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Just How Special Was the 2015 Rookie Class for the Chiefs?

Posted Feb 15, 2016

The 2015 draft class was one of the best in recent memory

The Kansas City Chiefs saw a tremendous amount of production from their 2015 rookie draft class last season.

The most obvious contributor was first-round pick Marcus Peters, who was recently named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after a stellar first season.

The production doesn’t stop with Peters, though.  

In fact, the Chiefs had the fourth-most total snaps played among their drafted rookies in the entire NFL last season, and the most in the AFC.

Production, in the minds of the coaching staff and players, is seen through the number of total snaps played—not necessarily regular box score statistics.

Tackles, yards and touchdowns are great, but football is the ultimate team sport, and more often than not, it’s all 11 guys on the field doing their jobs for that one player to put up a statistic that ends up in a box score.

Therefore, if a player is on the field in one way or another, he’s providing value to the team.

Here’s a breakdown of the total snaps played by the Chiefs rookies in 2015:

Round-Pick

Player

Total Snaps

1-18

Marcus Peters

1041

2-49

Mitch Morse

940

3-76

Chris Conley

541

3-98

Steven Nelson

179

4-118

Ramik Wilson

225

5-172

D.J. Alexander

353

5-173

James O' Shaughnessy

185

6-217

Rakeem Nunez-Roches

47

7-233

Da'Ron Brown

0

TOTAL SNAPS - Ranks No. 4 in NFL

3511

The teams ahead of the Chiefs in total snaps by their drafted rookies were the Minnesota Vikings (4,157), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3,991) and Washington Redskins (3,832).

To round out the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders (2,985) finished No. 8, the San Diego Chargers (1,864) finished No. 24 and the Denver Broncos (1,376) finished No. 30.

“It gives them game experience,” Dorsey said of the rookies’ contributions last season. “That gives them understanding of what it takes to do things at a certain level, what must be done to prepare to play this game at a high level, and that can only benefit us moving forward.

“That’s the importance of allowing our coaching staff to teach these young kids and put them in position to play, and I applaud them for doing that.”

The future of the Chiefs looks bright with so many young players providing value and production.

Here’s a quick snapshot of each of the Chiefs rookies and a video clip of their top moment in 2015:

CB Marcus Peters (Round 1 – No. 18 overall)

Peters became just the fourth player in franchise history to be named the NFL’s AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, joining Bill Maas (1984), Derrick Thomas (1989) and Dale Carter (1992).

Peters was touted as a playmaker throughout his time in college. That’s what Dorsey, coach Andy Reid and company were banking on when they selected him in the first round out of Washington last spring. In his final two years in college, Peters allowed just 38 percent of passes thrown in his direction to be completed, including 24 passes defensed with 8 interceptions.

As a rookie, Peters proved to be that playmaking difference maker at the NFL level as well.

“He’s incredibly smart and he's incredibly instinctive,” Dorsey said of Peters. “He has a deep passion for the game. Once he stepped onto that field, we knew he was a true professional.

“He doesn’t want to be good; he wants to be great.”

Peters set the franchise record for most passes defensed in a season with 26, tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions and his 280 interception return yards ranked best in the NFL, more than doubling the next closest player (Trumaine Johnson, 136 yards on 7 INTs).

He helped transform a Chiefs defense that only had 13 takeaways in 2014. Thanks to Peters, among others, that number increased to 29 last season, which was fifth best in the NFL. The 22 total interceptions for the Chiefs ranked second best in the NFL behind the Carolina Panthers (24).

Peters’ most memorable play of the season came in his introduction to Chiefs Kingdom at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 2 of the regular season, when he picked off Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and returned it 55 yards for the touchdown.

It was a sign of things to come for Peters, and he’s only getting started.

OL Mitch Morse (Round 2 – No. 48 overall)

By the time the Chiefs got to the first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Morse had already earned the starting center job.

It was a position he would only relinquish due to two different concussions suffered during the season, which kept him from starting one regular season game and both playoff contests.

Despite the missed time, Morse still managed to finish the regular season with the most snaps played on the team for any offensive lineman at 940, which included 24 on special teams.

On offense, the only guys who played more snaps than Morse (916) were Alex Smith (989) and Travis Kelce (924).

Not only was he on the field more than any other offensive linemen for the Chiefs, he also played well enough to be named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team because of his performance.

This video clip is just one example of how Morse impressed his coaches and teammates with his incredible athleticism at the center position.

Morse has the ability to get out in space and lead down the field on the numerous screens the Chiefs like to run to the outside, whether it’s a swing out of the backfield or a quick-hitter to a receiver on the outside. A lot of the success was due to Morse having the athleticism to get out and run in space and being able to hit a moving target when he was out there.

