I get why it doesn't happen often. I still think it should happen more.
That is -- teams poaching practice squad players from other clubs.
There are layers to why it's decently rare. One, because the NFL regular season rolls along at a torrid pace, acclimating an unfamiliar player to the system can take plenty of time, and in this league, time moves at least twice as fast as reality. Two, said practice-squad snagging comes with immediate elevation to the acquiring team's 53-man roster, and those roster spots are sacred.
Therefore, coaches are justifiably hesitant to add a previously unknown player to the active roster before deciding on the 48 game-day actives.
And for as fun as it must be for GMs (with roster control) to get to play real-life Madden on dynasty mode with the roster, there's probably a thin line that must be walked between adding a plethora of fresh players willy nilly and respecting what I expect is most coach's adoration for stable familiarity.
Having explained all of that -- I firmly believe team decision-makers (yes, including coaches) should be more aggressive adding talent from other teams even if roster continuity takes a hit in the process. Given the prevalence of injuries and length of the modern NFL season, there should be a constant pursuit of roster improvement, even if a byproduct is diminished familiarity coupled with the a relatively lengthy adjustment period.
If your pro personnel department feels you can upgrade, say, your roster's CB5 with a third-year pro sitting on a practice squad across conferences, he should be added with minimal friction.
And you'll notice this theme in Week 4's Practice Squad Power Rankings, as I've added some players who I genuinely don't expect to be elevated by their current teams. I'm doing it as a PSA to 31 other teams to snatch, in this case, Vikings RB DeWayne McBride or Browns EDGE Lonnie Phelps ASAP. Holy acronyms.
And let's not forget, Practice Squad Power Ranking alums like Saints TE Juwan Johnson, Ravens cornerback/safety Ar'Darius Washington, Buccaneers wideout Deven Thompkins, Seahawks guard Phil Haynes, Cardinals center Hjalte Froholdt, and Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins (among many others) have all graduated to become important mainstays on the clubs' respective 53-man rosters and contribute in their own ways each weekend.
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The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they're here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league and write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
Further: To get back to the true origins of the PSPR, which were to highlight young players, I won't be featuring "veterans" this season. Selecting someone like Phillip Dorsett -- currently on the Broncos practice squad -- would not embody the fundamental intention of The PSPR.
So for the sake of the Practice Squad Power Rankings' dignity, I'll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, third-year players, or fourth-year pros. Players drafted from 2020 on. That's it.
What I'm asking of you as a loyal PSPR patron -- alert me on X/Twitter @ChrisTrapasso if you see a tweet about a PSPR getting The Call so I can add to The CUT.
Here's to an electric season here at The Practice Squad Power Rankings as we continue to carve our own niche in the Internet's ever-expanding football-media industry.
10. Lonnie Phelps, EDGE, Browns
The Browns don't appear to need defensive line help whatsoever after their demolition of the Bengals offensive front to start the season. But if they do so happen to want an outside pass-rushing jolt, Phelps is waiting patiently on the practice squad. At Kansas in 2022, after amazing quarterback-disrupting productivity at Miami of Ohio, Phelps was again a menace around the corner. I love his ability to use powerful hands while bending the edge.
9. Michael Ojemudia, CB, Rams
I vividly recall scouting Ojemudia at Iowa, and he felt like the next in an incredibly long line of well-coached future NFL starters from that program. While he never fully materialized into that in Denver, his rookie season wasn't a total waste -- 62 tackles and six pass breakups -- he was injured all last season. In a zone-based role, Ojemudia can return to his Hawkeye roots as a playmaker. At Iowa, he defended 15 passes and had six interceptions in his final two seasons.
8. DeWayne McBride, RB, Vikings
After the Cam Akers trade, I lost all hope for McBride being elevated to the Vikings 53-man roster, which, to me, could still use a jolt of fresh rushing talent. McBride isn't going to hit 90-yard touchdowns, but there are only a select few legitimate game-breakers at the running back position in today's NFL. He's naturally elusive with light feet and sturdy contact balance.
7. Matthew Butler, DL, Raiders
A fifth-round pick by the Raiders just a year ago, Butler should be on this 53-man roster already. It's The Maxx Crosby Show through two weeks, and not much else defensively. Butler's Tennessee film had me instantly writing "plays with his hair on fire," thanks to his intense motor and powerful hands at the point of attack. Las Vegas needs another jolt along the defensive line, Butler can provide that.
