The Rookie Scouting Portfolio Writers Project Begins!

Ready to build your NFL Franchise? C.J. Spiller makes a nice prospect for your team. Photo by Matt Britt

The Mission

Each of you has been given complete control over an NFL franchise. Your mission is to do the following by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, July 20:

  • Build a 53-man roster within the confines of a $160 million salary cap
  • Provide player-personnel analysis of your complete roster
  • Answer the questions listed in the Q&A document

The premise is that you are taking an Al Davis-like role with an NFL team and building an organization according to a specific football philosophy. The questions in the Q&A document will require you to demonstrate how you applied this philosophy to your organization, players, coaches, and strategy on offense, defense, and special teams.

Scheme, Strategy, and Coaching

Some of the basic things and owner will need to know by the time he or she finishes building a team:

  • Base personnel sets the team will employ on both sides of the ball
  • Situational Sub Packages the team will employ on both sides of the ball
  • Types of plays the team will employ on both sides of the ball
  • Types of blocking, blitz, coverage, and route schemes the team will use
  • The coaches and coordinators that would stylistically be a good fit with the organization
  • What type of players would stylistically be a good fit with the organization
  • The environment/city/stadium type that would be a good fit with the organization

Every owner should look at the team once it is build and decide what organization they could see as a home for it based on whatever factors the owner can provide in a cogent and entertaining manner.

Players, Depth Charts, and Rosters

The Player Values spreadsheet lists as much of the players in the NFL and assigns a value in millions according to their current position. We did the best we could to develop values that will hopefully make it improbable to build a team that, at least on paper, doesn’t have clear weaknesses in some phase of the game. Player values are based on these factors:

  • Age
  • Talent
  • Draft status
  • Injury history
  • Ability to fit with multiple schemes

The values are far from perfect, but that’s what should hopefully make this project fertile ground for intellectual debate.

FAQ on Building Rosters

How do I use the spreadsheet?

The spreadsheet is separated into positional tabs. Each tab lists players at those positions and his value (in millions). To the right the player value list is a depth chart table.

The tables are set up to accommodate the maximum number of players an owner can possibly have at each position. Copy and paste (or write) the players into that table and the name will automatically appear on the Final Roster Tab. The spreadsheet will tally the salaries to keep each owner at the $160 million limit.

Matt Waldman will crosscheck the accuracy of your roster upon submission and send it back if a team is over the limit.

In the Final Roster Tab, write some analysis about the players you’re choosing. It can be as specific and detailed as the owner wants, but should at its most basic level explain the player’s skills, talents, and fit with the system.

What if there is a player I want who is not listed on the spreadsheet? You need to contact Matt Waldman about that player and a designated committee of Sigmund Bloom, Jene Bramel, Matt Waldman, and/or Matt Bitonti will determine that value for that player. If one of us is the actual owner petitioning for a player value, another writer will be asked help with that decision rather than the petitioner help with the decision.

What about Special Teams?

The tables below the positional depth chart in each tab are for special teams duty. If an owner wants a player to contribute to the punt team and/or kickoff team, he copies and pastes the player name in both the position tab and the Final Roster Tab. This is the only time owners have to paste or type a player in that Final Roster Tab and the owners do not enter a salary a second time for players working special teams.  Players are already given a salary when entered in the depth chart.

What is the minimum number of players required for each positional depth chart?

Depth Chart Minimums




Running Back


Fullback and Tight End


Wide Receiver










Defensive Line




Defensive Backs






Remaining Players (any position)


Total Roster Size


Can an owner place a player at a position where he’s not current used? Yes, but be prepared to defend that point with strong logic and his salary will remain the same regardless of the position he plays. Owners will need to copy and paste the player name and salary into the appropriate table for that position.

For instance, if an owner decides to use Mike Vick as a running back instead of quarterback, then he or she must copy Vick’s name and salary from the QB tab and paste it into the RB Depth Chart table on the RB Tab.

Can an owner have the same player work at multiple positions? Yes. Let’s continue the Michael Vick example. Say I decide I want to use Vick like Darren Sproles, but I also want Vick to be my backup QB.

