Immediate Impact From NFL Draft Picks

As a follow up to some of the draft discussion I decided to go back and look at the immediate opportunities for draft picks in their rookie year. This doesn’t say anything about the quality of play or future prospects just the expected chance to contribute. Rather than going by traditional rounds I split up the draft into 32 pick blocks with the exception of the first round which I broke into three segments- top 10, 11 to 20, and the playoff teams. The data is from 2011 through 2019 and I took out special teams players and supplemental picks.  

Overall Participation

Draft RangeSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Top 1066,1799073588.9%
11 to 2057,9799064485.6%
21 to 3254,63010850661.7%
33 to 64140,27628748960.2%
65 to 9693,99028732743.2%
97 to 12866,81228623426.6%
129 to 16052,59728418518.3%
161 to 19237,58627213813.9%
193 to 22425,103284889.5%
225 to 25616,246263623.8%

The numbers at the top are pretty much what you would expect. The best talent lands in the most opportunistic situations and lands, on average, about 735 snaps per player. Most teams average around 1,100 snaps a year so this would equate to a player who plays about 67% of the time. The next section of round 1 drops to around 60% while the playoff tier would be under 50%.

The data in round 2 matches up with the work Brad and I did in terms of overall impact in that there is minimal difference between the end of the first round and the second round of the draft. Both see similar initial playing time and both have about the same percentage of players that play at least 350 snaps as a rookie.  FWIW those criticizing the Eagles and Packers moves because of what they missed out on this year its essentially players who average around 45% playing time as a rookie with a 40% chance they wont even play 350 snaps on the year.

There is a steeper decline in rounds 3 to 5, with round 3 really being the last place you can expect any type of immediate help. As you get into what are essentially the final two rounds of the draft there is basically little immediate help available and its all contributions coming on special teams with the standout performers doing more in the future.

Top 10 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
S1,10311,103100.0%
RT4,17641,044100.0%
LT5,3336889100.0%
LB5,9317847100.0%
CB6,6738834100.0%
QB15,1381979789.5%
IDL3,6155723100.0%
Guard3,547570960.0%
RB4,0466674100.0%
Edge9,2641657981.3%
WR6,3681157972.7%
TE9852493100.0%

If you are looking for players to really make an immediate contribution the positions to draft are offensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback. QB is also high here but I don’t think that is much of a surprise since teams usually rush the QB on the field because the situation is usually really dire and this is the lone spot of hope for those franchises.

The positions with the least impact are the edge rushers and wide receivers. Runnings backs will all get used but the position itself doesn’t lend itself to a higher number of snaps so in that respect its not really the kind of immediate impact many think.

Picks 11 to 20 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
RT1,03811,038100.0%
Guard5,999785785.7%
Center3,4234856100.0%
S6,3468793100.0%
LT5,129773385.7%
TE1,2982649100.0%
LB4,485764185.7%
CB7,5721263166.7%
WR4,0847583100.0%
IDL9,5071755976.5%
QB2,1574539100.0%
Edge6,5461350484.6%
RB3951395100.0%

For this range of the draft the offensive line stands out. Guards and centers have seen a large amount of playing time as rookies as have offensive tackles. Safeties are a big hit too and I think that in part because it is rarely drafted in the top 10 so the best available are first selected here. This is in contrast to the corners who have already seen the top players go at the top of the draft. Edge rushers remain the worst immediate impact picks while the interior line and receivers also struggle to get the max playing time.

Picks 21 to 32 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center1,5562778100.0%
S5,440777785.7%
Guard4,208670183.3%
LB5,822964788.9%
RT3,166563360.0%
TE2,226455775.0%
CB8,1141554153.3%
QB2,562551260.0%
Edge7,0941644362.5%
WR6,0531443257.1%
IDL4,3031235941.7%
RB2,130635533.3%
LT1,956727928.6%

The interior offensive line and safety still stand out  at the backend of the first round as do the linebackers and to some extent right tackles. The left side however sees a big decline. This is a small sample size but these may represent a bit more of a “reach” pick or future pick, more likely the latter since the numbers do bounce in round 2. Corners become much more hit of miss at this stage, while the edge, receiver, and d-line remain the least impactful. I think the most eye opening number here is the running back. These are often taken by successful teams as the “missing piece” but they have gotten nothing from them. Again it’s a small sample but why draft here at all?

Picks 33 to 64 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Guard12,2231676481.3%
RT7,6891169981.8%
Center6,6451066570.0%
S16,7172859771.4%
WR22,3614154573.2%
LT5,2881052950.0%
QB4,263947444.4%
LB12,6932747055.6%
CB16,5923646155.6%
TE7,6911940568.4%
Edge11,1372938451.7%
IDL9,7872736255.6%
RB7,1902430045.8%

No doubt about it that if you are expecting an immediate starter this is where you pick the offensive lineman. The surprising one to me here is the receiver position which mores to 73% over 350 snaps and an average of 545 snaps per player. That is basically on par with the top wide receivers selected in the draft in round one. So it is certainly a viable way to find an immediate 50% playtime type of receiver. Corners and linebackers really trail off here as the talent pool is probably depleting. Tight end, edge, and d-line just wont give you that much help as a rookie. Running backs again come up at the back end of this. There really is nothing to suggest “its an immediate help” based on years of data.

Picks 65 to 96 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Guard14,1122556472.0%
WR13,8663539651.4%
S6,6471836944.4%
LB8,8722634142.3%
Center2,666833350.0%
IDL11,2113730340.5%
RB7,3912529636.0%
Edge9,6413428441.2%
QB2,7871027930.0%
CB9,2273625636.1%
TE3,5651425542.9%
RT2,060922933.3%
LT1,9451019520.0%

Guards have really been the only position from this area to make a big impact as a rookie with 72% of those selected playing at least 350 snaps. Tackles on the other hand fall off the map. Receivers and safeties are also among the bigger contributors selected here. The linebacker drop from round 2 to round 3 isnt much which should indicate if you are targeting the position that waiting until round 3 might be a fair strategy. While the D-line and Edge rushers remain below the average expectation they move closer to it here so the expectations meet the actual results.

Ill combine more of the picks from here on out and really I don’t think there is any need for commentary since the numbers get lower. Basic gist of it is centers have a reasonable chance of helping as do “developmental” right tackles. At the end of the draft you should just be looking at those spots corner and safety, Running backs remain less impactful than people think and I don’t get why anyone selects a fullback.

Picks 97 to 160 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center4,2091626331.3%
RT3,8471525626.7%
LB18,2387424629.7%
TE9,9764323227.9%
S13,2756022125.0%
LT2,5261221116.7%
CB14,0986721023.9%
Edge7,9263820923.7%
WR13,0346320717.5%
IDL10,3235219921.2%
RB11,5796318417.5%
Guard7,6984417518.2%
FB37631250.0%
QB2,3042011510.0%

Picks 161 to 256 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center5,3542323326.1%
RT5,0082817917.9%
CB11,2539611712.5%
IDL8,099731119.6%
FB1,833171085.9%
TE4,7194710010.6%
S6,008639511.1%
WR9,442107889.3%
LB9,368114827.9%
RB5,92173814.1%
LT2,487318012.9%
Guard3,92849808.2%
Edge3,83262621.6%
QB1,68336472.8%

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC