As one wrap-up to the 2016 season, the folks at nfl.com issued grades on the rookie classes of each NFL team. The article’s title says most of what you need to know: “2016 rookie grades: Packers, Rams, Jets get limited production.”
Bucky Brooks’ overall assessment was that the Green Bay Packers’ rookies “failed to make a significant impact on the roster despite the presence of several promising players.” He felt first-round pick Kenny Clark failed to “deliver many splash plays.” Third-rounder Kyler Fackrell did have three splash plays, two sacks and a forced fumble, but otherwise had little impact. He credited fourth-round pick Dean Lowry with getting two sacks toward the end of the season. Brooks also felt that second-round Jason Spriggs “showed promise” as a key O-line reserve. Finally he said that undrafted free agent Geronimo Allison’s rise from the practice squad to being a key playoff contributor was impressive.
To those ratings, I would add that fourth-round pick Blake Martinez and fifth-round pick Trevor Davis went in the opposite direction of Allison: they were featured somewhat prominently in early games, but were an afterthought by season’s end. Finally, sixth-round offensive tackle Kyle Murphy only played in three games and he was inactive in the playoff game at Atlanta, in which defensive tackle Letroy Guion had to be called in to finish the game as an offensive lineman.
Martinez started 10 games on the year, the most among the rookies. The only others who started any games were Allison (3), Clark (2), Spriggs (2), and safety Kentrell Brice, another undrafted free agent (1). Due to being on special teams, however, four rookies did play in all 19 games: Clark, Spriggs, Brice, and Marwin Evans, yet another undrafted rookie – which also means the four were rarities in that they stayed healthy all year.
Overall, Green Bay’s rookies were rated by nfl.com as tied with the Houston Texans for ninth least impressive rookie group.
Best NFL Rookie Classes
The Packers rookies as a group started a total of 18 games. How does that compare to some of the top-rated rookie groups? Read it and weep:
Chicago Bears (selecting No. 9) – The team’s rookies had 66 cumulative starts. The leaders were: C Cody Whitehair (Rd. 2, 16 starts); RB Jordan Howard (Rd. 5, 13 starts); OLB Leonard Floyd (Rd. 1, 12 starts); CB Cre’von LeBlanc (undrafted, 9 starts); ILB Nick Kwiatowski (Rd. 4, 7 starts); and, S Deon Bell (Rd. 4, 6 starts). Howard, a fifth-round pick, is right up there with Dak Prescott as being the biggest steal of the 2016 draft.
Atlanta Falcons (selecting No. 17) – The team’s rookies had 62 cumulative starts and they helped propel the team to the Super Bowl. Leading the way are some names Packers fans should recognize: S Keanu Neal (Rd. 1, 17 starts); LB Deion Jones (Rd. 2, 16 starts); LB De’Vondre Campbell (Rd. 4, 13 starts), CB Brian Poole (undrafted, 13 starts); and TE Austin Hooper (Rd. 3, 4 starts).
Dallas Cowboys (selecting No. 4) – The team’s rookies had 56 cumulative starts. Leading the pack were QB Dak Prescott (Rd. 4, 17 starts) and RB Ezekiel Elliott (Rd. 1, 16 starts); also making major contributions were DT Maliek Collins (Rd. 3, 14 starts) and CB Anthony Brown (Rd. 6, 9 starts). These rookies helped Dallas to a 13-3 regular season record.
San Diego/LA Chargers (selecting No. 3) – The team’s rookies had 38 cumulative starts, including: DE Joey Bosa (Rd. 1, 11 starts); TE Hunter Henry (Rd. 2, 10 starts); LB Jatavis Brown (Rd. 5, 7 starts), and CB Trevor Williams (undrafted, 5 starts).
Comparing the number of starts rookies get isn’t a perfect way to rate them. Teams that did poorly the year before are bound to afford rookies more opportunities to play than the better teams. It might also be argued that some teams want to bring young players along gradually. Even so, it seems to be a fair indicator of which teams drafted wisely and poorly in 2016. As for Green Bay, it’s bad enough that the rookies contributed little to the team. What’s worse, it’s hard for me to envision any of the class of 2016 developing into star players. I truly hope I’m wrong about this.
I’m quite sure no Packers’ rookies were even close to making it onto any best-of lists. I also doubt there are many who would say the Packers’ roster was so packed with talent the 2016 rookies had little opportunity to show their stuff.
I had intended this look back at the 2016 draft to be merely a prelude of the upcoming draft in April. I can’t help it if it turned out to be another indictment of Ted Thompson and his scouting team.
In a day or two, I’ll look at the Packers’ recent draft history from another perspective. We’ll see if Thompson comes out any better in that analysis.