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2013 Dallas Cowboys Rookies: How Much Will They Contribute In Their Rookie Year?

The Cowboys haven't seen much from their rookie draft class outside of rookie minicamp yet. But with OTAs kicking off next week, the Cowboys will get a better mental picture of where the 2013 rookie class stands, and how much it could potentially contribute to the Cowboys' 2013 season.


When we talk about the contribution of a rookie class, we typically talk about receiving yards, rushing yards or any other volume measure that's used for a specific position. But let's start with the most basic question first:

How much playing time will the 2013 rookie class get during the season?

Assuming all seven rookies make the 53-man roster this year, they'd make up 13.2% of the players on the roster. How many snaps should the 2013 rookie class get? 13% is probably too high, they are rookies after all. Is 10% a realistic target, or is that also too much? 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. We're now going to look at the last five draft classes too see how much playing time Cowboys rookies have gotten over the years. Here's an overview of the '08, '09 and '10 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 2010 Draft Class
Position Name Total Snaps
Position Name Total Snaps
Position Name Total Snaps
DB Orlando Scandrick 395 TE John Phillips 198 WR Dez Bryant 429
TE Martellus Bennett 389 LB Victor Butler 112 DT Josh Brent 169
DB Mike Jenkins 379 DB Michael Hamlin 10 LB Sean Lee 169
RB Tashard Choice 267 DT Sean Lissemore 9
RB Felix Jones 66
Total Rookie snaps 1,496 Total Rookie snaps 320 Total Rookie snaps 607
Rookies in % of total snaps 6.5% Rookies in % of total snaps 1.4% Rookies in % of total snaps 3.7%

The 2008 draft class was the "richest" draft class in the last six years in that the Cowboys had two first round picks and a second rounder. Interesting point here is that fifth-round pick Orlando Scandrick got more snaps than both first rounders (Jones & Jenkins) and the second rounder (Bennett) and now is the only member of that draft class left on the roster. In their rookie seasons, 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 6.5% of the total 2008 snaps, a figure that is probably a little disappointing given that the Cowboys had three picks in the first two rounds.

Just how bad the 2009 class was is highlighted here once again: 12 draft picks played in a frighteningly low 320 snaps, just 1.4% of the total team snaps. Sadly, that draft class didn't even turn up any particularly good special teamers either.

The 2010 class saw its snap totals cut short by Dez Bryant fracturing his ankle in Week 13. Sean Lee also had a lot less snaps than one could reasonably have expected 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. Josh Brent, supplemental draft pick in 2010, gives this draft class a little boost, but the 3.7% first-year snap count is far from impressive. Thankfully, Bryant and Lee came on much stronger in subsequent years or this draft class could have turned into a fiasco similar to the 2009 class.

Next up, the '11 and '12 draft classes:

2011 Draft Class
2012 Draft Class
Position Name Total Snaps
Position Name Total Snaps
T Tyron Smith 1,074 CB Morris Claiborne 909
RB DeMarco Murray 388 DE Tyrone Crawford 303
C Bill Nagy 283 TE James Hanna 109
LB Bruce Carter 41 OLB Kyle Wilber 16
RB Shaun Chapas 8
WR Dwayne Harris 1
Total Rookie snaps 1,795 Total Rookie snaps 1,337
Rookies in % of total snaps 7.6% Rookies in % of total snaps 5.5%

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 six years, notching a solid 7.6% of all offensive and defensive snaps.

The Cowboys gave up their second-round pick in 2012 to draft Morris Claiborne, and given that missing pick, the snap-count total of 5.5% is actually quite good for a draft class from which three players ended up on IR and a fourth, Kyle Wilber, also hardly saw the field.

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 2013 rookie class?

One of the interesting aspects about this year's draft class is that almost every 2013 draft pick has an equivalent pick in one of the last five drafts.

First round offensive lineman? Check

Second round tight end? Check

Slot corner, late-round safety, late-round RB, late-round LB? Check, check, check, check. The only pick without a direct equivalent is third-round wide receiver Terrance Williams. So with that in mind, let's take a stab at projecting the 2013 snapcounts for this year's draft class:

2013 Draft Class Snap Count Projection
Position Name Equiv. Player
Projected Snaps
OC Travis Frederick Tyron Smith ('10)
TE Gavin Escobar Martellus Bennet ('08) 389
WR Terrance Williams Dwayne Harris* ('12)
CB B.W. Webb Orlando Scandrick ('08)
S J.J. Wilcox Every late-round DB
RB Joseph Randle Tashard Choice ('08)
OLB DeVonte Holloman Kyle Wilber ('12)
Total Rookie snaps 2,405
Rookies in % of total snaps (est.: 23.500)

Obviously, the "equivalent players" are equivalent for the purposes of the snapcount only. This projection also assumes that there won't be any injuries to the seven draft picks. You may want to reduce the total number of projected snaps to adjust for that. The bulk of the snaps here are projected to go to Travis Frederick, and he also projects as the only starter in this class - if five years worth of Cowboys drafts are anything to go by. Terrance Williams was difficult to slot, so I gave him Dwayne Harris' snap count from last year, when Harris was battling Ogletree (474 snaps) for the third wide receiver spot.

Sad news for J.J. Wilcox fans: outside of slot corner Orlando Scandrick, the seven late-round defensive backs picked over the last five years (Mike Mickens, Michael Hamlin, DeAngelo Smith, Jamar Wall, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Josh Thomas and Matt Johnson) played a combined 10 snaps (Michael Hamlin in '09) in their rookie seasons. The odds are stacked against Wilcox breaking out of that cycle. Joseph Randle could get a lot of snaps despite his late-round pedigree, as he looks likely to spell DeMarco Murray and could be an injury fill-in, just like Choice was in 2010.

Overall though, barring significant injuries, this draft class could potentially challenge for some serious playing time if you use the past five drafts as a measuring stick.

What's your take? What snap percentage would you expect from the 2013 rookie class?

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