Inspired by last week's piece on the Seattle Seahawks' prowess in turning late-round draft picks into starters, I decided to dig deeper to gauge how much Pete Carroll's roster stands as an outlier.
Once I confirmed that no NFL franchise comes close to Seattle's dozen key contributors drafted in Rounds 4 through 7, I was naturally curious to find out how the other 31 rosters were constructed.
Which teams rely almost solely on the first few rounds of the draft? Are there any playoff rosters assembled primarily through free agency? How detrimental is it to suffer a draft drought after years of nailing picks?
With those questions in mind, I deconstructed the rosters to find one key theme for each team.
Let's start with the AFC franchises:
Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome hasn't had a sub-.500 season in seven years because he nails his first-round picks, adds quality depth in the middle rounds and has a knack for filling holes via trades and free agency. He's been one of the best in the business for nearly two decades.
Houston Texans: This front office has had an impressive run of hitting on impact first-round picks and mixing in the occasional free-agent find, but the latter rounds have turned up little more than role players and fringe talents. It was the quarterback position that held the franchise hostage in 2013.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Former general manager Gene Smith left a relatively bare cupboard. The 2013 Jags had more combined waiver pickups, street free agents and players signed off practice squads than any team in the league. That component comprises more than half of the roster. It's going to take a string of strong draft classes to turn this organization around.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans made an out-of-character foray into free agency last offseason, but this team has been assembled primarily in the first two rounds of the draft. A few mid-to-late round picks have panned out such as defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty.
Oakland Raiders: Still reeling from the ill-fated Carson Palmer trade and the last few drafts of the Al Davis era, the Raiders got less production from first-round picks than any team in the NFL last season. General manager Reggie McKenzie wasn't viewed as a major player on the open market, but no team picked up more league-average starters (of necessity) in free agency.
San Diego Chargers: The Bolts have been mired in mediocrity because the majority of their nucleus is composed of average to below-average starters acquired in the early rounds of the draft. Difference-making talent is noticeably missing from the last half-decade of drafts.