Packing the Stats: Adding Up, Subtracting Down to 53
Last preseason, I took a look at how the Packers could fudge the numbers in order to keep six wide receivers on the roster. It involved breaking down the starting rosters since 2009 and seeing how many players at each position were kept on the initial 53-man roster. From there, I could make some conjectures about what might need to happen to make the numbers work.
This year, I’m doing the same exercise, but instead I’m looking at the numbers in a more general sense. By the end of business on Saturday, August 31, 2013, the Green Bay Packers and the other 31 NFL teams must have their roster size cut down to 53. In subtracting players, it’s important to see how the positions add up.
In other words, if you want to keep an extra player at one position, then what other position will be subtracted from to balance things out? And how might this year’s group of players affect the total numbers?
Below is a chart that represents the number of players at each position on the year’s starting roster. Rosters do change throughout the year due to injury, but by and large, the starting rosters are a clear indication of the personnel philosophy of Mike McCarthy. Also, as I stated last year, I only went back to 2009, because that’s when the 3-4 defense was first implemented, and that could have affected the defensive numbers.
Take a look. Each year is listed, followed by the minimum (MIN) number of players kept at that position in a single year, plus the average (AVG) number of players kept across all years. (Obviously, I have rounded off the average since we can’t keep half of a player.)
* – The TE, RB, FB positions comprised a total of 9 players throughout each year. TEs and FBs as blockers could be considered as mostly interchangeable, while in earlier years the FB position took on a bigger ball-carrying role along with the RBs.
† – In 2012, Erik Walden served his suspension for the first game of the season. When he was added back to the roster after that game, the Packers released CB Brandian Ross. Brad Jones could also have been considered both an OLB and ILB backup at the start of that season.
‡ – The safety position could be said to have a minimum breaking point of 4 players with the consideration that Jarrett Bush and Charles Woodson both played safety roles in the 2011 season. But across all four years, the DBs as a whole have had at least 10 players total.
HOW MIGHT THE 2013 NUMBERS ADD UP?
When you look at this list, it’s very close to the four-year average from the chart. Believe me, it’s mostly a coincidence. It’s how I feel the roster will shake out, though in the notes I’ve also mentioned some possible shifts in numbers based on personnel. Feel free to disagree or comment on my reasoning, because getting down to 53 is almost as much about the numbers as it is about the players. Consider this another tool you can use in making your own roster predictions this week.
As always, it’s the last three or four players that always create the biggest question marks. And it wouldn’t be normal if Ted Thompson didn’t make a surprise move or two.
- Quarterback: 2
This one is worth betting money on. McCarthy considers his practice squad quarterback the third-string player, and they can always elevate him in case of dire emergency.
- Wide Receiver: 5
They could potentially end up taking six, though I don’t think they’re going to. The players fighting for sixth place aren’t as special as Boykin was last year; moreover, they don’t have to account for an aging veteran (see: Driver, Donald) who won’t be playing much.
- Tight End: 4
Finley, Quarless, and Williams are almost guaranteed locks, though fans won’t like the latter of those three. Mulligan, Bostick, and Taylor could very well be battling for one or two more spots.
- Running Back: 4
With Starks in the doghouse, it would be hard to convince me that they’ll keep any more than Harris, Lacy, Franklin, and Green. The only wild card is Harris’ injury, which could tempt the Packers to keep Starks as insurance.
- Fullback: 1
It’s been made clear that the Packers will keep a fullback on the roster, and it’s another bet I’d be willing to take that it’s John Kuhn.
- Offensive Line: 8
In addition to the five starters, there’s Marshall Newhouse and Greg Van Roten as additional locks. The next guy in line for a job is probably Taylor Lane, who is an inside player and has been playing with the first-team kick return unit. As for the tackles, Sherrod and Tretter will probably go to the PUP, so they might try to stash Datko on the practice squad. They could decide to keep another tackle, though, and bump the total number up to nine linemen.
- Defensive Line: 7
This number might be a bit misleading, because Mike Neal is now moonlighting as an outside linebacker. But figure out which seventh player they’d cut to get to six, and it’s a definite challenge.
- Inside Linebacker: 5
This number could drop to four depending on how the Packers feel about Manning, Lattimore, and Barrington. But based on special teams rosters, Manning and Lattimore probably don’t have too much to worry about.
- Outside Linebacker: 4
Again, this number is misleading, since Mike Neal doesn’t count. However, I could see it dropping to three if Moses has slipped far enough. Matthews, Perry, and Mulumba appear to be obvious locks.
- Cornerback: 6
The depth at cornerback is quite staggering. Williams, Shields, Hayward, House, and Hyde are clear locks, with the only question being Bush. Still, I have a feeling Bush isn’t going anywhere this year based on contract money and special teams value.
- Safety: 4
Some might argue that they could limit this to three players, but the sudden rise of Chris Banjo suggests otherwise. Besides that, it’s a risk to only have one backup player for two positions.
- Specialists: 3
Punter, kicker, and long snapper… has been and always shall be.