US Sports Veteran
Over the past four years, a new wave of talented players flooded into the NFL. Some of the league’s best players are under 25 years old, which makes the league’s future look brighter than ever. Electrifying new talents have brought the game to a younger generation of fans.
This article breaks down the top 35 players under 25 years old right now. I’ve broken down the list into four tiers, along with a category for honorable mentions. Analysis accompanies each tier, discussing the group’s standouts and potential for advancement in the future.
*Players are under 25 as of the writing of this article
Budda Baker, S
A.J. Brown, WR
D.J. Chark, WR
Jaire Alexander, CB
Adoree’ Jackson, CB
Terry McLaurin, WR
D.K. Metcalf, WR
Kyler Murray, QB
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
Denzel Ward, CB
A promising young wide receiver class sits outside the top 35 players under 25. While Smith-Schuster made the Pro Bowl in 2018, Chark earned a bid this past season. However, Metcalf might possess the most potential out of the five wide receivers in this category.
Of the three defensive back honorable mentions, only Baker has a Pro Bowl appearance. Baker earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 as a special teamer, and he went in 2019 as a safety. Alexander and Jackson flirted with Pro Bowl-caliber performances last season.
While Ward made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, he took a step back last season. Murray is a quality quarterback, but he isn’t close to an elite level.
35. Josh Allen, DE
34. Kenny Clark, DT/NT
33. Orlando Brown, RT
32. Courtland Sutton, WR
31. Braden Smith, RT
30. Josh Jacobs, RB
29. D.J. Moore, WR
28. Miles Sanders, RB
Allen quietly posted 10.5 sacks this past season, while Clark is one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL. Brown made the Pro Bowl last season, but Smith is the better of the two right tackles.
Moore and Sutton put on shows last season despite preforming with below-average quarterback play for most of the year. Jacobs and Sanders also impressed, but Philly’s rookie running back showed greater versatility on a smaller sample size.
27. Kareem Hunt, RB
26. Mark Andrews, TE
25. Fred Warner, LB
24. Bradley Chubb, LB
23. Joe Mixon, RB
22. Dalvin Cook, RB
21. Alvin Kamara, RB
20. Marcus Williams, S
19. Marshon Lattimore, CB
Surprised to see Hunt on this list? I debated not including him, but he’s on an NFL roster and is only two years removed from leading the NFL in rushing yards. He’d start on most teams and is still a very talented player. That doesn’t excuse what he did off the field.
Andrews and Warner both built on strong rookie seasons last year. Andrews made the Pro Bowl and led all tight ends with ten touchdowns. Warner played a central role in San Francisco’s dominant defense. Chubb and Mixon both took steps back this past season. Chubb missed most of the year with an injury while Mixon battled for yards in a floundering offense.
If Mixon played on a better team, he might’ve edged out Cook or Kamara. However, the two Pro Bowlers play a more versatile role in their offenses. One year could completely alter how these three running backs stack up to one another. It’s a close race.
The New Orleans Saints knocked the 2017 NFL Draft out of the park, landing both Lattimore and Williams. In three seasons, Williams has ten interceptions and 23 passes defensed. Lattimore made the second Pro Bowl of his career this past year. He amassed eight interceptions and 44 passes defensed over the past three seasons.
18. Marlon Humphrey, CB
17. Leighton Vander Esch, LB
16. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
15. Nick Chubb, RB
14. Nick Bosa, DE
13. Chris Godwin, WR
12. Joey Bosa, DE
11. Ezekiel Elliott, RB
10. Jamal Adams, S
9. Saquon Barkley, RB
8. Deshaun Watson, QB
After two decent years, Humphrey earned a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2019. Unlike Humphrey, Vander Esch took a step back last season. The 2018 Second-Team All-Pro missed seven games, but he’s still one of the most promising young linebackers in the game today. Fitzpatrick generated eight turnovers last season on his way to a First-Team All-Pro bid.
Chubb finished second in the NFL last season with 93.4 rushing yards per game and made the Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, Godwin also experienced a breakout season. He finished second in the league with 95.2 receiving yards per game, only trailing Michael Thomas.
The Bosa brothers both deserve spots on this list. They made Pro Bowls this past season and combined for 114 tackles, 20.5 sacks, and 56 quarterback hits. Joey won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2016, and Nick claimed the award this past season.
Elliott has performed at a top-five running back level since entering the NFL. He’s produced 7,024 yards from scrimmage and 48 total touchdowns over four seasons. However, Barkley is the more talented, versatile running back who could become an All-Pro if New York fixes its offense.
Adams recorded 6.5 sacks from the safety position last year and earned a First-Team All-Pro selection. He does everything for the Jets and should get a massive pay raise. Watson sits on the cusp of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. He won in college. Now, the Clemson product must put together some postseason magic.
7. Myles Garrett, DE
6. Derwin James, S
5. Darius Leonard, LB
4. Quenton Nelson, LG
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB
2. Lamar Jackson, QB
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB
When he’s not clubbing quarterbacks over the head with helmets, Garrett averages a sack and nearly two quarterback hits per game. He would’ve been in the Defensive Player of the Year award conversation in 2019 if not for his antics. James is arguably the best safety in the NFL, but he missed most of this past season. The Florida State product earned a First-Team All-Pro selection as a rookie.
Leonard received a First-Team All-Pro selection as a rookie and a Second-Team All-Pro selection last season. He generates enough statistical production for two players. In two years, he has seven interceptions, 15 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 12 sacks, and 284 tackles. Leonard’s teammate, Nelson, is an even more dominant force.
Last year, McCaffrey became the third back in NFL history to post 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season. He led the NFL with 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. With Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley suffering setbacks, McCaffrey is easily the best running back in the NFL.
Jackson won the MVP award this past season when he became the second player in league history to throw for and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season, joining Michael Vick. He led the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns.
Mahomes won the MVP award in 2018 when he led the NFL with 50 passing touchdowns. This past season, the 24-year-old carried the Kansas City Chiefs to the second Super Bowl title in franchise history. He’s already compiled a résumé fit for a ten-year veteran.
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