Evaluating Offseason Turnover in the NFL from a Betting Perspective
How many returning starters does Team X have on offense and defense? Did they suffer any “key” losses? These are common questions leading up to the college football season and staples in preseason college football handicapping. However, you don’t hear these topics being discussed nearly as frequently by handicappers in the NFL before the season. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s because everyone thinks they have a better handle on every team in the NFL and not as much in the college game. It could also have something to do with the fact that it’s much tougher to follow 130 teams than it is to keep tabs on just 32 teams, and evaluating returning starters provides an easy shortcut. You have to do more work than look at the data, but evaluating roster turnover numbers certainly isn’t useless. Knowing which teams bring the majority of their starters back from the prior season is a solid starting point, as is evaluating a team’s losses.
The following chart summarizes the losses and returning starters for every team in the NFL:
Dallas checks in with the fewest personnel losses (just 24 starter games lost) and the most returning starters back (21 of 22). That continuity is definitely worth something, especially early on in the season when many teams aren’t quite in rhythm yet. Having a cohesive offensive and defensive line is paramount to winning, and bringing back the same group makes communication that much easier. Dallas has that in spades.
Cincinnati is in the second spot in terms of least roster turnover, but remember, this was a bad 6-10 football team last year. They also overhauled the coaching staff, which diminishes the advantage of bringing back most of your roster. New systems and schemes are surely going to be put into place for the players to learn and some of their roles will inevitably change.
The Colts finished last season 9-1 down the stretch and bring back everyone important from a team whose stock is rising fast. The entire coaching staff comes back for its second season and it’s a good one. This is a team who should hit the ground running in 2019.
On the other end of the spectrum are the teams that sort of blew things up in the offseason. Arizona comes in with the highest amount of roster turnover with 243 games lost (129 from starters). They do bring back 15 starters, but the coaching staff is brand new across the board. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury is going to have his hands full.
Miami is not far behind with 240 games lost overall, 120 of which were to starters. They also have installed a new coaching regime and are in definite rebuild mode. It’s going to be a very long year for Dolphins fans. Jacksonville is third from the bottom with 220 games lost overall, but only 82 were to starters as they have 17 returning starters.
As a general rule, teams with the least amount of turnover should be expected to perform better out of the gate than those teams who are rebuilding the roster and experienced mass turnover. There’s no doubt that linesmakers factor some of this into the line, but there are still some opportunities to take advantage. But again, evaluating the numbers are just a starting point. Not every starter returning or lost is created equal. Knowing the importance of the personnel moves will separate you from those who take shortcuts. Be diligent and go the extra mile, because it will pay off in the end.
Eric Waz had a monster season in the NFL last year, bringing home +15.1 units of profit overall for clients while connecting on nearly 60% of his selections. Click HERE to receive every selection Waz makes from the preseason through the Super Bowl for our Early Bird price of just $899.