The NFL has a number of dominant players at every position, and there are a number of young players that are ready to take their talents to that elite level.
A "young" NFL player (IMO) is considered to have three or fewer years of NFL experience, because a player can only become an unrestricted free-agent after four seasons of service.
The following players have shown a tremendous amount of potential during their short time in the National Football League, and I believe that they are all ready to become the best in business.
2011 stats (rookie season): 4,051 passing yards, 21 touchdown passes, 60 percent completion, 14 rushing touchdowns.
Some may argue that Matthew Stafford should be in this position, but I already consider him a top quarterback in this league.
Cam Newton is entering his second season, and he is going to be a special player in the National Football League.
The quarterback earned Rookie of the Year honors after he broke Peyton Manning's record for the most passing yards in a rookie season, and he did it while having a shortened offseason.
The second-year pro will now have an entire offseason to work with Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who is the man that is credited for a majority of Newton's success.
The Panthers also possess one of the league's deepest backfields, in my opinion, after the addition of Mike Tolbert, and the team will bring in a solid receiving core in 2012 that is led by veterans Steve Smith and Greg Olsen.
The team's No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell started to emerge late in the season, and the team will also have David Gettis back, who will return to the team after missing the 2011 season with a torn ACL.
The future looks bright in Carolina, and it seems like the team has found its franchise quarterback for the next decade.
2011 stats: 1,049 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, six rushing touchdowns, 50 receptions.
Ryan Mathews is going to have a break-out season in 2012.
The running back had a hard time staying healthy in 2011, but he still managed to get over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Mathews is an extremely underrated pass catcher out of the backfield, and he will likely see a heftier workload, with the departures of wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Mike Tolbert.
I predict that Mathews will be a top-five fantasy running back when the 2012 season comes to an end, so remember that you heard it here first.
2011 stats (rookie season): 65 receptions, 1,057 receiving yards, seven receiving touchdowns, 16.3 yards per catch.
Guys like Julio Jones, Torrey Smith Doug Baldwin and Victor Cruz could have all been selected for this spot, but it is hard to not be impressed with what A.J. Green has to offer.
The wide receiver surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in his rookie season, and he did so with a fellow rookie at the quarterback position.
Green is only going to get better with an entire offseason to learn how defenses will try to defend him.
2011 stats: 83 receptions, 777 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns, 11.5 yards per catch.
Brandon Pettigrew was a key component to the success of quarterback Matthew Stafford last season.
The tight end has excellent size, and he was a major target and contributor in the red zone for the Lions offense.
Pettigrew did not garner as much media attention as his fellow offensive stars, but this will be the year that he emerges as a top tight end.
Teams will continue to key in on the Lions' top offensive threat Calvin Johnson, which is going to open up more holes for Pettigrew to work in. Pettigrew has improved in every season that he has been in the league, and I expect this year to be no different.
Eugene Monroe does not get the credit that he deserves.
The left tackle was one of the main reasons for Maurice Jones-Drew's rushing title in 2011, and he also did a fine job in pass protection.
The tackle is excellent at blocking on stretch plays, and he is able to overpower defensive ends with his 6'5", 308-pound frame.
Mike Iupati will be considered the best guard in all of football after the 2012 season.
He is extremely athletic for his massive 6'5", 331-pound frame, and he was able to dominate against some of the league's best interior tackles. The guard excels in both the pass and run blocking categories, and he will only get better with another year in the 49ers system.
Alex Mack is one of the most talented centers in the NFL.
He is very athletic, and he uses his large 6'4" frame to hold up defenders during pass-blocking situations. Mack made the Pro Bowl in 2010, and I expect him to get back to that level in 2012.
2011 stats: 16.5 sacks, 86 tackles, two forced fumbles.
One exceptional season certainly does not make a player elite, but Jason Pierre-Paul is definitely on the right track.
Pierre-Paul finished the year with 16.5 sacks as he dominated offensive lines for most of the 2011 season. The defensive end is the most athletic pound-for-pound player in the NFL and he is arguably the league's best pure pass-rusher.
Pierre-Paul was exceptional in the playoffs as well, and he will certainly be deemed an elite player if he can come remotely close to his 2011 production.
2011 stats: 47 tackles, two forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks.
Geno Atkins had an amazing sophomore campaign, as he has exceeded all expectations after being drafted in the fourth-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Atkins is great at reading and dissecting plays, and his 7.5 sacks are rather impressive for an interior lineman.
The defensive tackle is equally impressive at shutting down the run, and he is one of the main reasons for the Bengals' 10th-ranked rush defense in 2011.
Atkins was named an All-Pro for his contributions in 2011, and he will certainly look to duplicate those numbers in 2012.
2011 stats (rookie season): 14 sacks, two forced fumbles, 37 tackles.
Aldon Smith had an amazing rookie season in the NFL, and he is reminiscent of a young Javon Kearse when he rushes the passer. The two players are almost identical in size and stature, and they both had similar numbers during their rookie seasons.
Smith will only benefit from playing on a defense that is loaded with talent, which means that his numbers should improve with a full offseason under his belt. The linebacker/defensive end will be considered elite if he can surpass or duplicate what he did as a rookie.
2011 stats: 143 tackles, two sacks, three fumble recoveries.
NaVorro Bowman will be a household name by the end of the 2012 season.
Bowman led the 49ers in tackles, but he still remains one of the league's most underrated players because he was stuck in the shadow of the 49ers' other stud linebacker, Patrick Willis. The combination of Willis and Bowman held opposing teams to just 77.2 rushing yards per game.
2011 stats (rookie season): 64 tackles, two interceptions, four punt returns for touchdowns.
Patrick Peterson had some struggles during his rookie season.
The corner had trouble covering receivers all season because he consistently relied on his superior athleticism. However, the defensive back displayed some of the best ball skills in the entire NFL, which is attributed to his large 6'0" frame.
An entire offseason will certainly help Peterson strengthen his awareness and technique, and I expect him to begin to live up to his high draft pick value in 2012.
Richard Sherman of the Seahawks is another player to keep an eye out for.
2011 stats: 98 tackles, one forced fumble, two interceptions.
Earl Thomas' interception numbers were down from his rookie season, but there is no questioning that he became a much more complete player during his second year in the NFL.
The safety is a great all-around athlete that has excellent range and toughness. The strongest part of his game is his run defense because he has the speed to change direction on a dime.
Thomas is certainly on his way to becoming an elite player.
2011 stats: 97 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles.
It is safe to say that the Seattle Seahawks are set at the safety position for a very long time.
The team possesses two of the best young talents in the game, and they both excel at shutting down the run. Kam Chancellor was actually the better of the two safeties this season, which came as a big surprise considering that he had never started in an NFL game before this season.
Chancellor is great at closing in on the football to break up a pass, and he loves to blitz the quarterback. The safety is still an extremely raw talent, but I still expect him to improve to that elite status in 2012.