Every year, Football Outsiders puts together a list of the NFL's best and brightest young players ... who have barely played. About 80% of draft-day discussions are about first-round picks, and 10% are about the players who should have been first-round picks but instead went in the second round. Particularly if they were quarterbacks.
This list is about that last 10%. It's a stab in the dark at players who might just come out of the woodwork and surprise you this year.
This is a list of players who have a real chance to make an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft stock and the fact that they weren't immediate NFL starters.
Previous editions of the list have hyped George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, Mark Andrews and J.C. Jackson before they blew up. Last year's list led off with Damien Harris, who scored 15 touchdowns during the 2021 season. It had Logan Wilson, who eventually started in the Super Bowl. It also had some solid starters and, well, some misses.
This is the 16th anniversary of the list. We're still relying on the same things we always have: scouting, statistics, measurables, context, ceiling, expected role and what we hear from other sources. Here's our full criteria for the top 25:
Drafted in the third round or later, or signed as an undrafted free agent.
Entered the NFL between 2019 and 2021.
Fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps (except running backs, who are allowed just 300 offensive snaps).
Have not signed a contract extension (players who have bounced around the league looking for the right spot, however, still qualify for the list).
Age 26 or younger as of Sept. 1, 2022.
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 DVOA and other FO stats on this page. Many of the other stats, including blown blocks and success rate in coverage, come from Sports Info Solutions and can be found in our new book, Football Outsiders Almanac 2022.
Let's start with the top prospect:
(Ages are current as of July 31, 2022)