking outside the team to stock its roster this year, with one player on its 53 (Ohio State OB Justin Hilliard, who signed post-draft with the Niners) and two on its practice squad (Auburn FS Jordyn Peters, who originally signed with the Jets, and Ohio State TE Jake Hausmann, late of the Lions).
  • For what it’s worth, the Falcons cast the widest net post-draft. They are the only team with more than 10 UDFAs (12, to be exact) now on the street. On the other hand, three teams saw all of their UDFAs make a roster of some sort: the Giants (who signed only three UDFAs, with one making their 53 and two making their PS), Washington (both their UDFAs made the 53) and New England (one UDFA, PK Quinn Nordin, and he made the 53).
  • Only three draftees are not on NFL rosters in some form or fashion, as of early afternoon today: Michigan FB Ben Mason (Ravens, 5/184); Georgia Tech WO Jalen Camp (Jaguars, 6/209); and Penn State OC Michal Menet (7/247, Cardinals).
  • Six cornerbacks made NFL rosters (active, IR, NFI or Covid list) after going undrafted (one is on IR). Also, six undrafted tight ends made it (two are on IR). This isn’t surprising news, given that every team is looking for an impact cornerback it can “coach up”, and tight end has become one of the sexiest positions in the league. Next most common was offensive tackle (5), which is again not surprising. If you’re an NFL agent or scout, you’re pretty much always looking for developmental players at these positions.
  • As for practice squad, oddly enough, the numbers were very different. Teams carried 14 wide receivers, far and away the most at any position, with 11 running backs next-most. Maybe this is a reaction to the success of undrafted 1,000-yard rushers like Jacksonville’s James Robinson and Houston’s Phillip Lindsay. At any rate, no other position had as many as 10 on practice squad.

If you like digging into the numbers and discussion of NFL scouts, how NFL agents work, how the NIL era is shaping up and anything else associated with what happens “backstage” in the NFL, consider signing up for our Friday Wrap, which will be out tomorrow evening. You can sign up for it here.