Earlier this week, Football Outsiders put together a piece for ESPN that ranks each team based on its 25-and-under talent. Among the criteria for the rankings are how many games players 25 and under started last year, what kind of impact players 25 and under have on the passing game and a team's track record of developing and retaining young talent. The list is headlined by the New England Patriots, but the Detroit Lions are right behind them as the No. 2 team in the NFL.
A big reason why the Lions were ranked so high is because they have so much young talent on offense.
Last year, Detroit was ranked only fifth on this list mostly because of concerns about QB Matthew Stafford's throwing shoulder. Well, Stafford put those concerns to rest, finishing 2011 in the top 10 in both DVOA and DYAR, so here the Lions sit at No. 2. Although Calvin Johnson is the obvious lynchpin, the growth of second-year slot receiver Titus Young (23) and the return of injured running backs Jahvid Best (23) and Mikel Leshoure (22) should allow Detroit's offense to maintain -- if not improve -- its No. 10 DVOA from last season. First-round tackle Riley Reiff is the Lions' left tackle of the future but is talented enough to beat out the underwhelming Gosder Cherilus for Detroit's starting right tackle job this season.
Young defensive players like Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy, Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey were also mentioned as a big reason why the Lions came in second in the entire NFL. There is lots of 25-and-under talent on both sides of the ball, giving the Lions a young core of players with a lot of promise going forward.