So I wanted to do a list of the best young players in the league and looked for the right age. We have a lot of great players 25 years and older, but under that age it was really hard for me to choose. So you won’t see guys like J.J. Watt, Rob Gronkowski or Lavonte David. Here it is:
T: Ereck Flowers (R), Giants
T: Jake Matthews, Falcons
G: La’el Collins (R), Cowboys
C: Corey Linsley, Packers
QB: Blake Bortles, Jaguars
HB: Todd Gurley, Rams
HB: Devonta Freeman, Falcons
TE: Crockett Gillmore, Ravens
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers
WR: Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
WR: Allen Robinson, Jaguars
WR: Amari Cooper (R), Raiders
WR: Sammy Watkins, Bills
It’s no surprise the receivers are the strongest offensive position group with all those great young pass catchers we have in the league. OBJ and Nuke (Hopkins) are absolute freaks and might be the top two guys behind Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. My two starting wideouts are the focal points of their respective team’s offense. Even more impressive is the depth behind them. All those guys have a case for deserving to be in the Pro Bowl and will be in years coming. Watkins missed some time during the season though.
At the running back position I went with Bell, who when healthy to me is the best running back in the business. Even more than that he’s the most complete one. Gurley has unbelievable vision and understanding of the game at a very young age at which he has special physical ability as well. Freeman completes a dynamic trio after a break-out sophomore season.
At the quarterback position there have been a couple of excellent young signal callers drafted in the last two years. The Raiders and Jaguars had been searching for a leader for quite some time now, but both hit the jackpot last year when they selected Carr and Bortles. Those two guys have outplayed a whole bunch of veterans, using their excellent young skill position players around them and really spreading the ball around well. I went with Carr as a starter because he takes better care of the ball outside of their game against the Packers. Both those guys like to push the ball downfield though.
A lot of the top tight-ends in the game are around 25 to 28 years old. Still I didn’t want to cheat here, so I went with the best guys under 25. Rodgers-to-Rodgers has been a solid combination in 2015, as the Packers only got minimal production from the position in recent years. Gillmore missed large parts of the season, but really got the job done in a Ravens passing attack, which only featured Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken in large portions outside of him. Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t had a lot of playing time this season, but he has proven to be a huge threat down the seams. Right now this certainly is the least impressive position group though.
At the offensive line it was really hard for me to pick eight guys, because I had them ranked so close together. Frederick and Long have already made the Pro Bowl, while the others could easily do so very soon. I also feel very confident with an outstanding backup center in Linsley, two really talented tackles and a road-grader in guard La’el Collins.
DE: Kony Ealy, Panthers
DE: Aaron Lynch, 49ers
DT: Shariff Floyd, Vikings
DT: Eddie Goldman (R), Bears
DT: Timmy Jernigan, Ravens
ILB: Preston Brown, Bills
ILB: Kwon Alexander (R), Buccaneers
OLB: Anthony Barr, Vikings
OLB: Telvin Smith, Jaguars
NB: Aaron Colvin, Jaguars
CB: Jason Verrett, Chargers
CB: Darius Slay, Lions
S: Eric Reid, 49ers
S: Landon Collins, Giants
Up front I might not have huge sack numbers out of three of the guys, but with Donald I have the number one defensive tackle in the NFL today. He has been so dominant even with Chris Long and Robert Quinn he should receive serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Lawrence has quietly become the Cowboys leader in sacks (with seven) while Tuitt is making himself a name in his second year on one of the better defensive fronts in football. Clowney might not even have five sacks so far, but when he is right he can be a terror for offensive linemen and playcallers. What I like about those guys is that all of them play the run well. I could line up Jernigan anywhere from the 0 to the 5 technique thanks to his versatility, Lynch might be an outside linebacker, but he makes his money as a pass rusher, as he ranks 8th among quarterback hits.
My linebacking corp is crazy. Kuechly is the undoubted top middle linebacker in the league, Mack leads the league in sacks even though he might be an even better run stopper and Mosley had some difficult times for the Ravens early in the season (which everybody on their team had), but he can stop the run like a linebacker while also being able to cover like a safety. Backing them up are rookie Kwon Alexander and three sophomores, who all look like they could end up in Hawaii in future years.
At corner I have Peters with seven picks on the year and Darby who led the league in opposing quarterback rating when throwing at him until a couple of weeks ago. Backing them up are the Mighty Mouse Verrett, who just held Amari Cooper to two catches for 10 yards, and Slay, who I think has really stabilized the Lions backfield since arriving in Detroit. Playing the nickel is Colvin, a complete player, who also has four sacks on the year.
At the safety positions I went with an Alabama and an LSU guy. Clinton-Dix has been a great pick-up for the Pack and Mathieu should clearly be in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. There simply is no defensive back in the NFL with more versatility and I feel so bad for him missing the playoffs. My backups also come from those rival schools. Reid had injury problems early in his career, but has been a producing full-time starter for the Niners when he was healthy and Collins has been the best defensive player on the Giants already in his rookie campaign. If I want to set the tone I let him put a lick on a receiver over the middle.
Not many people know my kicker Cantanzaro. He hasn’t converted from more than 47 yards, but I think 28 of 30 speaks for itself. At punter I simply went with the one with the highest average of punt yards. I thought about my return man for quite some time, but I went with Lockett instead of Cordarelle Patterson, since he has proven be a weapon as a kickoff and punt returner.
Just missed the cut:
OL Ali Marpet (Buccaneers), QB Marcus Mariota (Titans), HB Giovani Bernard (Bengals), HB David Johnson (Cardinals), TE Eric Ebron (Lions), WR Mike Evans (Buccaneers), Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers), DE Preston Smith (Redskins) , LB Avery Williamson (Titans), CB David Amerson (Raiders), S Calvin Pryor (Jets), RS Cordarelle Patterson (Vikings)
Running back David Johnson is so close to being there, but I have to see more than two starts out of him. I’ve been high on him since I’ve seen him the first time at UNI.