In case you weren’t aware, the NHL’s newest team—the Seattle Kraken—is having their expansion draft this Wednesday, with the event causing plenty of excitement and discussion in the hockey world.
Now, how does this relate to football? Well, it technically doesn’t. However, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what an NFL expansion would look like in this day and age.
The current NHL expansion has rules in place that allow teams to keep seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie (as well as players on rookie contracts). There are a few other complications involved, but that’s basically the gist of it. Teams can (and will) also unload salaries to new teams along with assets to entice them, but moves like this are much more common in hockey and basketball than football.
All in all, an NFL expansion draft is much trickier to design, mostly because of the number of players on a roster (53) and the important and irreplaceable nature of the QB position.
The sheer quantity of athletes on rookie contracts is also something that needs to be considered. All NFL draft picks have to play right away, whereas the majority of NHL players stay in developmental leagues in their early careers. With this being the case, we can’t just say that every player on a rookie deal would be protected in expansion—it would be unfair to the new team.
With all these factors, I came up with the following rules for my imaginary draft:
- 7 offensive players (Up to 1 QB)
- 8 defensive players (Including K/P)
- First-year players are exempt (Rookies)
- Draft 1 offensive player from each current NFL team
- Draft 1 defensive player (or K/P) from each current NFL team
- Need to fit under salary cap ($182.5 million)
Keep in Mind
Assembling a functional roster isn’t as easy as simply taking the best player(s) from every team. You need a combination of veterans, developmental players, youthful assets, and versatile depth pieces. You also need to account for positional value (it probably won’t be very beneficial to protect many running backs, etc.)
Here are my protection and selection picks for all 32 franchises. Given the depth and talent on certain rosters, choosing certain protections was truly a toss-up, particularly on the defensive end. Let’s just say that the coin I use to make tough decisions got a solid workout in.
Protected Offense: Russell Wilson, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Duane Brown, Chris Carson, Damien Lewis, Gabe Jackson
Protected Defense: Poona Ford, Jamal Adams, Marquise Blair, Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Quandre Diggs, Akhello Witherspoon, D.J. Reed
Expansion Draft Options: Rashaad Penny, Ethan Pocic, Rasheem Green, Cody Barton, Darrell Taylor, Josh Myers, Michael Dickson
Selections: Ethan Pocic, Darrell Taylor
Protected Offense: Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Rob Havenstein, Cam Akers, Andrew Whitworth, David Edwards
Protected Defense: Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, Darious Williams, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Jordan Fuller, Micah Kiser, Johnny Hekker
Expansion Draft Options: Van Jefferson, Austin Corbett, Tyler Higbee, Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, David Long, A’Shawn Robinson
Selections: Tyler Higbee, Taylor Rapp
Protected Offense: Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, D.J. Humphries, Chase Edmonds, Rodney Hudson, Justin Pugh
Protected Defense: Isaiah Simmons, Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt, Byron Murphy, Zach Allen, Malcolm Butler, Budda Baker, Markus Golden
Expansion Draft Options: Josh Jones, Andy Isabella, James Conner, A.J. Green, Jordan Hicks, Leki Fotu, Robert Alford, Matt Prater, Jordan Phillips
Selections: Josh Jones, Matt Prater
Protected Offense: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk, Alex Mack
Protected Defense: Fred Warner, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Nick Bosa, D.J. Jones, Dre Greenlaw, Jason Verrett, Jimmie Ward
Expansion Draft Options: Jimmy Garoppolo, Daniel Brunskill, Laken Tomlinson, Raheem Mostert, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Dee Ford
Selections: Laken Tomlinson, K’Waun Williams
Protected Offense: Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Brian O’Neill, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland
Protected Defense: Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Cameron Dantzler, Patrick Peterson
Expansion Draft Options: Mason Cole, Dakota Dozier, Alexander Mattison, Bashaud Breeland, Sheldon Richardson, Mackenzie Alexander
Selections: Alexander Mattison, Sheldon Richardson
Protected Offense: Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Elgton Jenkins, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan Jr.
