As training camps wind down, most teams have the majority of their 53-man roster figured out, but not much is set in stone. Around this time last year, it looked as though Matt Schaub was going to be Oakland's starting quarterback, but rookie Derek Carr started every game. No one expected Green Bay center Corey Linsley, a fifth-round pick, to start every game for the league's top-ranked offense, but he got his opportunity after an injury.
Players will rise to the occasion in a multitude of ways this year, but there are some who already have made a name for themselves. To look at which teams have the most future potential, we ranked all 32 NFL teams by their talent under the age of 25.
Last year's rankings had the Rams at No. 1 and the Seahawks at 32. Not much has changed in regards to those teams this year, but that just shows some of the differences in team building. Most of Seattle's core is just above the age-25 cutoff, while the Rams have loaded up in recent drafts without the results to show for it yet.
We wanted to create a ranking that balanced opportunity with performance and potential, so we used the following criteria:
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
You'll see a number of references to Football Outsiders stats on our list, in particular DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), which takes every play and compares its success to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You can read more about that and other FO stats on this page. Statistics that reference game charting come from ESPN Stats & Information, as well as Football Outsiders.
Here are our organizational rankings for this season. (Note: All ages are as of Sept. 10, 2015.)
2014 ranking: 11
Of the six first-team All-Pro players in the study, the Cowboys have two: left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin. Center Travis Frederick makes for a third Pro Bowl selection on the offensive line, and Dallas even snagged guard La'el Collins, considered by many to have first-round talent, after he went undrafted following unusual circumstances. Last season the Cowboys' offensive line ranked first in adjusted line yards and Joseph Randle could be the next running back to take advantage of one of the league's most stacked units.