Player development within the NFL doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the annual draft and free-agent frenzy do each year, but it’s arguably the most important aspect of building a successful team.
There aren’t many true developmental players in the NFL anymore. As the expectations for rookies become more immediate and intense each year, teams are becoming less willing to wait on players who need multiple years to capitalize upon their potential.
Despite the reality that most projects have to quickly become a productive player in order to keep their roster spot, there are still young players around the league each year who emerge as impact guys after being brought along gradually by patient teams.
Examples of players who started out their career as a minimal contributor and progressed to break through as a difference-maker this past season included New York Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison, New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell.
None of the following 10 players have made a noticeable impact in the NFL yet, and they might not take on a significant role for their team in 2014, either. All of them, however, are young players with the tools to possibly emerge as a standout if their teams stay the course and continue to help them improve and overcome their flaws.