Protected Defense: Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage, Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith, J.K. Scott, Rashan Gary, Preston Smith
Expansion Draft Options: Jordan Love, A.J. Dillon, Mason Crosby, Oren Burks, De’Vondre Campbell, Kevin King, Kamal Martin, Dean Lowry, Kevin King
Selections: Jordan Love, Kevin King
Protected Offense: Jared Goff, D’Andre Swift, Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, T.J. Hockenson, Quintez Cephus, Jonah Jackson
Protected Defense: Trey Flowers, Michael Brockers, Jeff Okudah, Romeo Okwara, Tracy Walker, Amani Oruwariye, Jahlani Tavai, Jamie Collins
Expansion Draft Options: Jamaal Williams, Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Crosby, Da’Shawn Hand, John Penisini, Will Harris, Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Selections: Tyrell Crosby, Da’Shawn Hand
Protected Offense: Andy Dalton, Allen Robinson, David Montgomery, Darnell Mooney, Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Cole Kmet
Protected Defense: Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Robert Quinn, Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Goldman
Expansion Draft Options: Tarik Cohen, Germain Ifedi, Nick Foles, Tashaun Gipson, Desmond Trufant, Mario Edwards Jr., Bilal Nichols
Selections: Tarik Cohen, Tashaun Gipson
Washington Football Team
Protected Offense: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Antonio Gibson, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Logan Thomas
Protected Defense: Chase Young, Da’Ron Payne, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, William Jackson III, Jimmy Moreland, Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis
Expansion Draft Options: J.D. McKissic, Taylor Heinicke, Ereck Flowers, Kendall Fuller, Kamren Curl, Cole Holcomb, Tress Way
Selections: J.D. McKissic, Kamren Curl
Protected Offense: Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, Ceedee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Tyler Biadasz
Protected Defense: Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Trevon Diggs, Leighton Vander Esch, Neville Gallimore, Jourdan Lewis, Keanu Neal
Expansion Draft Options: Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, Jaylon Smith, Brent Urban, Trysten Hill, Carlos Watkins, Greg Zuerlein
Selections: Michael Gallup, Trysten Hill
Protected Offense: Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez, Sterling Shepard
Protected Defense: Dexter Lawrence, James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Williams, Darnay Holmes, Blake Martinez, Xavier McKinney
Expansion Draft Options: Shane Lemieux, Evan Engram, Matt Peart, Nick Gates, Adoree’ Jackson, Lorenzo Carter, Julian Love
Selections: Shane Lemieux, Adoree’ Jackson
Protected Offense: Jalen Hurts, Jalen Reagor, Dallas Goedert, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Miles Sanders
Protected Defense: Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Anthony Harris, Darius Slay, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, Avonte Maddox
Expansion Draft Options: Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumelo, Boston Scott, Rodney McLeod, Ryan Kerrigan, Marcus Epps, T.J. Edwards
Selections: Andre Dillard, Ryan Kerrigan
Protected Offense: Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz
Protected Defense: Demario Davis, Marcus Williams, Cameron Jordan, Marcus Lattimore, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Wil Lutz
Expansion Draft Options: Taysom Hill, Andrus Peat, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Zack Baun, P.J. Williams, Malcolm Jenkins
Selections: Deonte Harris, Zack Baun
Protected Offense: Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Jake Matthews, Matt Hennessy, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Hayden Hurst
Protected Defense: A.J. Terrell, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, Mykal Walker, Younghoe Koo, Kendall Scheffield, Foyesade Oluokun, Dante Fowler Jr.
Expansion Draft Options: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Erik Harris, Isaiah Oliver, Marlon Davidson, Tyeler Davidson
Selections: Mike Davis, Marlon Davidson
Protected Offense: Sam Darnold, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Taylor Moton, Ian Thomas, Matt Paradis
Protected Defense: Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jeremy Chinn, Donte Jackson, Shaq Thompson, Haason Reddick, Troy Pride Jr.
Expansion Draft Options: David Moore, Trenton Cannon, Pat Elflein, Cameron Erving, Denzel Perryman, Juston Burris, Brayvion Roy, Delano Hill, Morgan Fox
Selections: David Moore, Morgan Fox
Protected Offense: Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Tristan Wirfs, Chris Godwin, Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Ryan Jensen
Protected Defense: Vita Vea, Devin White, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Antoine Winfield Jr.
