The New England Patriots rank 29th in snaps by their rookie class, according to Pro Football Focus, as they rank ahead of only the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Kansas City Chiefs. The lack of production can stem from a lot of reasons- established veterans already in place, a bad rookie class- and the Patriots draw from all of them.
The Patriots entered the year with just four draft picks and three of them are no longer on the active roster. Third round picks Derek Rivers and Tony Garcia are on the reserves for various injuries and sixth round pick Conor McDermott was waived during roster cuts and is on the Buffalo Bills.
The lone Patriots draft pick to contribute in 2017 is Deatrich Wise, who has found himself as the #2 edge defender behind veteran Trey Flowers in the rotation and playing 67.5% of the defensive snaps over the past four games. Wise has played 303 snaps and leads the Patriots rookie class.
Close behind is undrafted defensive lineman Adam Butler, who has used his versatility to help out the line in multiple fronts. Butler has moved in and out of the line-up, playing 54% of the snaps over the first three games, 22% over the middle three games, and back up to 51% over the past three games. Butler has played 246 snaps on defense.
The only other rookies to play are tight end Jacob Hollister (42 snaps) and linebacker Harvey Langi (6); Langi’s season is over, while Hollister is now further down the offensive depth chart with the addition of Martellus Bennett.
The low level of production from the Patriots rookies shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of the Patriots team-building. They intentionally drafted and added a small rookie class due to their high quality 2015 draft class, and the 2016 draft class includes contributors like Joe Thuney (663 snaps), Elandon Roberts (258 snaps), and Jonathan Jones (198 snaps). The hopeful return of Malcolm Mitchell and Vincent Valentine add further value to this class.
So a mix of injuries and lack of openings on the roster lead to low snaps for the Patriots rookies. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have such small contributions from a rookie class.