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2015 Dallas Cowboys Rookies: How Much Will They Contribute In Their Rookie Year?

With eight draft picks and one super-premium undrafted free agent, there is no doubt that the Cowboys have improved the overall quality of their roster. But how much can we expect this rookie class to contribute to the Cowboys' 2015 season?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we asked the BTB readers Which Cowboys Rookie Will Have The Best Season. As I'm writing this, 1,644 votes have been tallied in the poll attached to the post, and La'el Collins (36%) emerged as the favorite ahead of Randy Gregory (31%) and Byron Jones (27%). And that vote highlights a a very real possibility: The Cowboys could begin the season with three rookie starters.

When we talk about the contribution of a rookie class, we typically talk about receiving yards, sacks, 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 2015 rookie class get during the 2015 season?

Let's start with some basic math first. Assuming all eight draft picks (plus La'el Collins) make the 53-man roster this year, they'd make up 17% of the players on the roster. So how many snaps should the 2015 rookie class get? 17% is way too high, they are rookies after all. Is ten percent 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 an appropriate percentage would be.

We're now going to look at the last eight draft classes too see how much playing time Cowboys rookies have gotten over the years. Here's an overview of the 2007-10 rookie 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.

2007 Rookie Class 2008 Rookie Class 2009 Rookie Class 2010 Rookie Class
POS Name Total Snaps
POS Name Total Snaps
POS Name Total Snaps
POS Name Total Snaps
OLB A. Spencer 422 DB O. Scandrick 395 TE J. Phillips 198 WR D. Bryant 429
OG C. Procter* 174 TE M. Bennett 389 LB V. Butler 112 FB C. Gronkowski* 336
FB D. Anderson 136 DB M. Jenkins 379 WR K. Ogletree* 44 DL J. Brent 256
DT R. Ayodele* 56 RB T. Choice 267 DB M. Hamlin 10 LB S. Lee 169
DB C. Brown 35 RB F. Jones 66 DB B. McCann 146
CB A. Ball 24 DB T. Battle* 45 DB B. Church* 119
OT D. Free 17 OL P. Costa* 109
Others 15 Others* 63
* denotes UDFAs
Rookie snaps 879 Rookie snaps 1,542 Rookie snaps 364 Rookie snaps 1,629
In % of total 3.8% In % of total 6.7% In % of total 1.5% In % of total 6.9%

The 2008 draft class was the "richest" draft class in the last eight years in that the Cowboys had two first-round picks and a second-rounder. But those riches didn't translate into a lot of snaps - or core players for the Cowboys. Orlando Scandrick got more snaps than both first rounders (Jones & Jenkins) and the second-rounder (Bennett), and Scandrick is the only member of that draft class left on the roster.

Jokes about the 2009 class stopped being funny a long time ago. That rookie class combined for a frighteningly low 364 snaps, just 1.5% of the total team snaps. And 2007 wasn't much better, though the claim to fame for that class is that Doug Free is still with the Cowboys.

The 2010 class saw its snap totals cut short by injuries to Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. Josh Brent, supplemental draft pick in 2010, as well as a bunch of UDFAs gave this rookie class a little boost.

Next up, the 2011-14 rookie classes:

2011 Rookie Class
2012 Rookie Class
2013 Rookie Class
2014 Rookie Class
Pos Name Total Snaps
Pos Name Total Snaps
Pos Name Total Snaps
Pos Name Total Snaps
T T. Smith 1,074 CB M.Claiborne 909 C T. Frederick 1,025 OG Z. Martin
RB D. Murray 388 DE T. Crawford 303 WR T. Williams 700 LB A. Hitchens 541
C B. Nagy 283 WR C. Beasley 128* S J. Heath* 613 DE D. Lawrence 223
C K. Kowalski* 114 TE J. Hanna 109 S J.J. Wilcox 530 WR D. Street 150
RB P. Tanner* 50 RB L. Dunbar 91* LB D. Holloman 214 DT K. Bishop 66
LB A. Albright* 44 DE B. Bass 26* TE G. Escobar 207 CB T. Patmon* 74
LB B. Carter 41 OLB K. Wilber 16 CB B.W. Webb 185 DT D. Coleman 53
FB S. Chapas 8 RB J. Randle 120 LB K. Smith 42
WR D. Harris 1 LB C. Lawrence* 63
DL E. Dawkins* 20
S J. Hamilton* 17
Total Rookie snaps 2,004 Total Rookie snaps 1,582 Total Rookie snaps 3,694 Total Rookie snaps 2,225
Rookies in % of total snaps 8.5% Rookies in % of total snaps 6.5% Rookies in % of total snaps 15.3% Rookies in % of total snaps 9.5%

