The guys at Football Outsiders generally ranked and rate players beyond the way simple mortals can think of. Most mainstream sports sites, even NFL's home site, generally rate players based on mainstream statistics. Such as how many yards rushing does a running back have? Football Outsiders doesn't ask that; it's really not that important. They ask, how important are the yards that they gain? For instance a running back with five yards on five carries appears ridiculously bad. What if all five yards were on third-and-one, or perhaps fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, all converting third downs in a touchdown or first down?
Football Outsiders ranks the top 25 prospects in the NFL with the unique qualification that includes players drafted in the third round or later (including UDFA), entering the NFL from 2008 through 2010, fewer than five career starts all while still playing on their rookie contracts. Based on those qualifications, the Bengals have two players in the top ten.
No. 10 - Jordan Shipley:
Eighty-five players qualified for the leaderboard in our receiver statistics by being targeted on 50 passes or more. Of those 85 players, only one -- Austin Collie -- had a catch rate greater than the 70 percent figure put up by Shipley last season. Shipley's catch rate was actually slightly ahead of the other slot receivers he's often compared to: Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. He even posted the best DVOA of the three, along with the only positive receiving DVOA by any qualifying Bengals receiver. Shipley isn't going to be a star, but he's going to be a contributor on the next effective Bengals offense.
No. 6 - Geno Atkins:
At first glance, Atkins doesn't look like a great prospect; he had three sacks in a full season while playing for a mediocre defense. With Atkins, though, it's the more subtle stuff that suggests he has serious potential. For one, Atkins is a defensive tackle. Getting even three sacks as a rookie is a positive sign. There's also a lot bubbling under the surface suggesting that his sack rate could rise, too. While preseason stats aren't consistently meaningful, he produced 4.5 sacks in five games. And during the regular season, Atkins led the team in our advanced pass rush metrics by a good amount. He had nine quarterback hits, four more than any other Bengals defender, while his 17.5 hurries outpaced the rest of the lineup by five. A great pass-rusher with the size to play inside in a 4-3 is rare indeed, but it looks like the Bengals have that in Atkins.
Good choices, we say. Some of you might be asking, what about Carlos Dunlap? He didn't even start a single regular season game last year. No. But he was also drafted in the second round.
The list is really nothing more than the discussion of best players drafted during rounds that produces less than the first two rounds. We're not saying anyone drafted in the third round or worse is bad (we know someone actually came to that conclusion so we had to say it). Yet players drafted in the first two rounds tend to have more successful careers because most were great college players. Atkins and Shipley? Great selections.