Every offseason, Football Outsiders compiles a list of unheralded players who have the chance to become stars or major contributors. We use certain criteria to find the best young players who weren't high draft picks and still haven't had too much playing time but could be on track to become significant contributors.
What would that list look like now, as opposed to in the next offseason?
What follows is the Football Outsiders Top 25 Prospects list, based on which players would qualify right now. Some of these players could play their way off the list as their snap counts rise over the final two months of the season, while others might still be fairly unknown when we get to next year's training camp. But all of them are players to watch in the NFL going forward.
The criteria to make this list:
Third-round pick or lower, or undrafted, from the classes of 2016 to 2018
500 or fewer offensive or defensive career snaps through Week 10 of 2018 (except running backs, with a maximum of 300 snaps)
No signed contract extension
Age 26 or younger
Last year's midseason prospects list can claim several NFL stars, including Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Desmond King and George Kittle. This year's list, we're going to warn you now, is stuffed to the gills with defensive linemen. It was a big draft class for them, including our No. 1 overall prospect:
1. Maurice Hurst, DL, Oakland Raiders
Age: 23 | Snaps through Week 10: 354 | Drafted: Round 5 (2018)
The easiest players to project onto this list are ones who fall in the draft for reasons over which they have no control. Had we been doing a midseason list the year that LSU's La'el Collins fell in the draft because his name was being discussed around a double homicide, for instance, he would've been an easy pick. Great player plus bad circumstance usually equals a good opportunity for value.
Hurst wrecked shop at Michigan, totaling 32 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks in three seasons. But alarms went off at the NFL scouting combine because of a heart condition. If your favorite team's medical staff had cleared Hurst, though, it was obvious what kind of player he was. Hurst collected his third sack in Week 10, to go along with four hurries (all hurries quoted are from Sports Info Solutions, through Week 10), and at this point he's the only thing Raiders fans have any rational reason to be optimistic about. Hurst fits another one of the classic undervalued draft archetypes: the smaller defensive tackle who creates havoc inside yet falls because NFL scouts don't take him seriously because of his size. The patron saint of that category is Aaron Donald, who didn't go in the top 10 despite being the best player in the 2014 draft. We think the Raiders would be very happy if Hurst followed in the more reasonable footsteps of Geno Atkins or Grady Jarrett.