The NFL is in a phenomenal spot with an immense amount of young talent in the league, and it’s exciting to watch prospects become superstars at every position. There were some difficult cut-offs to be made with this All Under 25 Team, but I did my best to honor the best player at each position who has yet to turn 25 years old. I only selected players who have yet to turn 25 years old at the start of the upcoming NFL season for this exercise. With all that said, let’s dive in.
QB: Justin Herbert
The former Oregon passer has only played two seasons in the NFL, but Justin Herbert has quickly become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Herbert followed up a record-breaking rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season as he ranked second with 5,014 passing yards, third with 38 touchdowns, and first in total EPA. As the first player in NFL history with 30+ passing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, the sky is the limit for Herbert as a passer. As a Broncos fan, I can’t say I’m thrilled to have my team share a division with him for the foreseeable future.
RB: Jonathan Taylor
Taylor was one of the most straightforward selections for this team as he has emerged as arguably the best running back in the NFL. The Wisconsin product has picked up right where he left off from his historic collegiate production. Last year, he led the league with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns and earned a First-Team All-Pro nod. That was despite the Colts suffering a handful of injuries and COVID-19 absences along the offensive line. With a quarterback upgrade in Matt Ryan and a healthier offensive line this season, Taylor could be even more productive in 2022.
WR: Justin Jefferson
The only receiver in NFL history with 3,000+ yards in his first two seasons. It’s hard to believe Justin Jefferson was the fifth receiver off the board in the 2020 draft. Jefferson ranked second in the NFL with 1,616 receiving yards last year, and he led the NFL with an absurd 7.2 average yards of separation on throws of 20+ yards downfield – the next-best receiver in that regard was Davante Adams with 3.9 yards. By any metric, Jefferson has cemented himself as one of the top offensive talents in the league.
WR: Ja’Marr Chase
Ja’Marr Chase quickly made analysts eat their words as he put offseason concerns over drop issues and a year off from college football hundreds of miles in the rearview mirror. Chase ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,455 receiving yards on an impressive 18.0 yards per reception clip, and he was a massive part of the Super Bowl push with 25 catches for 368 yards in four playoff games. Paired with his college quarterback Joe Burrow for the foreseeable future, expect to see Chase near the top of the statistical leaderboards every year.
WR: Tee Higgins
The final wide receiver spot was painfully challenging to decide on for me, but I ultimately went with the guy who I believe to be the top talent in the group. After suffering from a shoulder injury early in the season, Higgins had a 136.1 passer rating while targeted over his final nine games, which would have beaten Cooper Kupp’s number for the entire season. Higgins is underrated solely because he’s teammates with another elite receiver, and he would be the top receiver on almost every other team in the NFL. Other top considerations included CeeDee Lamb, D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Jaylen Waddle.
TE: Kyle Pitts
The only real choice for the tight end, Kyle Pitts showed everyone why he’s a unicorn at the position as he became just the second player at his position in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season after Mike Ditka did it in 1961. As a true mismatch weapon, Pitts excels across the board with elite hands, route-running, YAC ability, and overall athleticism. Atlanta’s quarterback position is still a significant question mark, but the future is bright for Pitts as he won’t turn 22 years old until October.
LT: Rashawn Slater
The second Chargers offensive player on this list, Rashawn Slater’s rookie season was historic as his 3.7% pressure rate allowed tied Jedrick Wills in 2020 for the lowest pressure rate allowed by a rookie since 2010 per PFF (min. 250 pass-blocking snaps. Slater was PFF’s 8th-ranked offensive tackle last season, and the 23-year-old pass-protector should only continue to improve as he embarks on a highly successful career. The Chargers should be thrilled to have him protecting Herbert’s blindside.
LG: Michael Onwenu
The Patriots found a gem in Michael Onwenu in the sixth round in 2020, and the Michigan product should continue to improve as he enters his third season. Onwenu is a particularly elite run-blocker as he ranked third in PFF’s run-blocking grade among offensive guards with at least 300 snaps. With Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney on their way out in the last two offseasons, Onwenu is taking on a larger responsibility and could break through with his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2022.
C: Creed Humphrey
Not only did Creed Humphrey hit the ground running as a highly productive player in his rookie season – he was PFF’s top-rated center in 2021. Humphrey was the second-rated run-blocker of any offensive lineman other than Trent Williams, per PFF. He allowed just twelve pressures across 20 games started in the regular season and playoffs. It’s hard to believe Humphrey fell all the way to the 63rd pick last year, and it’s even harder to imagine a better young building block for an interior offensive line.
I forgot how much I enjoyed writing about Creed Humphrey back in December.
Reviewed 6 games of his during the season and he was as close to flawless as it gets, especially for a rookie.
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) June 7, 2022
RG: Alijah Vera-Tucker
AVT will kick from left guard to right guard this season after the addition of Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson. There were a handful of options for this spot, but the long-term trajectory for Alijah Vera-Tucker is highly enticing. Vera-Tucker was a high-level run-blocker in his rookie season and only allowed two sacks in 16 games, and he should only improve in his second season. In a Jets offense full of young talent, Vera-Tucker is another crucial building block for the future.
RT: Tristan Wirfs
Despite being the fourth offensive tackle selected in the 2020 draft, Tristan Wirfs has quickly become one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. He led his position group in PFF’s overall pass-blocking efficiency metric last season. In 18 games through the regular season and playoffs, Wirfs allowed just 15 pressures and three sacks. The Buccaneers’ right tackle received a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2021, and I’d be surprised if it were the only nomination of his career.