Morse also finished the season with just one holding call against him.

WR Chris Conley (Round 3 – No. 76 overall)

The Chiefs selected Conley in the third round after trading up with the Minnesota Vikings, who received the No. 80 and No. 193 picks in exchange for the No. 76 pick the Chiefs ultimately used to select Conley.

Conley finished the regular season with 17 receptions for 199 yards and a touchdown, and he also had 6 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown in the two playoff games combined.

The biggest game of Conley’s season was undoubtedly against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Week 7 of the regular season.

The Chiefs had lost five straight and were desperately looking to get back on the winning track, and they were going to have to do it without their No. 1 receiver in Jeremy Maclin, who was ruled because of a concussion suffered the week before against the Vikings.

Conley stepped up and caught a season-high 6 passes for 63 yards, including a crucial touchdown with less than 6 minutes remaining in the game. That touchdown gave the Chiefs a 23-13 lead and sealed the victory.

It was the first of 10 consecutive victories for the Chiefs, and it was Conley’s ability to step up in Maclin’s absence that proved to be one of the key differences.

It wouldn’t be the last time Conley would be asked to step in for Maclin, and the next time would come with even more on the line.

Midway through the third quarter of the Wild Card game against the Houston Texans, the Chiefs were holding on to a 13-0 lead and had the ball.

After a 7-yard reception to Maclin on second-and-10 from midfield, there was a problem—Maclin couldn’t get up. He was holding his leg and it didn’t look good.

What ultimately was announced as an ankle injury followed Maclin into the following week against the New England Patriots, and Conley was once again asked to step in and produce for the Chiefs offense.

Just five plays after Maclin left with the injury, Conley caught a 9-yard touchdown from Alex Smith on a play he had never practiced.

The contested catch in the back of the end zone gave the Chiefs a 20-0 lead and helped them put the game out of reach.

It was the first playoff win in more than two decades, and Conley, who was a key part of the start of the winning streak, caught a touchdown in that game as well.

CB Steven Nelson (Round 3 – No. 98 overall)

After being inactive for the first four games of the season, Nelson finished the season as a consistent contributor on Dave Toub’s special teams units, finishing fourth on the team with 7 tackles on special teams.

Nelson finished the season with 179 total snaps played and 126 of those came on special teams.

Perhaps his most memorable set of plays came in the playoff game against the Texans.

Late in the second quarter and with the Chiefs holding a 13-0 lead, the defense faced second-and-2 at their own 5-yard line. Nelson found himself on the field for the defense as Peters had blown the top off his shoe and had to run off the field for a play just moments before the snap.

Nelson was matched up one-on-one on the outside with one of the NFL’s best receivers, DeAndre Hopkins.

They went right at Nelson and despite giving up several inches and more than 20 pounds, Nelson was in perfect position and the pass fell incomplete.

Just a few plays later, Josh Mauga would intercept Brian Hoyer’s pass on the goal line and the best opportunity for the Texans to put points on the board was gone, and one of the key plays in allowing that to happen was Nelson’s coverage of Hopkins.

LB Ramik Wilson (Round 4 – No. 118 overall)

Wilson led the Chiefs in tackles during the preseason and made two starts in the regular season when veteran Josh Mauga was sidelined for two games with groin and Achilles injuries suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4.

Wilson finished the season with 20 tackles and a fumble recovery, which resulted in a touchdown against the Chicago Bears.

All of Wilson’s tackles came in Week’s 4-6, including a standout performance against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6, when he finished with 8 tackles, tying him for second most in the team.

Wilson was a key figure in the Chiefs defense, holding Peterson to 26 carries for just 60 yards—the second-lowest yards-per-carry average of his career since 2009 (min. 25 carries).

LB D.J. Alexander (Round 5 – No. 172 overall)

Alexander developed into one of the best special teams players for the Chiefs as a rookie last season.

He led the team with 11 special teams tackles and it was his punt block against the Oakland Raiders in Week 17 that proved to be the difference in that game.

TE James O’ Shaughnessy (Round 5 – No. 173 overall)

After playing in just seven games, James O’Shaughnessy’s season was cut short after suffering a season-ending foot injury during a practice in November.

O’ Shaughnessy finished the season with 6 catches for 87 yards.

DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Round 6 – No. 217 overall)

Despite playing just 22 defensive snaps last season, Nunez-Roches finished with 4 tackles, including a beauty against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11.

WR Da’Ron Brown (Round 7 – No. 233 overall)

Brown did not log any snaps and spent the season on the practice squad.

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