Roster Construction: How to Build a 53-Man Roster

Washington Commanders

The Washington Redskins have been busy this offseason (this past week especially) bringing in a flurry of minor signings to round out their roster as they head into the NFL Draft. Now it is likely that not all of these veteran players will make the final roster, which brings to mind the question of how the Redskins 53-man roster should shape up.  Here is how I would look to build the Redskins roster for next season.

Now the first thing to recognize when building out a 53 man roster, is that essentially we are talking about building a 50 man roster. Why 5o man and not 53? Well it is simple, regardless of who it might be three of the spots (kicker, punter, long snapper) need to be accounted for. These are specialists, of which you should only have one of each on your team, and they really don’t have the ability to help out in any other area. That leaves us with 50 spots up for grabs. Now typically you would say split that evenly between offense and defense, but if you need 26 players on one side of the ball, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Before I get into the numbers game, the most important factor when building out a 50 man roster is versatility. Versatility means two things: 1. Ability to play on special teams and 2. Ability to help out in a variety of ways. Now the first thing seems self explanatory, but it is more important than you would think. While typically we think of special team’s made up of reserve players, that isn’t entirely true. Multiple starters are on more than one special teams unit, not to mention the fact that many of these “reserves” are significant contributors as well. In a day- and-age where teams are rotating RB’s, TE’s, WR’s, DL, and secondary players, your “reserves” play a pretty big role.

The lack of special teams versatility is a big reason why Leonard Hankerson was inactive for much of the early season. Hankerson didn’t play special teams, and he wasn’t going to crack the starting line-up, meaning it wasn’t worth it to have him active.

As for the second point about being able to help out in a variety of ways, this can’t be overstated. There is a saying in scouting circles when it comes to evaluating offensive linemen, “the worst thing a prospect can be is a right tackle only”. What it boils down to is the worst thing for a prospect to be is good at only one thing/position. This idea really should be applied across the board. Now this is not to say that you have to be able to play multiple positions, but rather having a well-rounded skill set.

For instance if you are a very talented running back, but struggle with pass blocking or receiving the ball, your value is diminished. For defensive backs, not only is it important to be able to play both on the outside and in the slot, but also to have the versatility to succeed in both man and zone schemes. Having this kind of versatility is key to creating mis-matches and maximizing talent.

Now that we’ve looked at what is key to building a roster, lets look at a breakdown of how many players the Skins should target at each position on offense.


QB – 3:

Even with a potential franchise QB, its still wise to have 2 back-up QBs.

Now I know many will point to the two quarterbacks the Redskins kept last year, but that was a completely different situation (and it didn’t workout too well either). Neither one of those two signal callers was a rookie, and having a third QB can help allow the Redskins ease in their franchise quarterback. Now the 3rd quarterback could be dropped if their is a roster crunch elsewhere, but overall I think it is a smart move.

RB -4:

Most people will say you should only keep three backs, but given the high injury rate at the position, it seems wise to keep a fourth. Each of the last three years for the Skins as they have had to go through multiple backs, and were often left scrambling to fill a roster. This is an area where you could have back-ups help out as both special teamers, and guys who have a different style.

FB -1:

While the fullback position isn’t dead in the Redskins offense, it does take a backseat to other positions. The fullback will likely be only on the field for no more than 25-30% of the offensive snaps. While they will help out on special teams as well, it is not enough to warrant two roster spots.

TE – 3:

Even with Chris Cooley injured for much of the year last season, and Fred Davis suspended for four games, the Redskins utilized their tight ends pretty well. Now the real key for having a third TE, is adding a guy who makes up what Davis and Cooley lack, which is primarily blocking. A good blocking third TE, can help on special teams, short yardage and goal line situations, and depending on how good they are, could get a lot of snaps.

WR – 6:

While keeping five receivers could make sense, it seems likely the Skins will keep at least 6. Now I wouldn’t suggest keeping more than six guys, because it will be impossible to get enough time to warrant those roster spots. Now the big key for the bottom three guys who make it, is being able to significantly contribute on special teams.

OL- 9:

In the past the Skins have kept only 8 offensive linemen, but given their lack of top notch starters, having extra depth is key. While it is true that barring an injury opportunity, back-up offensive linemen will see very little game action (outside of special teams, there is such a high injury rate, that good depth makes sense.

Grand Total:  26 players on offense

Check back tomorrow when I look at the defensive breakdown!

Check out our 2012 NFL Draft Guide HERE!


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