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Once you have found yourself on a team’s depth chart page, it will be broken out into offensive and defensive depth charts. You might see the offensive line and special teams have their own depth charts as well. On the offensive side, the depth chart is going to look fairly similar from team to team. The top-ranked player at each position is going to be the starter. A position like wide receiver is going to be broken out into left, right, and sometimes you will see a slot receiver position as well. A number listed next to the wide receiver will dictate the true number one wide receiver, but it might be broken out into just who is the top left and right wide receiver, with the depth following behind them.
On the defensive side, a depth chart is going to be set up within a few different ways depending on what formation they are running. A 4-3 defense is going to show two defensive tackles alongside two defensive ends and three linebackers. A 3-4 defense is going to show three defensive linemen and then four linebackers or players listed as edge rushers. The starters will once again be listed at the top of the rankings for each position, and secondary players will be behind them. This is always a good indicator for who would fill in during an injury, or also who could jump a struggling player.
NFL Depth Charts are important for fantasy football. Identifying the team’s starting players are important. It gives you a look at who the true starters are and where the volume will be. The starting wideouts and tight ends will be the ones seeing the most targets, and of course, the top running back is going to likely lead the team in carries. Now with running back by committees being a popular method for coaches to go with. Seeing who the number two running back is going to be important because they could be the ones splitting carries with the name ahead of them.
Reviewing the number two or even three names on depth charts at each position will give you an edge for when injuries do occur and you want to go pick up a starting running back’s backup who is now going to fill in and see bigger touches. The same can be said for other positions, as backup tight ends will see larger roles, and receiving cores can be shaken up with an injury as well.
Snap Count Differences Between Starters and Backups
Looking at depth charts and how they correlate with snap counts, the starters are certainly ahead in that department. However, snap counts can tell a story of how a position as a whole is used. For example, a team using a committee approach to their running backs will have their designated depth chart positions for the number one running back and the number two. However, snaps might not be that big of a difference between the two. Looking at wide receivers, some third and fourth-ranked wide receivers in a depth chart get more snaps and target than others. The same goes for tight ends. Teams will use a two tight end system, where both are putting together starter snaps.
Now, of course, this can work oppositely as well where starters are so far ahead of the next guy in snaps. Those workhorse backs are always going to be the true number one guys, and the same can be said for the quarterback of course as well. On the defensive side, some defenders play more based on how the game is going. If a team is using more pass-heavy defensive schemes, that third or fourth corner will be seeing more time. The same goes for edge rushers, who might be used only on third downs, or passing downs in general.
A Coach’s Process Of Building A Depth Chart
After a recent Super Bowl has just finished, there might be a little time before a coaching staff has to get back to work. Spend some time with the family, maybe get some golf or traveling in, and then it is back to the grindstone of getting ready for the next season. In the spring it is about preparing for the draft and prepping for free agency as well. Coaches will have players leaving on expiring contracts, and also will be making cuts to the depth chart as well. Analyzing the current state of the depth chart and what the draft picks and open cap space is always going to be the first move for a coach. It may lead to some tough decisions on keeping players, especially those who have not been producing or are on the expensive, yet older side.
The way a team is already built is going to dictate how a team drafts. If a team is in a true rebuild, they will be looking to build their depth chart for future seasons in comparison to addressing immediate needs to plug holes. If a team that was on the cusp of the playoffs or bowed out of the playoffs early, they may look to address those needs through the draft. They may have had a weakness in the secondary and will look more specifically at addressing those names instead of taking the best talent on the board. If a team has a lot of different needs, they will look to build through all the true talent that is out there in the draft, and not weight one or two positions so heavily. Sometimes a prospect is such a lock, they disregard the true need for drafting them.
After the NFL Draft, rookies will file in. Some may get signed to their rookie contracts, and some may end up not being signed at all, as they would go into the free agent pool or be signed to the practice squad. These rookies won’t be assigned a depth chart spot just yet, as they will be looked at more throughout training camp and during the preseason. They will also have the chance to move up the ladder during the regular season as well. We have seen that quite a bit in the past where a rookie starts out lower on the depth chart and then is a full-fledged starter at some point during the season.
Throughout the summer, it will be a time for free agents to move around. Trades are not as popular in the NFL as they are in other sports, but they do occur on occasion. These transactional moves are going to be building blocks for a depth chart. It is a way to build depth or address needs on either side of the ball. Teams have a salary cap to stay under, so it will be important for them to spend wisely. This could hurt teams if they have too much money tied up in a few players where it limits their options to sign other needs.
After transactions have been made, moving towards training camp and the preseason is where the depth chart is going to come to fruition. During training camp, a team can only have 90 players before it starts to be cut down. Eventually, team’s will need to get to a 53-man roster when the regular season starts. Some players will be cut outright, and some will move to the practice squad depending on their eligibility. The depth chart won’t be finalized at any one point; at most we will get a real general idea of how that team plans to start the season with their starters.
