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NFL Rookie Survival Rates In The NFC East

Remember this guy? John Phillips is currently recovering from a torn ACL; fans eagerly anticipate his return.
Remember this guy? John Phillips is currently recovering from a torn ACL; fans eagerly anticipate his return.

In normal years, our attention at this time of year would be slowly turning to discussions about who may be on the roster bubble, which UDFAs could make the team and similar discussions. This year, not so much.

Which gives us a great opportunity to lay the theoretical groundwork for when those discussions will actually happen. So today, we're going to look rookie survival rates in the NFC East.

A first, high-level glance at the Cowboys rookies remaining on the roster from the 2009 and 2010 drafts seems to confirm some truths that every fan of an NFC East team holds to self-evident: the Cowboys drafted poorly the last two years. Indeed, the Cowboys drafted 19 players in the last two years, only 13 of which are still with the Cowboys.

After the break we look at how this compares to other NFC East teams.

Where are they now?

13 of the 19 players the Cowboys drafted in '09 and '10 are still with the team. Four have found a home with other NFL teams, two are out of the NFL altogether:

2010 6th-rounder Jamar Wall is on the Eagles reserve/future squad. 2009 3rd-rounder Jason Williams now plays for the Panthers, 2009 5th-rounder DeAngelo Smith, after stints with the Browns, Bears, and Lions is now back on the reserve/future squad of the Browns and fellow 5th rounder Michael Hamlin find himself on the Jaguars reserve/future squad.

2009 7th-rounder Mike Mickens is now making his living with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL and 2009 6th-rounder Stephen Hodge is out of football entirely, having been waived injured after two successive micro-fracture surgeries on his knees.

Rookie survival rates in the NFC East

Comparing draft classes between teams is never easy, and there's bound to be tons of people crying 'foul' at any type of comparison. And yes, it usually takes three years, sometime even more, to judge a rookie class, but that's not what I'll do here. But before getting into the details, a couple of figures up front.

NFC East 2009 & 2010 draft picks
Cowboys Eagles Giants Redskins
No. of picks 19 21 16 13
Average round
4.8 4.6 3.8 4.9

The Eagles had the most picks of all NFC East teams in the last two years. The Cowboys and Redskins had the lowest average draft picks of the four teams, while the Giants appear to have favored fewer but earlier picks.

But instead of getting into a "Dez Bryant is better than Brandon Graham" type argument, we'll make the survival rates a purely quantitative argument. We'll look at how many rookies are still on the 53-man roster, how many on IR and how many are parked on the reserve/future squad or practice squad as it'll be called later in the season. And we'll look at those rookies not with their original team anymore, whether they're still in the NFL or out of the NFL.

Without much further ado, here are the numbers:

NFC East 2009 & 2010 draft pick survival rate
Cowboys Eagles Giants Redskins NFC East
No. of picks 19 21 16 13 69
On 53-man roster
47% (9) 52% (11) 50% (8) 46% (6) 49%
16% (3) 14% (3) 25% (4) - - 14%
Practice Squad
5% (1) 14% (3) - - 15% (2) 9%
With another NFL team
21% (4) 19% (4) 13% (2) 23% (3) 19%
Out of NFL
11% (2) - - 13% (2) 15% (2) 9%

On thing that immediately stands out here is that only half of the '09 and '10 rookie class players are still on the NFC East active rosters, and the percentage is remarkably similar across all four teams. Granted, players on IR should probably be included on that list, but it is what it is.

On the other hand, as a rule, I don't think you draft players to sit on the practice squad, especially after a full year with the team, and in some cases even two. So technically, players still on the practice squad must be viewed as a failure. Just like the 20% of players who are now with other teams, although that strikes me as a surprisingly high figure.

Also surprising for me is just how close the Cowboys are in all categories to the NFC East average, only off by a couple of percentage points. So despite a 2009 draft that is being widely billed as a disaster of quantity over quality, at least in terms of retention rate, the Cowboys are right there at the same level as the NFC average. Obviously, average is not what we aspire to in Dallas, but at least to me, those numbers were quite surprising.

Once the lockout ends, there will be a lot of roster movements and cuts that will quickly make these numbers obsolete, and perhaps we'll revisit this data set once the rosters are set at the beginning of the season. For now, you'll find the full rookie classes for each team below. Let me know if I've made a mistake somewhere, or if the status of a player has changed since I wrote this.

Year Round Player Status
2010 1 Dez Bryant 53-roster
2010 2 Sean Lee 53-roster
2010 4 AOA IR
2010 6 Sam Young 53-roster
2010 6 Jamar Wall Eagles PS
2010 7 Sean Lissemore IR
2010 7 Josh Brent* 53-roster
2009 3 Jason Williams Panthers
2009 3 Robert Brewster Practice Squad
2009 4 Stephen McGee
2009 4 Victor Butler 53-roster
2009 4 Brandon Williams 53-roster
2009 5 DeAngelo Smith Browns PS
2009 5 Michael Hamlin Jaguars
2009 5 David Buehler 53-roster
2009 6 Stephen Hodge Out of NFL
2009 6 John Phillips IR
2009 7 Mike Mickens Out of NFL
2009 7 Manuel Johnson 53-roster


Year Round Player Status
2010 1 Brandon Graham IR
2010 2 Nate Allen IR
2010 3 Daniel Te'o-Nesheim 53-roster
2010 4 Trevard Lindley 53-roster
2010 4 Keenan Clayton 53-roster
2010 4 Mike Kafka 53-roster
2010 4 Clay Harbor 53-roster
2010 5 Ricky Sapp IR
2010 5 Riley Cooper 53-roster
2010 6 Charles Scott
Giants PS
2010 7 Jamar Chaney 53-roster
2010 7 Jeff Owens Practice Squad
2010 7 Kurt Coleman 53-roster
2009 1 Jeremy Maclin 53-roster
2009 2 LeSean McCoy 53-roster
2009 5 Cornelius Ingram Practice Squad
2009 5 Victor Harris Redskins
2009 5 Fenuki Tupou Practice Squad
2009 6 Brandon Gibson Rams (traded**)
2009 7 Paul Fanaika Seahawks
2009 7 Moise Fokou 53-roster
Year Round Player Status
2010 1 Jason Pierre-Paul 53-roster
2010 2 Linval Joseph 53-roster
2010 3 Chad Jones IR
2010 4 Phillip Dillard 53-roster
2010 5 Mitch Petrus 53-roster
2010 6 Adrian Tracy IR
2010 7 Matt Dodge 53-roster
2009 1 Hakeem Nicks 53-roster
2009 2 Clint Sintim IR
2009 2 William Beatty
2009 3 Ramses Barden IR
2009 3 Travis Beckum 53-roster
2009 4 Andre Brown Broncos
2009 5 Rhett Bomar Vikings
2009 6 DeAndre Wright Out of NFL
2009 7 Stoney Woodson Out of NFL
Year Round Player Status
2010 1 Trent Williams 53-roster
2010 4 Perry Riley 53-roster
2010 6 Dennis Morris Chargers PS
2010 7 Terrence Austin 53-roster
2010 7 Erik Cook Practice Squad
2010 7 Selvish Capers Practice Squad
2009 1 Brian Orakpo
2009 3 Kevin Barnes 53-roster
2009 3 Jeremy Jarmon* 53-roster
2009 5 Cody Glenn
2009 6 Robert Henson Out of NFL
2009 7 Eddie Williams Bears
2009 7 Marko Mitchell Out of NFL


* supplemental draft picks, ** Traded for LB Witherspoon

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