Big Jay pointed out a recent ESPN article written and compiled by the Football Outsiders staff ranking the top 25 prospects in the NFL.
While Steelers CB Cortez Allen pulled down the No. 4 position, it seems odd one obvious member didn't even make their Honorable Mention list. Steelers WR Antonio Brown.
· Drafted in the third round or later
· Entered the NFL between 2009 and 2011
· Fewer than five career games started
· Still on their initial contract
· Age 26 or younger in 2012
To provide some background, Steelers WR Mike Wallace was No. 1 on this list before the 2010 season. Turned out to be a wise selection, considering the years he's had since them. Definitely befitting of a top prospect nod.
But what about Brown, a Pro Bowl player in his second season? He seems to meet all the criteria - a sixth-round pick in 2010, is listed on NFL.com has only having three career starts, and just turned 24 years old. He is still on his initial contract. It's possible the Football Outsiders staff uses something of a floating measurement for starts - although Brown may not have been on the field for the first offensive snap of all but three games last season, clearly, he was a bigger contributor than Hines Ward.
That still doesn't make him a starter, though, and the requirements do not indicate anything about playing time, just simply whether the player started four games or less.
Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin was tabbed as the No. 1 prospect on the list, and little suggests he's unworthy of mention. He came onto the scene last year, playing in a less-than-stellar passing offense and did pretty well. That doesn't change the fact that Brown clearly had a bigger season. By comparison, Baldwin had less catches than Brown did in 2011 (69 to 51), less yards (1,108 to 788) and Baldwin didn't excel on special teams as well, like Brown. Not to take anything away from Baldwin, who was a rookie in 2011, it just seems strange Brown would merit zero inclusion when Baldwin, clearly a less productive football player in 2011, is their top choice.
Adding logs of wonder onto their fire of credibility, they added two players named Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette to the bottom of the list, two other receivers on the Seahawks, who have (not making this up) five catches in the NFL between them.
I get that perhaps what FO is trying to do is highlight lesser-known players, guys on the rise (hence Allen's No. 4 ranking). But their criteria do not spell that out. Brown fits all five of their requirements, and clearly has had a good amount of success in his two years in the NFL. This isn't to suggest Baldwin, Lockette or Dunham are stiffs and undeserving of praise, but the list itself is suspect if they're not even going to throw out more language to disqualify players who clearly are at higher levels than others. Why it is a prospect is not considered a prospect because he's already having success is beyond me.