Once the regular season hits, the depth chart is going to be set at 53 players and it will be narrowed down to a set of rankings within each position. This is where you are going to find your starters, secondary players, and true backups. Now throughout the season, there will be movement. Injuries occur often in the NFL, and if you are lacking depth, it can derail your season. Outside of injuries, we often see changes because of production. A wide receiver might be thriving in a minimal role and overtakes the next wide receiver on the depth chart. A struggling running back might give up his starting job to the hot hand, which we have seen quite often in today’s era.
Key Positions To Have Depth In
Having depth at each position is important, but some positions require more depth than others. Teams that fail to address these needs leave themselves vulnerable if an injury occurs. On the offensive side, it is tough to move the ball if you have an offensive line that is banged up. Having linemen that can play multiple positions is always a big plus, but having an offensive lineman or two who can step in and provide some value is a big difference from having zero depth at the position. We have seen many teams begin to struggle when offensive line injuries hit their team.
As far as skill positions go, there are a few teams who invest in a quality backup quarterback. We have seen quarterbacks go down, and the season goes out the window. We have also seen backup quarterbacks come in and play up to par and keep teams afloat. Not many teams invest in backup quarterbacks, which is a shame, although it also isn’t like they are out there for the taking either. Backup running backs and wide receivers are important, but also are somewhat replaceable. Generally, teams have some decent depth here, and enough to work with where they will not have a lost season.
On the defensive side, the secondary is often one we can point to for wanting to have enough depth. Losing a lockdown corner is immediately going to knock your defense down, and if it was the glue to your secondary, then you are often in big trouble. Having depth at the position will also allow you to play a more sound defense where you don’t have any glaring weaknesses. Linebackers are also an important depth position, and the same goes for the offensive line. Having depth allows you to rotate players within a game to keep guys fresh, but also if you have depth you can draw up more schemes to utilize player’s strengths.
Best Offensive Depth Chart Of All Time
The Greatest Show On Turf, St Louis Rams were one of the top offenses of all time and did it with an incredible offensive depth chart. Starting with Kurt Warner, Issac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Az-Zahir Hakim, they were a lethal passing attack. This offense also had a very good offensive line, but to put the cherry on top, Marshall Faulk was the running back. It is hard to argue that they were one of the deepest offenses in the game. The 2007 Patriots and the Colts with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Edgerrin James also come close.
Worst Offensive Depth Chart Of All Time
The 2008 Lions put together a historically bad year where they were 0-16. The quarterback play of Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, and Duante Culpepper says it all. Calvin Johnson was the only notable name on this team; no other receiver topped 400 yards.
Best Defensive Depth Chart Of All Time
Any team other than the 1985 Bears is going to have some question marks. This was one of the best front sevens ever put together in football. With names like Otis Wilson, Dan Hampton, and Mike Singletary, it is no surprise to see very few points going up against them. The secondary didn’t have to do much, but they did their job. Overall this defense was the best in history.
Worst Defensive Depth Chart Of All Time
Not too long ago, the New Orleans Saints put together one of the worst defenses in history. The secondary was an easy target, and the only notable name was Cameron Jordan who was barely breaking into the league. They allowed 5.2 yards per carry on the ground and over 4,600 passing yards through the air.
NFL Depth Chart Frequently Asked Questions
What Is NFL Depth Chart?
An NFL Depth Chart is used for a team to show each player and their role within an offensive, defense, or special teams unit. It will list who are the starters on both sides of the ball and then who would be next in line behind them.
How Many NFL Starters Are There?
There are 11 starters on offense and 11 starters on defense, bringing us a total of 22 starters combined on offense and defense. They will always be listed first on a depth chart at their positions and anyone after them is a secondary player.
When Do NFL Depth Charts Come Out?
NFL Depth Charts are always out for viewing year round, and changes that are made will be updated. During the offseason transactions will occur for all teams, and will be reflected within the depth chart. Closer to the regular season is when you will find your team’s set starters.
How To Read An NFL Depth Chart?
Each team has a depth chart, which is broken out into every position on the offensive, defensive, and special teams side. It is presented in a way that shows who the starter is at each position, and who are the secondary options behind them.
How Often Do NFL Depth Charts Change?
NFL Depth Charts are always changing, whether it is the offseason, playoffs, or Week 8. Injuries are frequent in the NFL, and depth charts will change because of them. The same goes for hot and cold players throughout the year, where a player may get moved up.
How Many Players Are In An NFL Depth Chart?
There are 53 players on an NFL Depth Chart after final cuts have been made before the regular season. You may see more or less during the offseason and during training camp, as those roster requirements open up and players will be coming in and out.