Expansion Draft Options: O.J. Howard, Antonio Brown, Donovan Smith, Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, Ndamukong Suh, Jamel Dean, Jordan Whitehead, William Gholston
Selections: O.J. Howard, Ndamukong Suh
Protected Offense: Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Daryl Williams, Cole Beasley
Protected Defense: Ed Oliver, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes
Expansion Draft Options: Gabriel Davis, Jon Feliciano, Devin Singletary, Dawson Knox, Zack Moss, A.J. Epenesa, Levi Wallace, Vernon Butler, Star Lotulelei
Draft Picks: Gabriel Davis, A.J. Epenesa
Protected Offense: Jonnu Smith, Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Hunter Henry
Protected Defense: Matt Judon, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Chase Winovich, Kyle Dugger, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux
Expansion Draft Options: Cam Newton, Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Deatrich Wise Jr.
Selections: Cam Newton, Josh Uche
Protected Offense: Tua Tagovailoa, Will Fuller, Austin Jackson, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley
Protected Defense: Raekwon Davis, Xavier Howard, Byron Jones, Eric Rowe, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, Noah Igbinoghene
Expansion Draft Options: Matt Skura, Preston Williams, Myles Gaskin, Jacoby Brissett, Christian Wilkins, Benardrick McKinney, Justin Coleman, Jason Sanders
Draft Picks: Preston Williams, Christian Wilkins
Protected Offense: Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, Mekhi Becton, Jamison Crowder, Morgan Moses, Connor McGovern, George Fant
Protected Defense: Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, Blake Cashman, C.J. Mosley, Ashtyn Davis, Marcus Maye, Bryce Hall,
Expansion Draft Options: Chris Herndon, Keenan Cole, Chuma Edoga, Lamical Perine,, Blessaun Austin, Lamarcus Joyner, Nathan Shepard, Jabari Zuniga
Selections: Keenan Cole, Lamarcus Joyner
Protected Offense: Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga, Jalen Guyton
Protected Defense: Joey Bosa, Linval Joseph, Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Kenneth Murray, Michael Davis, Jerry Tillery, Uchenna Nwosu
Expansion Draft Options: Oday Aboushi, Matt Feiler, Tyron Johnson, Trey Pipkins, Justin Jackson, Justin Jones, Kyzir White, Chris Harris Jr.
Selections: Oday Aboushi, Chris Harris Jr.
Protected Offense: Drew Lock, Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton, Noah Fant, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Graham Glasgow, Dalton Risner
Protected Defense: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Malik Reed, Josey Jewell, Shelby Harris
Expansion Draft Options: Melvin Gordon, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Garett Bolles, Bryce Callahan, McTelvin Agim, Alexander Johnson, Ronald Darby
Selections: Garett Bolles, Bryce Callahan
Protected Offense: Derek Carr, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Joshua Jacobs
Protected Defense: Trayvon Mullen, Corey Littleton, Yannick Ngakoue, Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Abram, Nicholas Morrow, Damon Arnette, Jonathan Hankins
Expansion Draft Options: Marcus Mariota, Kenyan Drake, Denzelle Good, Bryan Edwards, John Brown, Clelin Ferrell, Nick Kwiatkowski, Quinton Jefferson, Karl Joseph
Selections: Denzelle Good, Quinton Jefferson
Protected Offense: Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Joe Thuney, Orlando Brown
Protected Defense: Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, L’Jarius Sneed, Juan Thornhill, Derrick Nnadi, Daniel Sorensen, Jarran Reed, Willie Gay Jr.
Expansion Draft Options: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mecole Hardman, Austin Blythe, Lucas Niang, Anthony Hitchens, Mike Hughes, Taco Charlton, Charvarius Ward
Selections: Lucas Niang, Anthony Hitchens
Protected Offense: Deshaun Watson*, Brandin Cooks, Laremy Tunsil, Keke Coutee, Max Scharping, Tytus Howard, Marcus Cannon
Protected Defense: Charles Omenihu, Ross Blacklock, Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, Shaq Lawson, Justin Reid, Bradley Roby, John Reid
Expansion Draft Options: Tyrod Taylor, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Justin Britt, Lane Taylor, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Desmond King, Jonathan Greenard, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Christian Kirksey
Selections: Tyrod Taylor, Jonathan Greenard
Protected Offense: Carson Wentz, Jack Doyle, Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Braden Smith
Protected Defense: DeForest Buckner, Kenny Moore II, Darius Leonard, Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, Kemoko Turay, Rock Ya-Sin, Bobby Okereke
Expansion Draft Options: Mark Glowinski, T.Y. Hilton, Nyheim Hines, Parris Campbell, Grover Stewart, George Odum, Tyquan Lewis, Xavier Rhodes
Selections: Mark Glowinski, Grover Stewart
Protected Offense: James Robinson, D.J. Chark, Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Laviska Shenault Jr.