The 2011 started a four-year trend where the first pick notched around 1,000 snaps in his rookie season, with Tyron Smith playing all but six offensive snaps in 2011. This class effectively played without second-round pick Bruce Carter, and both DeMarco Murray's as well as Bill Nagy's seasons were cut short by fractured ankles, but on the strength of Tyron Smith, this rookie class walks away with the highest total snap count yet, notching a solid 8.5% of all offensive and defensive snaps.

In 2012 the Cowboys gave up their second-round pick to draft Morris Claiborne, and given that missing pick, the snap-count total of 6.5% is actually quite good for a rookie class from which three players ended up on IR (Danny Coale, Matt Johnson, Caleb McSurdy) and a fourth, Kyle Wilber, also hardly saw the field.

In 2013, the Cowboys' decision to move down in the draft paid handsome dividends in that they got 16 starts from Travis Frederick, and an extra eight from Terrance Williams. These two rookies headlined a rookie class that played almost twice as many snaps as the next best class of the previous six years. Easily the best rookie class since 2007.

The 2014 rookie class couldn't match the snap count of the previous year's class, hampered in part by DeMarcus Lawrence's injury and the missing third-round pick needed to get Lawrence. But Anthony Hitchens proved to be a fourth-round steel, and notched the second-most snaps of any Cowboys linebacker last year.

If you look at the percentages for 2007-2010 (they average to 4.7%), you begin to understand why the Cowboys stumbled to three successive 8-8 years. And when you then look at the 2011-2014 percentage (10.0%) you've got to like what the future holds for the Cowboys.


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 2015 rookie class?

One of the interesting aspects about this year's rookie class is that almost every 2015 rookie has an equivalent rookie in one of the last eight drafts.

First-round corner? Check.

Second-day defensive end? Check.

Offensive lineman with a first-round grade? Check.

Mid-round OL, third-day LB, late-round DE, late-round TE? Check, check, check, check. So with that in mind, let's take a stab at projecting the 2015 snapcounts for this year's draft class, using only equivalent rookies from the last eight rookie classes:

2015 Draft Class Snap Count Projection
Position Name Equiv. Player
Projected Snaps
CB Byron Jones Morris Claiborne ('12) 909
DE Randy Gregory Anthony Spencer ('07) 422
OT Chaz Green David Arkin ('11) 0
LB Damien Wilson Devonte Holloman ('12) 214
DE Ryan Russell Josh Brent ('10) 256
LB Mark Nzeocha Kyle Wilber ('12) 16
OT Laurence Gibson Ronald Leary ('12) 0
TE Geoff Swaim James Hanna ('12) 109
OG La'el Collins Zack Martin ('14) 1076
Total Rookie snaps 3,002
Rookies in % of total snaps (est.: 23.500)

Obviously, the "equivalent players" are equivalent for the purposes of the snap count only. This projection also assumes that there won't be any injuries to the nine 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 La'el Collins and Byron Jones. Randy Gregory gets the 422 snaps from Anthony Spencer's rookie season, which is almost twice the 223 snaps DeMarcus Lawrence got in his eight games last year. And you never know who else might be called on from this rookie class

Overall, the 3,002 snaps projected here would be the second-most of any of the last eight rookie classes, which would be a pretty big positive.

With all of that in mind, what's your take? What snap percentage would you expect from the 2015 rookie class?

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