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2021 Dallas Cowboys rookie class snap counts falling short of previous rookie classes - so far

A look at how each of the rookies has contributed and how the 2021 rookie class measures up overall.

Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Every week here on BloggingTheBoys, our own David Howman chronicles the performance of the 2021 rookie class in his Cowboys rookie report.

And now that we’re just slightly beyond the halfway mark of the regular season, we’ll take a step back and look at the playing time contribution of the 2021 rookie class over the first nine games of the season.

Back in May, just a few days after the draft, I took a stab at predicting the playing time of the 2021 rookie class, and ended up estimating the 2021 rookies would play 12.7% of all offensive and defensive snaps this year.

In any rookie class, you’re looking for immediate contribution from your picks in the first three rounds, and while the Cowboys got probably more than they had hoped for in Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa, Kelvin Joseph started the season on IR, as did fourth-round pick Josh Ball.

Here’s on overview of the offensive and defensive snaps accumulated by the 2021 rookie class so far this season:

POS Player Draft Wk1 Wk2 Wk3 Wk4 Wk5 Wk6 Wk8 Wk9 Wk10 Total
LB Micah Parsons 1st 52 39 37 68 63 54 64 67 40 484
CB Kelvin Joseph 2nd IR IR IR IR IR IR 2 0 11 13
DT Osa Odighizuwa 3rd 36 43 33 41 41 39 49 49 31 362
DE Chauncey Golston 3rd Inactive Inactive 30 49 40 32 22 30 31 234
CB Nahshon Wright 3rd 0 0 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
LB Jabril Cox 4th 1 0 4 0 4 1 0 IR IR 10
OL Josh Ball 4th IR IR IR IR IR IR IR IR IR 0
WR Simi Fehoko 5th 0 0 4 Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive 4
DT Quinton Bohanna 6th 20 20 21 17 16 14 11 24 Inactive 143
CB Israel Mukuamu 6th Inactive DNP 4 Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive Inactive 4
OT Matt Farniok 7th 0 0 0 0 0 0 Inactive DNP 5 5
DE Azur Kamara UDFA Inactive 4 7 10 3 0 Inactive 0 10 34
FB Nick Ralston UDFA PS PS 1 0 0 0 PS PS PS 1
DT Austin Faoliu UDFA PS PS PS 13 PS PS PS PS PS 13
Total 109 106 145 199 167 140 148 170 128 1.312
In % of total snaps 6.7% 7.3% 9.8% 13.8% 10.4% 8.9% 9.7% 11.0% 8.9% 9.6%

The 2021 draft class has combined for 1,312 snaps on offense and defense, which adds up to 9.6% of all snaps the offense and defense have played in nine games.

So how does that compare to previous rookie classes? The title of this post already gave it away, the snap counts for the 2021 rookie class fall a little short of some of the more recent rookie classes. Here are the snap percentages since 2007, keeping in mind that the data from 2007-2020 is for the full rookie seasons, while the 2018 number is for the first nine games only.

'07 '08 '09 '10 '11 '12 '13 '14 '15 '16 '17 '18 '19 '20 '21
Rookie snaps in % 3.8% 6.7% 1.5% 6.9% 8.5% 6.5% 15.3% 9.5% 10.0% 13.5% 10.6% 10.2% 2.4% 14.0% 9.6%

If we assume that adding the equivalent of two starters (or 9.1% of all snaps) to the roster is a good target for a rookie class, then the Cowboys look to have been fairly successful at restocking their talent cupboard since 2013 (in ‘19, they invested their first-round pick for Amari Cooper, and he doesn’t count against the rookie totals), and the 2021 rookie class looks to have surpassed that benchmark, even if it comes in at the lower end of the percentages established by the recent draft classes - so far.

But there are still eight regular season games left to go, maybe that number will move up as some of the rookies get expanded roles.

When you ask around what constitutes a successful draft, the answer you’re most likely to get is that if you get two starters out of a rookie class, you’ve done a good job. Veteran NFL GMs like former Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome set three starters as the benchmark for a successful draft, but those three guys don’t have to be first-year starters, eventual starters in later years count as well.

Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for the Baltimore Ravens, explained Newsome’s thinking.

”If three years down the line, three of the players [Baltimore] picked in that draft were solid starters who we weren’t looking to replace, we viewed that as a successful draft,” said NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “You figure, on average, you’ve got seven picks — that’s not even batting .500, but that’s pretty good. If you can go year after year doing that, you can sustain excellence as a football team.”

Do the Cowboys have three future starters in the 2021 rookie class?

  • Micah Parsons (9 starts) is already a starter and is well on course for DROY honors.
  • Osa Odighizuwa (8 starts) looks like a future starter, but will have to face some competition from both Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill as both return to the lineup after injuries.
  • Kelvin Joseph’s draft pedigree suggests he should be a future starter, but his season was derailed by a lengthy stint on IR.
  • Beyond that, Chauncey Golston has seen extended playing time, but that hasn’t translated into a start yet.
  • Quinton Bohanna (one start) is the only other rookie with a start so far.

Those five players should be enough to keep this draft class above the 9.1% threshold by the end of the season. But it sure would be nice if the rest of the draft class steps up and moves this class more in the direction of the 2013 or 2016 rookie classes, or even last year’s rookie class: The 2020 rookie class already has five starters in CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, Tyler Biadasz, and UDFA Terence Steele.

Do you think this year’s rookie class might yield four starters next year?

In the meantime, it’s also important to recognize that many rookies have their first NFL impact on special teams. Combined, this year’s rookie class has notched 695 special teams snaps, or 26% of the total snaps.

POS Player Draft Off & DEF Snaps Special Teams Snaps
LB Micah Parsons 1st 484 7
CB Kelvin Joseph 2nd 13 50
DT Osa Odighizuwa 3rd 362 27
DE Chauncey Golston 3rd 234 42
CB Nahshon Wright 3rd 5 174
LB Jabril Cox 4th 10 123
OL Josh Ball 4th 0 0
WR Simi Fehoko 5th 4 22
DT Quinton Bohanna 6th 143 36
CB Israel Mukuamu 6th 4 8
OT Matt Farniok 7th 5 43
DE Azur Kamara UDFA 34 101
FB Nick Ralston UDFA 1 60
DT Austin Faoliu UDFA 13 2

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