6. Matt Landers, WR, Panthers
Landers landing in Carolina after inexplicably spending a few days as a free agent? Totally disrespectful to a 6-foot-4, 200-pound high-level producer in the SEC with sub 4.40 speed. And Carolina needs all the receiving reinforcement it can get. Adam Thielen can't carry the passing offense every week like he did last Sunday. Landers is a field-stretcher with enough power through press coverage to combat physicality at the line. Call him up, Frank. Then you'll have a nice little Sunday in Week 4.
5. Seth Williams, WR, Jaguars
Williams is a classic, big-bodied, physical boundary wideout who saw a plethora of future NFL cornerbacks in the SEC while at Auburn. While he did flame out at Denver -- with brutal quarterback play there, I must add -- he had seven grabs for 109 yards in the preseason with Jacksonville this August and registered 10 catches for 104 yards with a score with the Broncos in three exhibition games a year ago.
Jacksonville's offense has been flat since Week 1. It's time to give Williams an opportunity.
4. Raymond Johnson III, EDGE, Lions
Of course, the PSPR were born out of an innate desire to highlight underappreciated players, and it's hard to get more underappreciated than Johnson. A Georgia Southern alum, he's right around 6-2 and 260 pounds and went undrafted in 2021. Since then, he's rocked in three-consecutive preseasons with eight pressures in each of them. In 2023, the wins were outrageously good. The Bengals decided against keeping him, and, astutely, the Lions jumped on the chance to obtain his services. Johnson simply knows how to beat blockers with calculated pass-rush moves and leveraged power.
3. Brandon Joseph, S, Lions
The Lions turned to Joseph in Week 3, but it's time he gets some looks on defense. Beyond Chauncey Gardner-Johnson being out, Kerby Joseph isn't 100%. Look, Joseph didn't test particularly well at the combine, yet his film showed a heady three-down back-end defender. He had 10 interceptions and 155 tackles in his final three seasons in college.
2. Mykal Walker, LB, Raiders
OK, what in the world happened with Walker? This man went over 100 tackles with six pass breakups and two interceptions on the Falcons defense a season ago. No, Atlanta's defense wasn't awesome last season. But that type of productivity at the linebacker position in today's NFL is not something any team should take for granted. After playing for the Bears in the preseason, he's now with the Raiders. Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo are actually two semi-decent second-level defenders -- and Deablo has upside. But, come on, Walker is one of the 53-best players on this roster. Josh McDaniels has to know that.
1. Darius Rush, CB, Chiefs
Do the Chiefs need cornerback help right now? No, not necessarily. Did I love Rush as a prospect? Majorly. I can feel the adrenaline surging through my body as I'm preparing to type this sentence -- Rush is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound SEC cornerback with arms nearly 34 inches long who boasts 4.36 speed. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. OK, so he allowed some catches in the preseason. I do not care. In his last two seasons at South Carolina, Rush countered the six touchdowns credited to his coverage area with 15 pass breakups and three interceptions. He was built to play boundary corner in the NFL.
Davis was a PS call-up in Week 3 for the Texans. And he balled out with four quarterback pressures on just 22 pass-rushing opportunities. An electric straight-line athlete for the defensive tackle position, Davis has the enviable ability to get up the field in a hurry, through blockers.
Whiteheart was a blast of a YAC specialist at Wake Forest over the past few years, and he flashed in the preseason. The Cardinals roster is the most underwhelming in the NFL, so don't be surprised if he's one of the first call-ups of the year.
Cropper was a tiny, bouncy, big-play waiting to happen at Fresno State in 2022. He had 80-plus grabs in each of his final seasons for the Bulldogs and scored 16 touchdowns. Being that productive of a touchdown-creator at 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds indicates Cropper is a gifted separator. That indication is correct. He's sudden at all three levels.
Rayshad Nichols, DT, Ravens
Nichols is a wide-bodied force on the interior. He just feels like a Ravens defensive tackle. He did miss some tackles in the preseason, but I love his ability to shed blocks and get upfield when needed at 6-foot-3 and 305-310 pounds.
Patmon was a seventh-round pick by the Colts a few years ago, and has an intriguing size-speed profile at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds with 4.48 speed. In Buffalo this summer, Patmon enjoyed a strong camp, as he had three grabs for 35 yards and touchdown against his former team to begin the preseason.
Austin Watkins Jr., WR, Browns
Watkins led all players in receiving yards during the regular season, and I remember him being a blast at UAB. Decently twitchy -- despite a blah workout -- Watkins can eventually contribute for someone this season. He's strong in contested-catch scenarios, too.