In my offense, Vick will be my starting running back. And in three and four-receiver packages in my offense he’ll be the slot receiver and I’ll have Mewelde Moore as my back in these personnel packages.

What I would do is list Vick on my running back depth chart, my wide receiver depth chart, and my quarterback depth chart, but only paste his salary in one of those tables.

While this strategy might provide the team more personnel flexibility at other positions, if Vick is listed as the No.2 QB on the depth chart but works as the starting RB and sub package slot receiver then the I need to have a good explanation for what kind of depth I’ll have at RB and QB if the No.1 QB gets hurt or Vick gets hurt playing RB/slot receiver.

What if an owner wants to run an experimental/non-traditional system?

If an owner wants to be an innovator and try a 1-6-4 defensive system as its base unit, that’s okay, but the minimums for each positional depth chart will still need to apply and the owner will need to explain:

  • Conceptually how this system will work from an X’s and O’s standpoint
  • Its strengths and weaknesses versus opposing game plans
  • The type of personnel (skills and talent) that will fit into the system

Essentially, the owner needs to be prepared to show why it will work.

Who to contact with questions?

Matt Waldman at

Wanna Play? The tools I’ve given our writers are below, you will also have until July 20th to submit a team to me. There is no guarantee that I’ll publish or evaluator your team in depth. However, I will post details of a contest or two within the week.

RSP Writers Project Player Values

Rookie Scouting Portfolio Writers Project Instructions

Rookie Scouting Portfolio Writers Project Qs

32 responses to “The Rookie Scouting Portfolio Writers Project Begins!”

  1. Love the idea Matt. I’m going to attempt to bring the spread option offense to the NFL…

    Was looking through the corners and can’t seem to find Trumaine Johnson. Can you take a look? Maybe I’m losing it.

  2. So, the final roster MUST be 53 players, or it just cannot exceed 53? I’m taking it to mean that it MUST be 53. Correct, or incorrect?

  3. These are players not listed, but requested in the past 12 hours:

    Punter Bryan Anger: $2 million
    Wide receiver Jesse Holley: $1 million
    Guard/Tackle Ramon Foster: $1 million
    Cornerback Trumaine Johnson $5.5 million

  4. […] In closing, this exercise was a fun thing to do. I learned that putting together a roster full of NFL players is not easy. Tough decisions will have to be made, but ultimately, I want as much premium talent as possible. Aaron Rodgers and Haloti Ngata are my respective leaders on each side of the ball while they’ll receive support from a young group that is oozing with premiere talent. I hope you enjoyed this exercise and I encourage you to try it for yourself. […]

  5. Question about total salary cap for team- Spreadsheet indicates 160 Mill, the Word document indicates 120 Mill…..which is correct

    • Re-download the spreadsheet and instructions – they should say $150 for each. In the upper left hand corner of the Final Roster Tab, you can manually change the cap to $150 if it doesn’t…thanks.

  6. still a bit confusing…..several guys have posted rosters on this website and the salaries for those rosters sum to 160 Million….


    • Let’s clarify.

      1. One reader’s project was posted at $160 because I had him do it before I changed the cap, which I noted in the article.
      2. The two other writers projects posted on this site (there have only been three total projects posted) are at $150. I added them.

      Not sure where you see the several projects getting posted. The cap is indeed $150. I hope that helps.


  7. i dont see these guys on the list, can you consider adding them and putting a salary on them?

    DE Malik Jackson
    CB Davon House

    thanks in advance

  8. Am I building a team just for this season, or is it “dynasty” mode?

    Could you add Jackie Battle? Chilo Rachal is listed twice (making 3.5M as a tackle and only 1.5M a guard).

    • Battle is 0.5 millon. You’re building it how ever you believe fits your philosophy. This is not fantasy football. If you think you can build a team that can compete for a decade based on your process, go for it. If you think it is more realistic to only look a few years down the road, do that. Up to to you.

      • Thanks – I think that makes it worth going for Rodgers over Brees/Brady, since teams that get a top QB really do build the team around him for a decade.

        One more question: can I get price check on Sean Locklear?

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