NFL'S TOP UNDER-25 TALENT:
Want to be a great NFL organization? Find talent in places where other teams don't. It's one thing to find a great player in the first round of the draft, where talent is unquestioned and success is more a question of scheme and fit than anything else. When teams supplement success in the first round with great work on the final day of the draft and in rookie free agency, they create advantages up and down the roster that other teams simply can't compete with.
For the uninitiated, this list is not like the prospect lists you read about in the world of baseball. Because the top prospects in college football are stars on national television before they get taken in the first round of the NFL draft, there's not much utility in listing them here. Instead, we use a combination of statistics, measurables, context and expected roles to compile a list of under-the-radar players whom we expect to make an impact in the NFL, both in 2011 and beyond. To focus on these players, we limit the pool to guys who fit the following criteria:
" Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as a college free agent
" Entered the NFL between 2008 and 2010
" Fewer than five career games started
" Still on a rookie contract
Today we're bringing you the top 10 on our list; yesterday we brought you Nos. 11-25. On Thursday, we'll wrap up the series by ranking all 32 NFL teams by their under-25 talent.
10. Jordan Shipley, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Eighty-five players qualified for the leaderboard in our receiver statistics by being targeted on 50 passes or more. Of those 85 players, only one -- Austin Collie -- had a catch rate greater than the 70 percent figure put up by Shipley last season. Shipley's catch rate was actually slightly ahead of the other slot receivers he's often compared to: Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. He even posted the best DVOA of the three, along with the only positive receiving DVOA by any qualifying Bengals receiver. Shipley isn't going to be a star, but he's going to be a contributor on the next effective Bengals offense.