Each year, Football Outsiders compiles a list of the best and brightest young players in the NFL who have barely played. The overwhelming majority of the draft day’s talk is about first-round picks, with a bit of talk about guys who weren’t first but should have been, especially if they were quarterbacks.
This list is for others.
Everyone knows Chase Young and Joe Burrow are good. There is a cottage industry around the idea of passing out the No.1 quarterback in every draft as a potential superstar. But players don’t stop showing promise just because they don’t make waves in their rookie seasons. This is a list of players who have a good chance of making an impact in the NFL despite their lack of draft and the fact that they weren’t immediate NFL starters. (Our full criteria for determining who is eligible for this list can be found at the bottom of this article.)
Previous editions of the list have featured players like Geno Atkins, Grady Jarrett, Chris Godwin, Tyreek Hill, and Jamaal Charles before they exploded. Last year’s roster included Mark Andrews, Maurice Hurst, Tracy Walker and JC Jackson.
Most of these lists depend heavily on the depth of the incoming draft classes. For example, this year’s roster doesn’t have a lot of top players because most of the players either played straight away or didn’t have the required talent. Last year’s list was full of domestic linemen. This year is heavier on the cornerbacks, after a fairly strong 2019 draft class on the defensive line. We’ll also be focusing more on players with immediate chances to play this year, as COVID-19 canceled the preseason and made it harder for less experienced players to earn regular jobs in the camp.
Note: ages are in effect as of July 30, 2020.