Evaluation Of The 2015 Rookie Classes

The Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured in such a way that teams have inexpensive and exclusive control over players during their first four accrued seasons, before they can earn unrestricted free agency. Now that most of the 2015 rookie classes have done so, let’s take a look how those incoming players as a whole did, and look at classes that contributed the most and least on the basis of snap counts, and then see how many of those players got vested veteran contracts during this offseason.

If you wish to see all rookie classes, visit OTC’s Rookie Class Evalaution page here, and learn about the methodology behind this project here.

Overall Performance

Both the average and median snap index from the 2015 draft classes were a shade above 8.9. Those numbers are the second lowest of all classes in the last five years. This suggests that as a whole, the talent entering the NFL in 2015 wasn’t as great as it was in recent years.

On the other hand, the distribution of the talent among the 32 teams was not extreme on either end. Only one class made the top ten of the past five years, and only one class made the bottom ten. You may see where those teams rank at the bottom of this article.

Top 5 2015 Rookie Classes By Snap Indices

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16.384)

4 players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending), 2 of which were extensions

Jameis Winston’s NFL career thus far has been highly debated, but he has at least been the regular starter at quarterback when he hasn’t been hurt or suspended. But what really makes this rookie class the top of the year is landing two starting offensive linemen in Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, and extending them this offseason to boot. 4th rounder Kwon Alexander and UDFA Adam Humphries also played in more than half of available snaps, and both got lucrative deals elsewhere that would have had Tampa Bay eligible for high compensatory picks for them, had they not signed the likes of punter Bradley Pinion.

2. Minnesota Vikings (14.221)

3 players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending), all of which were extensions

1st rounder Trae Waynes has been a regular contributor, but like the Bucs, the big winners of this rookie class were obtained later. Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs have all given high level performance for the Vikings, and all three will be staying in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

3. New England Patriots (13.519)

8 players with vested veteran contracts, 4 of which were extensions

When this rookie class first entered the league, their rookie season ended a thud when Von Miller and company repeatedly made life difficult for Tom Brady in the 2015 AFC Championship Game.  However, the Patriots laid the groundwork for a much improved offensive line when they snagged Shaq Mason in the 4th round and David Andrews as a UDFA. The Patriots also got nearly half of available snap contribution from Malcom Brown and Trey Flowers, and put a cherry on top by landing a long snapper in Joe Cardona.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (12.096)

8 players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending)

This class’s first four picks all contributed in more than half of the Chiefs’ available snap counts. This includes Marcus Peters, despite his trade to the Rams after three seasons in Kansas City. Mitch Morse, Chris Conley, and Steven Nelson make up the remainder of that group. The Chiefs are also tied with the Patriots for the most vested veteran contracts currently obtained–though none of those players have stayed in Kansas City.

5. Los Angeles Rams (11.819)

6 players with vested veteran contracts, 3 of which were extensions

Todd Gurley ended the drought of running backs drafted in the top ten, and he did not disappoint, logging more that three quarters of available snaps in three of his first four seasons, remarkable for a running back. Rob Havenstein immediately took over the right tackle position upon joining the Rams, and Jamon Brown also contributed on the offensive line for Rams for three seasons before being cut, claimed off waivers by the Giants, and signing a vested veteran contract with the Falcons this offseason. The Rams also had five UDFAs that contributed in some manner.

Bottom 5 2015 Rookie Classes By Snap Indices

1. New York Jets (4.733)

No players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending)

Leonard Williams has fulfilled his potential to be a high level NFL player…but that’s it from this rookie class. No other player finished his rookie contract, including notable busts Devin Smith and Bryce Petty, and not a single UDFA contributed on any offensive or defensive snaps.

2. Buffalo Bills (5.459)

3 players with vested veteran contracts

This rookie class was handicapped by the trade of 1st and 4th round picks to the Browns to move up five spots to draft Sammy Watkins (with Odell Beckham Jr. available at both spots), who got traded to the Rams after three seasons. Among their remaining draft picks, only John Miller completed his rookie contract with the Bills, while no other player lasted more than two seasons in Buffalo–including Ronald Darby and Nick O’Leary, both of whom have received extensions elsewhere.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (5.667)

2 players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending)

This was the year where Chip Kelly had temporarily wrested power from Howie Roseman with player personnel, and it did not end well for Kelly. Nelson Agholor and Jordan Hicks were the only two players from this rookie class that lasted more than one season in Philadelphia.

4. Indianapolis Colts (6.186)

4 players with vested veteran contracts, 1 of which was an extension

John Elway disgracefully lost 2012’s Executive of the Year to Ryan Grigson by one vote. Four years later, Elway won Super Bowl 50 while Grigson, in his second to last year as Colts GM, offered up this dud of a rookie class. No player contributed to more than 40% of available offensive or defensive snaps, and several players were given up upon quite earlier than expected from their rookie contracts.

5. Oakland Raiders (6.216)

2 players with vested veteran contracts (1 pending)

After serving up one of the best rookie classes throughout the current CBA the prior year, Reggie McKenzie followed that up with this bottom five performance. Amari Cooper was the only high performer, and he was ultimately traded. Mario Edwards and Clive Walford barely contributed to more than a quarter of available snaps, and neither finished their rookie contracts in Oakland. All other players contributed very lightly.

Top 10 Rookie Classes, 2011-2015

  1. 2014 Jaguars (21.483)
  2. 2014 Raiders (20.152)
  3. 2012 Rams (18.979)
  4. 2012 Seahawks (18.392)
  5. 2013 Falcons (18.247)
  6. 2012 Bengals (17.210)
  7. 2011 Broncos (16.822)
  8. 2015 Buccaneers (16.384)
  9. 2011 Browns (15.672)
  10. 2011 Seahawks (15.458)

Bottom 10 Rookie Classes, 2011-2015

  1. 2012 49ers (2.138)
  2. 2013 Browns (2.431)
  3. 2011 Lions (3.089)
  4. 2013 Seahawks (4.183)
  5. 2013 Broncos (4.487)
  6. 2011 Colts (4.570)
  7. 2013 Colts (4.604)
  8. 2012 Saints (4.674)
  9. 2015 Jets (4.733)
  10. 2014 Saints (4.990)

Questions about this article? Reach Nick on Twitter at @nickkorte