June 23, 2015
In 2014, Eagles draft picks played just 1295 combined snaps, which was the seventh-lowest total in the NFL. The league average for drafted players (playing with the team that drafted them) was 2162 combined snaps per team.
Here's a graph of each NFL team, and how many snaps they got out of their drafted players (Snap counts via ProFootballFocus):
|Team||Drafted rookie snap count||Team||Drafted rookie snap count|
Rookie snap counts can be looked at a number of different ways. Are your rookies only getting playing time because you're a young team that is building? That argument can certainly be made for Jaguars, who drafted nine players, all of whom played at some point in 2014, and six of whom played at least 500 snaps. Are you a very good team that drafted well and got key contributions from a number of rookies? The Packers could be an example of that kind of team. Then there are teams that stink, and drafted horribly. The Jets, for example, were a 4-12 team that had a whopping 12 draft picks. Half of them never played a snap, and only two played more than 100 snaps.
The point is that each team has its own individual story. In the Eagles' case, it's fair to say their 2014 class produced disappointing returns last season. Here are the Eagles' rookie snap counts, by player:
Let's look at each player individually, and project their playing time in 2015:
• Marcus Smith: Smith played the second fewest regular season snaps (the fewest if you include the playoffs) among all first round picks a year ago:
|Draft position||Player||Team||Snaps played|
|21||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Packers||960|
|12||Odell Beckham Jr.||Giants||793|
When the Eagles drafted Smith, he was a player who was thought to be a high upside guy who might take some time to develop. However, with those types of "projects," you at least want to see something encouraging, but Smith never flashed potential the same way a guy like Josh Huff did as a rookie.
Obviously, Smith's lack of playing time is a major reason why the Eagles had one of the lowest overall rookie snap counts in the NFL. Smith will almost certainly be on the 53-man roster once training camp shakes out, but he will also almost certainly not start Week 1 in 2015, barring an injury to Connor Barwin or Brandon Graham. Even in the event Barwin or Graham go down, it's no guarantee that Smith would be the first man up, although he got some first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp.
• Jordan Matthews: Matthews was very good as a rookie, finishing fifth in receptions and yards among a rookie wide receiver class that may have been the best of all time:
Matthews' snap count should go up in 2015, as he is likely to get more opportunities on the outside when the Eagles aren't in their typical 3-WR sets.
• Josh Huff: Huff had his share of bad moments in 2014. He had a pass deflect off his hands for a an interception against the Texans, and he had a key fumble against the 49ers in the red zone. On the other hand, he also had some moments where he flashed explosive talent, such as his kickoff return against the Titans, and an impressive catch and run against the Cowboys:
Expectations are much higher for Huff this offseason than they were a year ago, as many (myself included) see him as a player who will receive far more opportunities to play in 2015.
• Jaylen Watkins: Watkins was a bit of an afterthought last season, as he didn't play in the regular defense until the meaningless Week 17 game against the Giants. Watkins bulked up a bit this season, preparing for a potential move to safety, but with Walter Thurmond emerging as the favorite to start at safety and the Eagles having drafted three corners, Watkins will have to battle just to make the team. If Watkins is able to stick, he's unlikely to play much again in 2015.
• Taylor Hart: Hart didn't play at all last season, and he's part of a crowded group along the defensive line. Chip Kelly reportedly wanted to draft the former Duck in the third round, so it's possible he still has some level of support from the head coach. However, like Watkins, Hart will have to earn a roster spot, and even if he does, snaps will be hard to come by in 2015.
• Ed Reynolds: Reynolds was cut in 2014, and I suspect he'll be cut again in 2015.
• Beau Allen: The Eagles got a good return on their seventh round pick a year ago, with Allen getting 201 snaps. He'll likely return as a rotational NT.
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