September 2nd

It hardly science, but how many players from a particular draft actually make their respective team's opening day roster gives some indication of just how strong that draft may have been. And if this is in any way a reasonably accurate measure, then the early returns from the 2013 draft suggest that this year was a relatively strong for selecting players. Indeed, only 28 players selected at last April's draft were released prior to Saturday's deadline for teams to be down to the opening-day 53-man roster limit, the lowest number since the NFL went to a 53-man roster. In contrast, the previous lowest number of draft picks to be released up to the roster deadline were 30 and 32 in 2011 and 2008 respectively, while the figure was 33 in 2012. In fact, during the last decade or so the figure usually ranged between 35 and 40 and was as high as 45 in 2007.

At the same time, another 25 of this year's rookie draftees this year were placed on either injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list. In fact, that figure is somewhat higher than in recent years when an average of around 15-18 drafted players were placed on a reserve list. It should be also noted, though, that WR Ryan Swopes, a 6th round pick by Arizona this past April, was placed on the retired reserve list as he gave up the game after suffering a severe concussion this summer and isn't likely to play again.

Not surprisingly, most of the players taken at the this year's draft who were released this weekend were late- round selections. Indeed, 25 of the 28 draftees who did not make their team's opening day 53 roster were taken in either the 6th or 7th rounds, with 9 coming from the 6th round and 16 coming from the final round. At the same time, just 2 players selected in the 5th round were cut this weekend. In contrast, no player taken in the opening three rounds was released prior to the roster deadline, while three players selected in the first three rounds were placed on injured reserve including Arizona OG Jonathan Cooper, the 7th player taken this year who will miss the year after fraturing his leg during a pre-season game late last month.  In fact, the highest drafted player released prior to the deadline was Seattle WR Chris Harper, a 4th round pick who was selected 123rd overall this past April. At the same time, though, Oakland released QB Tyler Wilson, the 112th player taken this year, after the original 53-man roster was announced.

The comparative strength of this year's draft is also reflected in the fact that 8 teams - Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New England, St. Louis, Tampa Bay  and the New York Jets - neither released nor IRed any of their players taken at the 2013 draft, whereas that was just the case for half that number of teams last year. At the same time, another half dozen teams - Arizona, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Carolina, and San Diego - didn't release any of their draft picks this year, but did place at least one pick on a reserve list. In contrast, Seattle released 4 of its 11 picks including WR Chris Harper, the earliest draftee to be released heading up to the deadline. In fact, the Seahawks also placed two other draft picks on an injury list meaning they'll have less than half of this year's pick on the roster this fall. Meanwhile, Cincinnati released three of their 10 picks (and put another on IR), while San Francisco released two of their 11 selections and put three others - second round DE Tank Carradine, 4th round RB Marcus Lattimore and 5th round DE Quinton Dial - on injured reserve. At the same time, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Denver, and Minnesota also released two of their 2013 picks prior to the deadline.

The 2012 draft also offered more hope to players overlooked at the draft as a record total of 73 undrafted rookie free agents survived last week's cuts and made a 53-man roster. That compares with just 45 in 2012, while the figure was around 55 the two previous years. In fact, 27 of the 32 NFL teams had at least one undrafted rookie free agent on the roster after the 53-man opening day roster deadline had passed on Saturday. New Orleans, which only had 5 picks at the 2013 draft, led the way with 6 undrafted rookie free agents making the Saints' roster, while Cleveland, Houston, New England and St. Louis each currently has 5 undrafted rookie free agents on its roster. Meanwhile, Atlanta and Tampa Bay has 4 undrafted rookies, while San Diego, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Green Bay have three each.

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