We’ve talked Roster construction before and we all know their are ideal targets for how many players you keep at each position. The reality is there are only a handful of roster spots really up for grabs as teams have to keep a minimum number of players at each spot. So while a team might have a great camp battle between 6 different running backs, they can really only keep three or four of them, otherwise they would be compromising the overall team. The Redskins are unfortunately an example of what not to do, when in 2011 they kept 8 receivers and it left them thin at a number of positions throughout the year. Here are how many roster spots are really needed at each position:
-This is pretty standard when it comes to needs as you need a kicker, punter and long snapper. The real question is can you justify a 4th spot for either a return specialist (seen less since moving the kick-off forward) or a kick-off specialist (also seen less than in the past). It’s harder to keep a fourth guy if he can’t be at least a back-up on offense or defense (obviously only applies to the returner).
-Roughly about half the teams go with two quarterbacks and about half don’t. Going with just two does open up a roster spot for something else, but it definitely comes with some additional risks particularly if the team has any injury concerns with either their top two quarterbacks.
-Most teams keep three running backs, though some definitely go with four (and in rare cases five if they don’t utilize a FB). What you never see though is two running backs. Even if you have an elite star back, you want to make sure you have at least two back-ups, given the high injury factor and the fact that you want the back-ups to get some carries to keep the starter fresh.
-Now not every team utilizes a FB, in which case this spot would be added to the TE or RB categories, but for the Redskins they need to have a FB for their offense. Though someone may be designated a 2nd FB, they would have to be able to also back-up another position to really make the team.
-Typically teams keep five or six receivers, in rare cases you see four and in even rarer cases you see 7 or more. Four though is the minimum you would have, and it is really likely to not be enough.
-Some teams get by on two tight ends, but with the way the position is changing that is becoming very rare. Three or four tight ends are becoming much more popular though and will be in the area the Redskins are heading.
-Though you typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game days, it is extremely rare for a team to only have that many on the 53 man roster. Eight is the much more common minimum number, though 9 or 10 linemen will be kept by a fair number of teams each year.
-In a 3-4 you would think you could get away with maybe just 5 defensive linemen, but the reality is it is such a rotational position with a very high injury rate that teams keep at least six defensive linemen. Typically they don’t go over 7 in a 3-4, and it is probably about 50/50 with teams that keep 6 or 7.
-Now it is pretty rare that you see a 3-4 team keep under 8 linebackers, but it does happen from time for time. If there aren’t any injury or production question marks among the starters and at least one of the back-ups is more versatile then you might see it. The other issue could be if another position is dealing with multiple injuries and just needs a little depth. Otherwise it is safe to expect 8, but 7 is possible if needed.
-With so many teams throwing the ball over 60% of the time and spreading the field with more pass catchers, you need at least three corners on the field for nearly half the plays. Five is the most common cornerback number, but if desperate a team could get by with four.
-Not many teams keep five safeties, but it is basically impossible to find a team that would keep just three. So four is basically the magic number when it comes to safeties. Circumstances could possibly dictate more, but you know it won’t be less than four.
That leaves just nine additional roster spots to be moved around as needed. Of those nine, I’d list 3rd QB, 5th WR, 3rd TE, 8th LB, and 5th CB as near locks to be on the final roster. With those five that is really just four roster spots left to be fought for. That could make it very hard for the team to keep a 4th RB or TE, or a 6th CB or 5th safety.
How do you think the final four roster spots will shake out?