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2012 Dallas Cowboys Rookies: How Much Will They Contribute In Their Rookie Year?

Cowboys rookies engage in complex mathematical modeling of their 2012 performance projections as they walk off the field.
Cowboys rookies engage in complex mathematical modeling of their 2012 performance projections as they walk off the field.

The first proper Cowboys OTA's will kick off tomorrow and last through Thursday. After the recent rookie minicamp, these OTA's and the others that will follow will help us form a mental picture of where the 2012 rookie class stands, and it won't be long before we start thinking about what this year's rookie class could contribute to the Cowboys' 2012 season.

Typically we'd think of these contributions in terms of traditional performance stats. How many interceptions will Morris Claiborne get? Will Tyrone Crawford get a couple of sacks, can Danny Coale get a couple of receptions, how many special teams tackles will Matt Johnson record, etc.? There'll be a time and place where we'll ponder all these questions, but I'd like to approach the rookie contributions from a different angle.

Today I'd like to start with the most basic question of all: How much playing time will the 2012 rookie class get during the season? For argument's sake, let's assume that ten rookies make the 53-man squad this year. That would make 19% of the players on the roster rookies. How many snaps should those ten hypothetical players from the 2012 rookie class get? 19% is probably too high, they are rookies after all. Is 10% a realistic target, or is that also too much, given that the Cowboys didn't have a second round pick this year? What about five percent, would that feel too low or still too high?

Before you read on, make a mental note of what you think would be an appropriate percentage. After the break, we'll look at the past four draft classes to get a feel for what such a percentage could look like. So make like Evel Knievel, but make sure to land safely after the jump.

Here's an overview of the '08 and '09 draft classes and the number of snaps per player. The snap numbers in the tables are the offensive or defensive snaps, special teams snaps are not included.

2008 Draft Class 2009 Draft Class
Position Name Total Snaps
Position Name Total Snaps
CB Orlando Scandrick 395 FB John Phillips 198
TE Martellus Bennett 390 OLB Victor Butler 112
CB Mike Jenkins 379 WR Kevin Ogletree 44
RB Tashard Choice 266 S Michael Hamlin 10
RB Felix Jones 67
S Tra Battle 45
Total Rookie snaps 1,542 Total Rookie snaps 364
Rookies in % of total snaps
6.7% Rookies in % of total snaps

The 2008 draft class was the "richest" draft class in the last four years in that the Cowboys had two first round picks and a second rounder. Ironically, in terms of snaps, fifth-round pick Orlando Scandrick got more snaps than both first rounders (Jones & Jenkins) and the second rounder (Bennett). Mike Jenkins got caught in a crowded secondary that featured Anthony Henry, Terence Newman and Pacman Jones (when he wasn't suspended) while Felix Jones suffered a hamstring injury early in the season and later tore a ligament in his foot during rehab that landed him on IR.

Overall, the 2008 class combined to play on 6.7% of the total 2008 snaps, a figure that is probably a little disappointing considering the draft pedigree of this rookie class.

The 2009 class really isn't worth talking about, playing in only 1.6% of the offensive and defensive snaps. Man, I sure hope that class played a lot of snaps on special teams, because if we take away college free agent Kevin Ogletree, the twelve draft picks from 2009 combined for a frighteningly low 320 snaps.

Next up, the '10 and '11 draft classes:

2010 Draft Class
2011 Draft Class
Position Name Total Snaps
Position Name Total Snaps
WR Dez Bryant 431 OT Tyron Smith 1,074
FB Chris Gronkowski 336 RB DeMarco Murray 389
NT Josh Price-Brent 256 OL Bill Nagy 283
ILB Sean Lee 169 OL Kevin Kowalski 114
CB Bryan McCann 146 RB Phillip Tanner 50
S Barry Church 119 OLB Alex Albright 44
OC Phil Costa 109 ILB Bruce Carter 41
S Danny McCray 46 FB Shaun Chapas 8
DE Sean Lissemore 9 WR Dwayne Harris 1
DL Jimmy Saddler-McQueen 5
DE Clifton Geathers 3
Total Rookie snaps 1,629 Total Rookie snaps 2,004
Rookies in % of total snaps
6.9% Rookies in % of total snaps

The 2009 class saw its snap totals cut short by Dez Bryant fracturing his ankle in a week 13 game against the Colts. Sean Lee also had a lot less snaps than one could reasonably expect from a second rounder, owing in part to his recovery from a torn ACL but in part also to nagging injuries he suffered during camp and during the season that limited his effectiveness. However, the remaining players from the 2010 class contributed quite strongly to ultimately outpace the 2008 draft class with 6.9% of the total offensive and defensive snaps.

The 2011 draft class effectively played without second round pick Bruce Carter, but Tyron Smith made up for that by playing in all but six offensive snaps in 2011. Both DeMarco Murray's as well as Bill Nagy's seasons were cut short by fractured ankles, but on the strength (excuse the pun) of OT Tyron Smith, this draft class walks away with the highest total snap count of the last four years, notching a solid 8.6% of all offensive and defensive snaps.

Now that you've seen these numbers, how do these compare to the mental note you made earlier, and what snap percentage would you expect from the 2012 rookie class?


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