Chiefs far off pace in rookie starts, snaps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Colleague Mike Sando compiled a list of games started and snap counts for rookies for each of the 32 teams this season. The Kansas City Chiefs, who had the first overall pick in the draft, were 19th in games started (22) and 20th in snaps played by rookies (1,723).

It’s unusual for a team with a 2-14 record from the previous season to get such little use from their rookies. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who also finished 2-14 in 2012, were fifth in the league in games started (44) and third in snaps played (3,125) by rookies, numbers that are far more typical for a down-and-out team.

The Chiefs, unlike the Jaguars, didn’t have a lot of opportunity for young players. The Chiefs sent six players to the Pro Bowl last year and 10 this year, so they hardly were undergoing a rebuilding process.

They also didn’t have a second-round pick who might have played a lot. They sent that pick to the San Francisco 49ers as part of the trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith.

Most of the Chiefs’ rookie starts and snaps came from two players: offensive tackle Eric Fisher and cornerback Marcus Cooper. Fisher was the first overall pick in the draft and the Chiefs had signaled their intention to draft him beforehand by releasing his veteran predecessor at right tackle, Eric Winston.

Cooper wasn’t even drafted by the Chiefs. He was a seventh-round pick by the 49ers who was claimed by the Chiefs off waivers at the start of the regular season.

The Chiefs received little in terms of starts or snaps from their other rookies. But several of their 2013 rookies will get significant playing time as soon as next season. Sanders Commings, who didn’t make a start and got in for only three plays as a rookie, could start next season at free safety.

Tight end Travis Kelce missed all season with a knee injury but will play a lot if he can stay healthy. Running back Knile Davis could eventually be the successor for Jamaal Charles. Don’t give up on Nico Johnson, who played little as a rookie but could be a starter next season at inside linebacker.

The Chiefs can perhaps take some comfort from this as well: The Denver Broncos were second from last in the league in games started and third from last in snaps played by their rookies. Only three rookies played this season for Denver.

So there might be hope for the Chiefs if Peyton Manning ever retires.