DE: Nick Bosa
After missing all but two games in 2020 due to injury, Nick Bosa returned in 2021 with a career-high 15.5 sacks and 32 quarterback hits. He also led the NFL with 21 tackles for loss and made his second Pro Bowl appearance. Bosa has yet to make an All-Pro team, but that should be on the horizon for him. With a massive contract extension on the horizon, Bosa should continue to enjoy a career as one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
DT: Jeffery Simmons
Jeffery Simmons, an underrated member of the 2019 NFL draft, finally earned his first Pro Bowl nod with a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2021. Simmons also made the Second-Team All-Pro squad last year. While the Titans lost in the playoffs to the Bengals, Simmons made his presence felt in that game as he had four total pressures and three sacks on Joe Burrow. He also ranked fifth in the NFL with 62 total pressures per PFF.
1. Jeffery Simmons is a Top 5 iDL if you haven’t been paying attention in 2021
2. Dear Lord, fix the right side of this Bengals OL and ASAP pic.twitter.com/sYrNiDTcTm
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 23, 2022
DT: Christian Barmore
I will probably take some criticism for not putting Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, or Quinnen Williams in this spot, but I’m very bullish on Barmore. In his rookie season, he had 48 pressures which ranked first among rookie interior defensive linemen since 2017 – Wilkins and Lawrence each had 30 in their rookie seasons. Barmore also ranked fifth among defensive tackles with a 17.2% pass-rush win rate. As he continues to find his footing in the NFL, expect a significant second-year breakout for Barmore.
DE: Maxx Crosby
Maxx Crosby was absurdly productive in a contract year last season and was rewarded for it. Crosby led the NFL with 101 total pressures, 39 more than Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt had. He also had the highest pass-rush win rate in the NFL at 26.8% per PFF, and he made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro Second Team for the first time. Whether that career-best production will continue into his new contract is another question entirely, but Crosby more than earned the nod on this list.
LB: Micah Parsons
The NFL looked silly for letting Micah Parsons fall to the 12th overall pick as he earned a First-Team All-Pro nod in his first season. Parsons’ run defense can improve as he missed 11.5% of his tackles last year, but his elite production as a pass-rusher and in coverage made him an easy choice for this team. Parsons’ 26.2% pass-rush win rate was better than any edge defender other than Maxx Crosby, and he finished with 13 sacks.
LB: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah slipped to the second round last year as an undersized linebacker at 6’2”, 215 lbs, but that was a massive miscalculation by teams. JOK allowed just 5.6 yards per completion in coverage last year, which led all linebackers. He allowed just 168 yards and no touchdowns in 322 coverage snaps. JOK also ranked fourth in both passer rating allowed (70.2) and completion percentage allowed (63.2%) among linebackers. He’ll never be elite at stacking blocks or filling run fits at his size, but his coverage ability is exceptional.
CB: A.J. Terrell
After an underwhelming rookie season, A.J. Terrell broke through as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and made the All-Pro second team in his second year in the league. Terrell allowed just 29 catches for 200 yards across 16 games and ranked second in the NFL in passer rating allowed among cornerbacks with 500+ snaps. He also did all that while the Falcons had by far the worst pass-rush productivity in the NFL, and as they improve in that aspect, he’ll be even more effective.
CB: Patrick Surtain II
Rookie cornerbacks typically don’t produce at a high level, especially in the situation Surtain found himself in last year. The Broncos had the second-worst pass-rush efficiency in the NFL per PFF and an offense that struggled to sustain drives, leaving the defense in bad positions. The highlight of Surtain’s season came in Week 15 when he allowed just two catches for 21 yards to the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and as his situation improves and he irons out his technique, Surtain can become one of the best corners in football.
NB: Jaycee Horn
Jaycee Horn’s rookie season was cut short due to broken bones in his foot, but he was incredibly productive through his first three games. Horn allowed the second-lowest passer rating in coverage of any corner with 90+ coverage snaps and allowed just one catch for eight yards through those three games. Over a larger sample size, those numbers obviously wouldn’t have held up, but the 2021 first-round pick should be set up for immense success in his second season in the NFL.
S: Antoine Winfield Jr.
One of my favorite prospects in the 2020 draft class, it’s been a joy to watch Antoine Winfield Jr. evolve into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Winfield’s tremendous ability to read opposing quarterbacks, watch plays develop, and find his way to the ball were always set to make him a high-level box safety. Still, his coverage has come a long way as he had five pass breakups, two interceptions, and no touchdowns allowed last season. Winfield can do it all on the football field, and his leadership and versatility make him a pivotal part of Tampa’s elite defense.
S: Jevon Holland
Jevon Holland’s rookie season was incredibly impressive. He was PFF’s fourth-graded safety in coverage as he allowed just 12 catches for 208 yards in a challenging role as a rangy free safety. When asked to rush the passer, Holland was incredibly effective as well – he had 16 total pressures, the second-most at the position, on only 63 pass-rushing snaps. Holland just turned 22 years old a couple of months ago, and I’m not sure there’s a safety I’d rather build my secondary around in the NFL today.
Oh my god Jevon Holland pic.twitter.com/ezoUy29TAk
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) November 13, 2021