There has been a lot of discussion about the contributions that the Broncos got from our rookies in 2011. Miller, Moore, Franklin, Green, Harris and Carter all started at least some of the season. Those guys' contributions were despite the lack of OTAs or any off-season due to the lockout. The general thought is that our rookies and all rookies across the league contributed less to their teams than they could have because of the lockout. I wanted to know if that is a valid presumption, so I did some research to answer a couple of questions
1. What is the normal rookie contribution level in the NFL?
2. Was 2011 a worse year for rookie contributions relative to the average year?
3. What do the Broncos normally get from recent rookies?
4. What can the Broncos expect from our rookies in 2012?
Make the jump with and see what I found...
Firstly I had to decide how to compare the relative contributions of rookies at different positions. Thankfully the good folks over at pro-football-reference.com have already done that with their AV (approximate value) number. AV "is an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year." It is the best method that I have found for comparing the relative contribution that players at different position make toward team success. For more info on AV folow this link. So the method to compare rookie contributions was to look at the drafted rookie AV's for a given year and then analyze the numbers. I did not take the time to look up the AV for undrafted rookies. Since there was no readily available listing of rookie AVs I had to generate the table from the draft pages over at pro-football-reference by looking at each individual player's pages. Because of this I only went back as far as 2008. To give you an idea of scale, here are the league leaders in AV from the past 4 seasons
2011 - Patrick Peterson, 25
2010 - Arian Foster, 20
2009 - Darelle Revis, 22
2008 - Five players tied at 19
Peterson was a rookie in 2011 and lead the league in AV. I did not find another instance of a rookie doing that (going back to 1980, I stopped looking at that point). Normally the league leader is in the high teens of low 20s. So lets look at the drafted rookie AVs starting with 2008
As you would expect the rookie contributions decrease pretty steeply as you move from round to round. I found it interesting that in the past few years there have been some very strong rookie contributors drafted in the 5th and later. In 08 those were Chris Horton (WAS, DB) and Carl Nicks (NOR, OG). Notice the top rookie contributor in 2008 (Matt Ryan) put a very respectable 14.
The top rookie contributor in 2009, the steroid enhanced Brian Cushing, had an AV of 12. The total AV by round was very similar to 2008, with the exception of the 6th round. 2009 had a lot of rookie contributors taken in the 6th relative to 2008. The only late round (4th or later) rookie who had a great impact was Austin Collie, AV =8.
2010 was an odd year in that there weren't any rookies who were a huge factor in their team's success and there were a lot of first rounders who did nothing as rookies. The numbers from the 4th round rookies are skewed really high because of three guys who had good rookie years: Mike Williams, Aaron Hernandez and Jacoby Ford. Those 3 accounted for 27 of the 47 total AV from the rookies taken in the 4th round in 2010.
This data came as a surprise. I was fully expecting to see the rookie contribution league-wide in 2011 to be lower than the previous 3 years. Instead the total of 532 was the highest of the 4 years that I evaluated. Additionally the 6.2 average AV from the first rounders is phenomenal - this was helped by PP who accounted for 1/8th of the total by himself. The average contribution from 4th, 5th and 6th round rookies was also highest in 2011 of the 4 years studied. The overall average of 2.1 was a statistically significant improvement over the next best years, 08 and 09, which had an average rookie AV of 1.8.
You may have also picked up from the standard deviation, SD, of the AVs that their is a lot of scatter in the data. Any time your standard deviation is larger than your mean, you have a broad range of numbers.
So we have an answer for question #2 - the lockout does not appear to have hurt the performance of the rookies in the league. This conclusion is valid unless 2011 was just a bumper year for rookie talent/contributions. That remains to be seen. Here is how the four years compare graphically:
So what did the Broncos get from our rookies in each of the four years? see below
|Team AV||% of team AV from Rookies|
Over this 4 year span, the Broncos got about 13% of our team AV from rookies. 2009 was a very poor year for rookie contributions, but if you go back an look at who we drafted it's easy to understand why.
So what can the Broncos expect from our rookies this year? We have two guys drafted in the second round, but only one who will play. One guy drafted in the 3rd, two in the 4th, one in the 5th and one in the 6th.
