ESPN released their annual under 25 rankings today (in$ider) and the Rams fared rather well. They ranked 3rd behind the Cowboys and Dolphins. Not quite as well as last season when they were ranked #1, but still a very respectable position to be in.
Here are the criteria that they use to evaluate each roster.
- The number of games started by players under the age of 25 in 2014
- The number of snaps played by U25 players in 2014
- Whether a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
- The number of U25 first-team All-Pros and Pro Bowlers a team has on its roster (All-Pros were given more weight than Pro Bowls)
- Positional value (young quarterbacks and positions impacting the passing game carry more weight; backup running backs and kickers are devalued)
- The amount of value a team added in the 2015 draft, with a focus on the first two rounds (premium picks)
- The expected number of key starters and reserves under the age of 25 in 2015
- A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent • Players with significant injury or suspension issues in 2015 are downgraded
3. St. Louis Rams 2014 ranking: 1
Robert Quinn turning 25 had a lot to do with the Rams dropping from the top spot, and Aaron Donald's Defensive Rookie of the Year season had a lot to do with the Rams still ranking third in U25 talent. The defensive line had a slow start, but finished strong, with Donald's 20.5 quarterback hurries leading the team. Michael Brockers may lose his starting job to Nick Fairley, but he's still another first-round talent in this front seven. Alec Ogletree, E.J. Gaines and T.J. McDonald should provide the defense with three more capable U25 starters.
The problems are on offense where the talent has not panned out as well. We're still waiting for Tavon Austin to prove he's anything more than a decent return man who somehow commanded the eighth overall pick. Greg Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, has a lot of pressure to perform well at left tackle with new quarterback Nick Foles in town. Rob Havenstein has a decent shot to win the other tackle job as a second-round rookie, but the Rams have not been solid up front for many years. Tre Mason looked like a fine running back last year, but in a very Jeff Fisher move, the Rams still drafted Todd Gurley 10th overall. He may not be healthy enough to start the season at a high level after last year's torn ACL. Foles has really been a different quarterback in each of his three seasons. We'll see if he can help the Rams reach their potential on offense.
Even for ESPN, this seems a bit disconnected. Maybe not the overall ranking, but the analysis. Brockers isn't losing his starting gig. Why even mention Gaines? Labeling Ogletree and TJ Mac as 'capable' starters? They're borderline Pro Bowl candidates. As for the Offense, it's clear to anyone that's glanced at this team that Rob Havenstein has more than a 'decent shot' to win the RT gig.
They also forgot to mention Stedman Bailey, Jamon Brown, and Lamarcus Joyner - who will fill in for the aforementioned Gaines. All in all though, it's mostly all gravy for the Rams here. We all knew the roster was loaded with young talent. We didn't need ESPN's piss-poor analysis to tell us in a backhanded fashion.