NFL roster building can happen in many ways. Which way should be seen as the “right” way, though, and is there a right way to properly build a roster? I think if you look around the NFL at all of the objectively good teams, you’ll see some similarities in how they are built.
However, as you go further down the roster, the rest of that construction and the way it’s done can vary from team to team. In the modern day NFL, is there a right way to build a team? I think the obvious answer is no. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the better teams in the NFL and how they went about building their roster
NFL roster building: Quarterback
The quarterback is the most important position in the history of professional sports. If you don’t have the quarterback right, or if there are questions about if he’s the guy, then you don’t have a quarterback. Take a look at some of the best teams in the NFL, or even the teams that have been extremely well-run for years.
Eagles, Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, Chiefs, Bills, Packers all have one clear thing in common: at some point in the current time or recent past, they had themselves a franchise quarterback, and they found that quarterback in the NFL Draft.
You could also go farther back to the Colts with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, the Broncos with John Elway even, and the Patriots with Tom Brady. The teams who consistently were or are seen as the best in the NFL got the quarterback right, and they figured it out in the NFL draft.
In the recent past, other situations have risen with teams making huge trades for a quarterback in hopes that they solve their own QB issue. The Colts, Browns, Broncos, and Rams all recently made huge quarterback trades.
The Colts’ trade for Matt Ryan simply did not work. The Browns trade for Deshaun Watson is incomplete since he hasn’t played a snap for them. The Broncos trade for Russell Wilson doesn’t look promising, and the Rams trade for Matthew Stafford ended in a Super Bowl last year, but Stafford looks a bit rough this year and the Rams have a losing record.
The Buccaneers swung a trade for Tom Brady a few years ago. They also got a Super Bowl out of it, but they don’t look like a Super Bowl contender this year. The main issue with going about roster building this way is that teams do not trade franchise quarterbacks in their prime. They simply don’t.
In a lot of these cases, the quarterback that was traded seems to be out of their prime and on the last seasons of their career. This presents an issue for roster building, as front offices now have to act quicker if they don’t have 10-12 years with the quarterback like they would if they’d have drafted one.
Then, how does the rest of the roster get built? Well, being that the NFL is turning into a heavy passing league, we’ve seen more receivers be taken early in the draft. Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and the slew of rookie receivers taken this past draft and the one before that prove that teams are willing to invest high draft capital in quality pass catchers.
At this point in the NFL, the receiver position is becoming much more valuable. Elite receivers likely won’t hit the free agent market anytime soon. Then, you have other positions that are a mixed bag.
It seems common that an NFL roster set to compete features a quality left tackle, and that left tackle is likely taken in the draft. Getting your offensive line situation figured out is extremely important. Left tackles are the bread and butter of the team, and I think they’re a lot like receivers in that elite ones don’t hit the market.
Teams will use their first round pick to get themselves a left tackle (or even right tackle) of the future. This has been standard operation in the NFL for decades. Sure, quality linemen might hit free agency every now and again, but I think that is more common with interior players than tackles.
The NFL is ever-changing, but there does appear to be a way that teams should consider roster building.