To add some context to OTC’s Rookie Class Evaluation, here’s a look at the worst 12 rookie classes from 2011-2014. The class’s Snap Index is indicated in parentheses, and links to each rookie class are contained within the number of vested veteran contracts and extensions were secured from the class.
1. 2012 49ers (2.148)
Undrafted free agents Tony Jerod-Eddie and Garrett Celek were the only thing saving this rookie class, as the draft slate was one of the worst we’ve seen in a long time, highlighted by megabusts AJ Jenkins and LaMichael James. No players from that draft made it through their rookie contracts, and only one (Joe Looney) made it to the third year. If Jerod-Eddie and Celek are taken out of the equation, the 2012 49ers’ snap index from rookie contracts would be only 0.475. That’s the equivalent of getting only 47.5% of snaps out of one player for one season. No matter what way you slice it, this was a very bad year for rookie acquisition in San Francisco.
2. 2013 Browns (2.431)
It seems right to see a Browns rookie class high on this list. But even then, this score is a bit misleading due to not having many draft picks to begin with. They used their 2nd rounder from this draft on Josh Gordon in the prior year, and deferred several other picks to 2014, where they once again had a high snap count index. But on the other hand, none of their five draft picks were able to finish their rookie contracts in Cleveland, and their UDFA class was practically barren. That doesn’t excuse the Browns from a poor performance among 2013 rookies.
3. 2011 Lions (3.089)
1st round pick Nick Fairley worked out OK, although he was the only non-quarterback taken in the first half of this draft who didn’t make the Pro Bowl. But the 2nd round was an utter disaster for the Lions. They first selected Titus Young, who had a litany of off the field problems, and then sacrificed their 3rd and 4th round picks to get Mikel Leshoure, who only had one year of any production. To make matters worse for this rookie class, Ricardo Silva was the only UDFA to log any snaps with the Lions from this class.
4. 2013 Seahawks (4.183)
Even the great GMs like John Schneider can lay an egg in rookie acquisition. 2013’s effort was not helped out by relinquishing their 1st rounder to the Vikings (who used it on Xavier Rhodes) in the ill-fated Percy Harvin trade. But even then, the Seahawks had 11 draft picks, and of them only Luke Willson made it through his rookie contract, and he was also the only one to even play in more than a quarter of possible snaps. Furthermore, Alvin Bailey was the only undrafted free agent to contribute to any significance.
5. 2013 Broncos (4.487)
Like Schneider, the normally sharp John Elway threw a duck on getting rookies in 2013. 1st rounder Sylvester Williams at least was a regular starter at nose tackle, and 3rd rounder Kayvon Webster became a solid #4 CB behind the trio of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. But the Broncos got nothing out of Day 3 of the draft, and 2nd rounder Montee Ball’s troubles with alcohol made him one of the bigger busts in Broncos draft history. On the brighter side, the miss on Ball was indemnified by finding CJ Anderson as an undrafted free agent, the only one of these rookies to stay with the Broncos beyond his rookie contract.
6. 2011 Colts (4.547)
Even Hall of Fame GMs like Bill Polian can join Schneider and Elway with a particularly terrible rookie class. His last such class is one that Colts fans will not look upon fondly. The only player of significance Indianapolis got out of this effort was Anthony Castonzo, who at least became a regular starter at left tackle, and is still with the team to this day.
7. 2013 Colts (4.604)
After inexplicably beating Elway by one vote for 2012 Executive Of The Year, Ryan Grigson quickly fell back down to earth with this thud of a rookie class that included 1st round bust Bjoern Werner. Hugh Thornton was the only player to garner more than half of possible snaps on his rookie contract, and special teamer Josh McNary was the only undrafted free agent to log a snap beyond special teams.
8. 2012 Saints (4.674)
The low snap index on this rookie class needs caveats, as was hobbled by relinquishing the Saints’ 1st rounder in acquiring Mark Ingram the previous year, and also by being stripped of their 2nd rounder due to the bounty scandal. Still, only running back Travaris Cadet finished his rookie contract on the Saints, and while Akiem Hicks and Corey White are still active today as vested veterans, neither did so as members of the Saints.
9. 2014 Saints (4.990)
Unlike with 2012, the Saints have fewer excuses for bombing rookie acquisition in 2014. Brandin Cooks was the only drafted player that amounted to anything in the NFL, and he was famously traded to the Patriots after three seasons with the team. On the brighter side, what saved this rookie class from ranking even worse was the contribution of seven UDFAs, with Brandon Coleman and Kasim Edebali being the most noteworthy.
10. 2012 Falcons (5.068)
This draft was without a 1st rounder due to the Julio Jones trade (of which the Browns used on Brandon Weeden), so it deserves an asterisk by it for this reason. But beyond that this was still not one of Tom Dimitroff’s finer efforts. Only one of these rookies made it through their rookie contract in Atlanta, and that one player was Josh Harris, the long snapper.
11. 2014 Jets (5.072)
There will still be hope for this rookie class to get out of the bottom twelve with Quincy Enunwa, the clear leader of the class, still having to serve one more year before he becomes a vested veteran. But other than Enunwa and Brent Qvale, the Jets’ only undrafted free agent to log any snaps, Dakota Dozier may end up being the only other member of this class to finish his rookie contract on the Jets. This was the rookie class that featured a trio of busts at the top in Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro, and Dexter McDougle.
12. 2012 Raiders (5.440)
In fairness to Reggie McKenzie, he conducted his inaugural rookie acquisition as a GM with both hands tied behind his back. The Raiders’ 1st, 3rd, and 4th round picks had been relinquished beforehand by Al Davis or Hue Jackson to acquire three different quarterbacks: Carson Palmer, Terrelle Pryor, and Jason Campbell. Davis had also traded away the Raiders’ 2nd rounder last year to a frequent partner at the time, the New England Patriots. At one point, McKenzie only had two picks (a 5th and a 6th) in the entire draft to work with, until compensatory picks bailed him out.
Despite all those caveats, the seven draft picks McKenzie did end up with contributed very little. The two most notable contributors to the Raiders ended up being two undrafted free agents: wide receiver Rod Streater, and punter Marquette King, who the Raiders just recently cut (and is now with archrival Denver) after being the only player from this rookie class to get an extension from the Raiders. But what may hurt the most was giving up on Jack Crawford too early; he ended up putting together a decent performance with the Cowboys, and now is a vested veteran on the Falcons.