EARTH CITY, Mo. -- This summer, Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL rosters from one to 32 and drew the ire of St. Louis Rams fans for placing the team at No. 31 in the league.
In part, that ranking was the result of the fact that much of the team's roster is young and largely unproven. On Wednesday, the Football Outsiders offered the opposite side of the PFF coin when they revealed their rankings of the team's with the most under-25 talent in the league. You didn't have to look too far to find the Rams in Football Outsiders' rankings as they topped the list on the ESPN Insider post.
The rankings of the teams with the most young talent in the league were based on a number of factors, including the number of games started by players under 25 in 2013, relative positional value of the young players playing those games and snaps, the expected number of key starters and reserves under 25 projected for the 2014 season, and the team's recent track record of developing young players.
With the Rams at the top, Football Outsiders pointed to the big trade they made with the Washington Redskins in 2012 as giving them a leg up on adding top young talent. From the Insider piece:
"The real reason behind what powered the Rams to the top here: There may not be a better front seven in the league. ... It was really (Robert) Quinn's All-Pro season with 19 sacks that edged St. Louis to the top. There are several players with great potential here, but Quinn's the one to actually have started building a track record. If more Rams can follow his lead, then this team will compete in the tough NFC West."
In some sense, it should be no surprise to see the Rams at the top of this list solely based on how they fit the criteria. They have been the youngest team in the league each of the past two years and could be again this year. Coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have been unafraid to not only devote resources to young players, but also give them ample opportunities to play.
The hope is that those young players will turn that youth and potential into production, something the Rams have targeted for the 2014 season since Fisher and Snead arrived.
Put simply, it's nice to have a lot of young talent so long as it develops. Some of it, especially Quinn, has taken off under the guidance of this coaching staff, but there are plenty of others who still have a lot to prove. If the bulk of the young players in prominent roles take the next step, this roster can move from topping lists based on potential and climb on lists about actual production.