Kent Somers' piece about NFL rookies combining to start more games than in the past caught my attention Friday.
I wanted to know how many games NFC West players have started as rookies in recent seasons. I wanted to break down the numbers by team and position.
2010-12 Starts by Rookies
The charts provide answers on those fronts. Weaker teams select earlier in the draft order and should have more openings in their lineups, inflating their numbers. That has been the case to a degree in the NFC West, one reason quotation marks surround the word "leads" in the headline above.
Seattle is an interesting study, however. The Seahawks have been pretty competitive while amassing more rookie starts than any team in the division, with those starts distributed rather evenly across offense and defense. That affirms perceptions about Seattle drafting well recently despite using relatively few early picks. Of course, the 16 starts Seattle got from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson last season were disproportionately valuable. Having two first-round picks in 2010 helped the overall numbers.
The San Francisco 49ers have fielded a dominant, veteran defense. They've gotten -- "needed" might be a better word -- only seven starts from rookies on defense over the past three seasons. While Aldon Smith played in a situational role, the 49ers rank a distant fourth among NFC West teams in defensive snaps played by rookies. Seattle leads with 4,536 snaps, followed by Arizona (3,090), St. Louis (2,965) and San Francisco (1,565).
The 49ers could get rookie starts from 2013 first-round pick Eric Reid, a favorite to start at safety.
The Rams have gotten 4,593 snaps from offensive rookies over the three seasons. The Cardinals are next with 3,568, followed by the Seahawks (3,280) and 49ers (2,858).
Offensive linemen have made the most starts as rookies. That makes sense because there are at least five of them on the field every snap. NFC West teams have also drafted four offensive linemen in the first round over that span, plus one with the first pick of the second round. The Cardinals relied heavily on rookie tackles last season out of necessity.
The Rams' rookie starts are distributed more evenly across the specific positions in the chart below. That makes sense. They've had the weakest roster. They've had earlier picks.
Each team in the NFC West has had two rookies start all 16 games: Patrick Peterson and Bobby Massie for Arizona; Wilson and Earl Thomas for Seattle; Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis for San Francisco; and Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold for St. Louis. Bobby Wagner (15 starts for Seattle) and Janoris Jenkins (14 for St. Louis) were the only others with more than 12 starts as rookies.
K.J. Wright (Seattle), Michael Brockers (St. Louis), Chris Givens (St. Louis), Daryl Washington (Arizona), Sam Acho (Arizona), Richard Sherman (Seattle), Okung (Seattle) and Lance Kendricks (St. Louis) started between 10 and 12 games as NFC West rookies since 2010.
Jonathan Cooper (Arizona), Kevin Minter (Arizona), Jesse Williams (Seattle), Tavon Austin (St. Louis), Alec Ogletree (St. Louis) and T.J. McDonald (St. Louis) appear best positioned among NFC West rookies to start in 2013. Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu could figure prominently in sub packages if he does not start.
Earlier: Late-round picks with a shot at playing in 2013.