Rookie Impact: 2014 LBs

How did 2014's rookie linebackers stack up to past seasons and how does that set expectations for the 2015 class? Ben Stockwell explores.

| 2 years ago

Rookie Impact: 2014 LBs

rookie impact LBOff the ball linebacker is a rare position that is perhaps correctly labeled as a “plug and play” pick, at least in the early rounds. Only safeties and interior linemen selected in the first round play more snaps in their rookie season than off the ball linebackers and only those first round interior linemen earn a higher grade on average. Teams are perhaps conservative in terms of the number of linebackers that they draft, focusing on the upside of defensive linemen, but those that do go in round one are rarely a letdown but that instant impact has a habit of tailing off thereafter.


LB Scatter Plot


2014 Class Review

  • Seven rookie linebackers played at least 500 snaps, three of them selected in the fourth round or later.
  • Of those seven only two (Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens) earned a negative grade for their rookie exploits.
  • The saying goes that “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” and Chris Borland’s short rookie season and career (487 snaps, +20.8 overall) would be the embodiment of that proverb.
  • A player to keep an eye on for the future could be Devon Kennard (+4.7 overall) after impressing upon entering the starting lineup in Week 11.

Best Class

  • Highest Combined Grade: 2010 (+38.5 overall)
  • The three highest graded linebackers from the 2010 class played less than 650 snaps, proving that a linebacker doesn’t have to play three downs to be effective.
  • Most Snaps Played: 2014 (7,705 snaps)
  • In spite of the explosion in playing time for nickel corners the last three draft classes are among the top four in playing time over the last eight years.

First Round Outlook

  • Average Playing Time: 750 snaps
  • Average Overall Grade: +3.8
  • 500+ Snap Seasons: 11/15 selections
  • Best Rookie Season: Patrick Willis (2007), 1,138 snaps, +22.2 overall
  • Worst Rookie Season: Aaron Curry (2009), 742 snaps, -9.4 overall

Mid Round (2nd and 3rd) Outlook

  • Average Playing Time: 352 snaps
  • Average Overall Grade: +1.0
  • 500+ Snap Seasons: 19/54 selections
  • Best Rookie Season: Chris Borland (2014), 487 snaps, +20.8 overall
  • Worst Rookie Season: Mason Foster (2011), 886 snaps, -25.5 overall

Late Round (4th to 7th) Outlook

  • Average Playing Time: 96 snaps
  • Average Overall Grade: -0.6
  • 500+ Snap Seasons: 8/150 selections
  • Best Rookie Season: K.J. Wright (2011), 576 snaps, +7.5 overall
  • Worst Rookie Season: Miles Burris (2012), 893 snaps, -13.1 overall


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

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