Over at ESPN, Football Outsiders’ rankings of the NFL’s 32 teams based on under-25 talent (insider subscription required) came out today, and the Rams came in fifth.
It’s a bit of a slide from last year’s #3 ranking and 2014’s #1 overall spot, but it’s still a strong place to be in and indicates the wealth of young talent the Rams have built up since Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead arrived in 2012.
Here’s how ESPN & FO qualified the Rams’ fifth-overall ranking this year:
The Rams have finished in the top five of these rankings for three straight years, yet Jeff Fisher hasn't been able to get this team over the 8-8 hump. His excuses are running out, as the Rams continue to stockpile U25 talent, even as some players (namely Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald) no longer qualify.
Todd Gurley should have his eyes on the rushing title this year, and with Le'Veon Bell suspended, he might be the best U25 back in the league. His offensive line has three U25 starters, including a former No. 2 overall pick (left tackle Greg Robinson), and we only charted right tackle Rob Havenstein with two blown blocks in 2015. Pharoh Cooper, even as a fourth-round rookie, has a good shot to produce in this passing game right away.
The defense has aged to the point where we're mostly just talking about Alec Ogletree and E.J. Gaines at U25, but that's fine. The Rams should get their share of credit for landing quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Our QBASE projection system heavily favored Goff over Carson Wentz, and no matter when he makes his debut in Los Angeles, Goff will be a long-term improvement over the Rams' other options at quarterback.
To come in at #5 without Aaron Donald qualifying is pretty amazing. Things get kind of thrown off based on when players come in the league, and you tend to meld their ages together. Michael Brockers is about six months older than Aaron Donald but has four NFL seasons under his belt compared to AD’s two. You can filter the roster on the team page to see who’s under the 25-year limit.
FWIW, here’s their methodology:
- The number of games in 2015 started by players under the age of 25
- The number of snaps played in 2015 by players under the age of 25
- Whether a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
- The number of under-25 first-team All-Pros and Pro Bowl players 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 2016 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 2016
- A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent
- Players with significant injury or suspension issues in 2016 are downgraded
What do you think, TSTers? Does #5 sound fair? Too high? Is the slide over two years worrisome or are you still comfortable being in the top handful?