- Bill Barnwell
Talent is a more fluid proposition in football than any other sport. Consider some of the prominent young wide receivers of last season and where they were before the 2009-10 campaign. Sidney Rice was third on the Minnesota Vikings' depth chart at wide receiver; had the team's pitch to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency worked, Rice would have been buried behind him. Robert Meachem was a colossal bust who had 12 catches in two pro seasons. Miles Austin was stuck behind Sam Hurd as the primary backup for the Dallas Cowboys. Pierre Garcon was a lower-level college star with a cool name.
This past season was nothing new; every year, teams are pushed to new heights by players who were considered to be inexperienced or underprepared only weeks prior. Flaws attributed to talent magically disappear with playing time, first-team practice reps and confidence. Our Top 25 Prospects list attempts to identify those individual players lurking at the bottom of NFL rosters who are likely to emerge as valuable players in 2010, but our Organizational Rankings take a different approach.
Instead of limiting our analysis to players who have yet to emerge in the NFL, these rankings consider all players who will be 25 or younger as of September 1, 2010 -- regardless of where they were drafted or how many games they've started. After compiling a list of eligible players for each team, we compared the groups on a variety of factors. We weighed issues like upside versus established production, quantity versus quality, and current staff versus historical ability to develop rookies when it comes to evaluating the talent available to each NFL franchise.
In the end, we put together these rankings with help from the rest of the crew at Football Outsiders. The capsules represent a synopsis of thoughts as to why the team is ranked where they are and who the important young players are for the franchise. However, we should point out that talent under the age of 25 does not equal talent overall. In the NFL, a couple bounces of the ball can turn an average team into a wild-card contender -- but it takes real time to build a team that can challenge for a Super Bowl title. Some of the teams near the top of our list are still a couple of years away from that point, and their rank is more about promise for the future than promise for this upcoming campaign.
32. Washington Redskins
Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have inherited a wasteland from Vinny Cerrato, who used his draft picks to acquire "has-beens" and "never-weres." As a result, the Redskins only have four "young" starters, and two of them (wideout Devin Thomas and safety LaRon Landry) have been professional flops. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was extremely effective last year, and rookie tackle Trent Williams should start on the left side from Day One. The only notable young players behind them are tight end Fred Davis and backup linebacker H.B. Blades.
31. San Diego Chargers
Since Norv Turner's arrival in 2007, the Chargers have failed to develop much in the way of young talent. First-round picks Craig Davis (2007) and Antoine Cason (2008) do not have good NFL records, and San Diego's only impact player under 25 is criminally underrated safety Eric Weddle. The Chargers hope that Cason grows into a starting role this year, halfback Ryan Mathews improves what was the league's worst rush offense in 2009-10, and middle linebacker Brandon Siler builds off a strong second half.
Football Outsiders rolls out their 2010 Organizational Rankings; these are based on quality players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2010. Those rich in such talent include the Texans, Panthers and Chiefs.