Here are the rookie average AV values over the past four years by round
|4 yr Ave|
So if our rookies perform with an average AV relative to their round drafted
Wolfe - 3
Hillman - 2
Blake and Bolden - 2
Jackson - 1
Travathan - 1
That would be a fairly poor year, similar to 2009, in terms of rookie contribution. This would be an total AV from rookies of 11. Even in 2009 which had very few Broncos rookies contributing, the total AV from rookies was 13. So let's be optimistic about the rookies. The optimistic but still realistic projection would look more like this
Wolfe - 7
Hillman - 5
Blake and Bolden - 2 unless either becomes a starter in which case they might get a 5 or 6 (Beadles was a 6 as a rookie, Chris Harris was 3, Quentin Carter was a 4).
Jackson - 2 (this assumes he gets enough PT to get a few sacks). Karl Klug had an AV of 3 last year as a rookie He is similarly built to Malik. Klug was essentially the pass rush DT for the Titans and put up 7.0 sacks as a rookie. Like Jackson, Klug was a 5th round pick.
Travathan - 2 (this would correlate to some 3rd down stops and special teams contribution). Woodyard had an AV of 2 as a rookie. WW as a rookie appeared in 16 games, 6 starts with 46 tackles and 1 PD.
More specifically this is what an AV of 7 for Wolfe would look like in terms of stats. Here are the stat lines for rookie DTs from the past four years who were rated 5-7 in AV:
Sedrick Ellis (2008) 13G, 13GS, 30 tackles, 5 PD, 4.0 sacks, AV = 6
Terrence Knighton (2009) 16G, 16GS, 45 tackles, 1 PD, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, AV =7
Corey Peters (2010) 16G, 15GS, 32 tackles, 1 PD, 1.0 sack, AV = 7
Gerald McCoy (2010) 13G, 13GS, 27 tackles, 4 PD, 3.0 sacks, 2 FF, AV = 6
Corey Luiget (2011) 15G, 13GS, 20 tackles, 2 PD, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR AV = 5
It should be noted that Peters and McCoy have the same build as Wolfe (6-4, 295).
Specifically for Hillman this is what the stats for a rookie RB with a 4 AV would look like.
Jamaal Charles (2008) 16G, 2GS, 67 carries, 357 yds, 27 rec, 272 yd, 1 TD, AV = 4
Tashard Choice (2008) 16G, 3GS, 92 carries, 472 yds, 2 TDs, 21 rec, 185 yds, AV =4
Donald Brown (2009) 11G, 1GS, 78 carries, 278 yds, 3 TDs, 11 rec, 169 yds, AV =4
Bernard Scott (2009) 13G, 2GS, 74 carries, 321 yds, 5 rec, 67 yds, 16 KOR, 31.5 ypR, 1 TD AV =4
CJ Spiller (2010) 14G, 1GS, 74 carries, 283 yds, 24 rec, 157 yds, 1TD, main PR/KR with 1 KOR TD, AV =4
Mark Ingram (2011) 10G, 4GS, 122 carries, 474 yds, 5 TDs, 11 rec, 46 yds, AV = 4
Daniel Thomas (2011) 13G, 2GS, 165 carries, 581 yards, 12 rec, 72 yds, 1 TD, AV = 4
Jacquizz Rodgers (2011) 16G, 57 carries, 205 yds, 1 TD, 21 rec, 188 yds, 1 TD, AV = 3
Rodgers is a good comparison because he is similar in size to Hillman and the Falcons used Rodgers in much the same way that many think McCoy will use Hillman.
In the most recent year where the Broncos got many significant contributions from rookies, 2008, the total rookie AV was 30. The team AV was 181. I can see that level of rookie contribution again this year, but it would mean that one of our late round rookies steps up to usurp the spot of a veteran. My optimistic projections from above would only total 20 without Bolden or Blake stepping into a starting role.
In conclusion, the final point that should be remembered is that generally good teams in the NFL do not get much contribution from rookies because they don't need much contribution from rookies, i.e. they have veterans who are better than their rookies at almost every position.