The days of the NFL draft are always filled with hope. Seventh round draft choices are seen as “the answer” to a team’s woes and undrafted free agents are virtual sure things. Reality sets in during training camp. That seventh round choice isn’t quite as good as you thought, your prized rookie suffers an injury that slows his progress and so on. The contribution of a rookie class comes down to a few key determinants: the player’s ability, the speed of the player in adjusting to the pro game, avoiding injury and the opportunities to replace a holdover starter. A poor team, of course, can be expected to have more opportunities for a rookie to start than a good team.
So how is 2013 shaping up so far? DRAFTMETRICS, using data from the NFL, summarized the number of plays in which rookies (both drafted and undrafted) participated in over the first four weeks of the season. These numbers are plays from scrimmage and exclude special teams.
It should be noted that the Packers and Panthers have played only three games, so their totals are misleading. The number of plays in parentheses for each is the conversion of their three-game rookie plays into an equivalent four-game number.
As can be seen above the Bills have had by far the greatest contributions from rookies. The Bills have had three rookies (E J Manuel, Kiki Alonso and Robert Woods) start each of the first four games and a fourth rookie (Nickell Robey) who has seen significant action.
The Jaguars trail the Bills but Jonathan Cyprien, Luke Joeckel, Josh Evans and Ace Sanders have all seen significant playing time.
The Browns and Broncos have had the least help from rookies. Only Barkevious Mingo has seen modest playing time for the Browns and the Broncos have received even more modest help from Montee Ball and Kayvon Webster. The Broncos, of course, have done just fine without much help with rookies.
DRAFTMETRICS also took a look at the progress of first round draft choices. The following shows the number of games played, number of games started and number of scrimmage plays for each first round selection.
16 of the 32 first round picks have started all of their team’s games. Excluding the injured Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams and Cordarrelle Patterson have seen the least amount of action with 43 plays each.