NFL franchises trimmed their rosters down from 90 to 53 last Tuesday. On Wednesday, general managers began finalizing their 16-man practice squads, a process that could continue throughout the weekend with minor tweaks and changes.
Practice squads have become an increasingly important element of an NFL roster ever since the league began allowing four standard game-day elevations without costing the team a roster spot.
We’ve identified the five best practice squads in the NFL heading into the 2023 regular season.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Veteran contributors always elevate the overall makeup of a practice squad. The Giants signed wide receiver Cole Beasley, who has a history with head coach Brian Daboll. We wouldn’t be surprised if Beasley suited up for the Giants in 2023. Other standouts include offensive tackle Tyre Phillips, who started five contests for the Giants last season.
Defensively, cornerback Amani Oruwariye is entering his fifth season and has nine career interceptions. Linebacker Darrian Beavers was a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Giants also held onto outside linebacker Oshane Ximines, who is a quality rotational pass rusher with 6.5 career sacks.
The Bills saw an NFL-high three players (tied with the 49ers) claimed by other teams via waivers. It signals how strong the Bills’ 90-man roster was. Despite losing some talents they would’ve preferred to stash on the practice squad, general manager Brandon Beane still put together a strong unit.
Andy Isabella was extremely productive throughout training camp and the preseason. Isabella decided to stay in Buffalo despite receiving outside offers. Veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey may be the best player on any practice squad. Kirksey has more than 700 career tackles and 14.5 sacks to his name. Elsewhere, Richard Gouraige and Ja’Marcus Ingram are young talents worth developing.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams made a draft-high 14 total selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. At the conclusion, general manager Les Snead then signed a league-high 26 undrafted free agents. Adding 40 rookies to their roster was always going to give the Rams an advantage when filling out a practice squad.
Snead also added capable veterans to his scout team. Quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Royce Freeman are experienced leaders. Linebacker Troy Reeder won Super Bowl LVI with the Rams and has amassed nearly 250 tackles. Last year’s third-round pick Logan Bruss is also on the practice squad as he continues recovering from a season-ending ACL injury.
The Browns signed a capable NFL backup quarterback, P.J. Walker, to their practice squad. Walker offers stability behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Holding onto wide receiver Austin Watkins Jr. was a major win for general manager Andrew Berry as well. Watkins led all preseason receivers in yards (257) and finished second in receptions (16).
Former first-round bust Alex Leatherwood was also a worthy addition to the Browns’ practice squad. They’ll work to restore Leatherwood’s confidence. Elsewhere, defensive tackle Trysten Hill and defensive end Isaiah Thomas are talented players who haven’t yet reached their performance ceiling.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints added a mixture of developmental and veteran offensive linemen to their practice squad. Mark Evans II is a talented rookie from Arkansas Pine-Bluff who earned a well-deserved invite to the NFL Scouting Combine. Fellow O-line additions Tommy Kraemer and Storm Norton have more than 40 games of NFL experience.
New Orleans’ defensive additions to the practice squad were even more impressive. Linebacker Jaylon Smith and safety Johnathan Abram were among the standouts. Undrafted free-agent rookie Anfernee Orji is also present. The Saints might have the most defensive talent of any practice squad in the NFL.