Protected Defense: K’Lavon Chaisson, C.J. Henderson, Josh Allen, Shaquill Griffin, Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, Dawaune Smoot, Davon Hamilton
Expansion Draft Options: Gardner Minshew II, Jawaan Taylor, Marvin Jones Jr., Andrew Wingard, Sidney Jones IV, Tre Herndon, Taven Bryan
Selections: Jawaan Taylor, Sidney Jones IV
Protected Offense: Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Taylor Lewan, Nate Davis, Rodger Saffold
Protected Defense: Jeffery Simmons, Kevin Byard, Bud Dupree, Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry, Amani Hooker, Jayon Brown, Denico Autry
Expansion Draft Options: Josh Reynolds, Ben Jones, Anthony Firkser, Larrell Murchison, Kristian Fulton, Janoris Jenkins, Dane Cruickshank
Selections: Ben Jones, Kristian Fulton
Protected Offense: Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb, Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio, Jedrick Wills Jr., J.C. Tretter
Protected Defense: Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, John Johnson III, Grant Delpit, Andrew Billings, Ronnie Harrison, Greedy Williams, Jadeveon Clowney
Expansion Draft Options: Kareem Hunt, Jack Conklin, Jarvis Landry, Chris Hubbard, Austin Hooper, Jacob Phillips, Anthony Walker, Mack Wilson
Selections: Jack Conklin, Jacob Phillips
Protected Offense: Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Mark Andrews, Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villaneuva
Protected Defense: Calais Campbell, Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Queen, Marcus Peters, Brandon Williams, Deshon Elliott, Justin Tucker, Tyus Bowser
Expansion Draft Options: Marquise Brown, Nick Boyle, Ben Powers, Gus Edwards, Sammy Watkins, Derek Wolfe, Chuck Clark, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett
Selections: Marquise Brown, Chuck Clark
Protected Offense: Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Chukwuma Okorafor, Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, Juju Smith-Schuster, Eric Ebron
Protected Defense: T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Devin Bush Jr., Minkah Fitzpatrick, Stephon Tuitt, Vince Williams, Terrell Edmunds, Cameron Sutton
Expansion Draft Options: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, B.J. Finney, Zach Banner, James Washington, Joe Haden, Alex Highsmith, Tyson Alualu, Robert Spillane
Selections: James Washington, Alex Highsmith
Protected Offense: Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, Jonah Williams, Trey Hopkins, Riley Reiff
Protected Defense: Trey Hendrickson, Jessie Bates III, Larry Ogunjobi, D.J. Reader, Sam Hubbard, Trae Waynes, Von Bell, Mike Hilton
Expansion Draft Options: Drew Sample, Auden Tate, Quinton Spain, Brandon Allen, Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Darius Phillips, Mike Daniels, Chidobe Awuzie
Selections: Drew Sample, Germaine Pratt
Projected Depth Chart
No, this team isn’t a world-beater, but it’s a roster that can win about five to six games in a best-case scenario. Given the nature of the NFL and the fairly strict rules attached to this mock exercise, that’s a victory.
After all, this isn’t the NHL where depth can be more valuable than star power, or where goalies across the league are incredibly similar in overall play. It’s a league that relies on its franchise passers, stud wide receivers, and lockdown corners.
Depth is still very important of course—particularly on the offensive and defensive lines—and I tried to address that in this mock. I also tried to strike a balance by drafting certain players with an eye toward the future and certain players that can hold down the fort for now. But in the end, assembling a 33rd team to compete is tough. Among many other reasons, it’s why an expansion team won’t be coming to the NFL anytime soon.
Still, it’s a fun exercise and something to think about when your favorite team hits the field this year.