Who Are the NFL's Top 25 Players Under the Age of 25?

Ryan Riddle@@Ryan_RiddleCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2012

Who Are the NFL's Top 25 Players Under the Age of 25?

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    Get ready for a massive youth movement as I breakdown the 25 best players under the age of 25. The talent on this list will basically become the NFL's stars of tomorrow. Some of these men have already proven themselves to be some of the best in the league, while others are right on the cusp, ready to have that breakout season.

    I did not include any draft picks from the 2012 draft because in order to make this list, you first must be baptized on the gridiron battlefield.

    My method for creating this list involved researching statistics, watching film, and considering the untapped potential of each player listed. I generated a list of 142 players that were under the age of 25 and playing at a high level. From that list i had the monumental task of narrowing it down to the best 25 players.

    As these things normally go, there were some really talented players left off, so naturally there's plenty of room to debate and disagree about who missed the cut, or who was ranked too high or too low.

    The way I approached this was as if I were making a draft board ranking players in order by which I would draft one over another. So without wasting any more of your precious time, lets get to the list!

25. Richard Sherman

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    Sherman is a late round draft pick who has come on surprisingly early. At 6'3", his long frame, should make it hard for receivers to catch over him, while providing the Seahawks with interesting match-up options against some of the leagues taller wide outs.

    Richard is a fifth round gem who has proven himself to be a complete and well rounded corner capable of playing physical football. He also did well making some impressive plays on the ball, tallying up four interceptions.

    In a few years, his name should be well known.

24. Kam Chancellor

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    Finally the league has a guy big enough and fast enough to possibly go head to head with some of the leagues growing arsenal of deadly tight ends.

    For such a young player, Chancellor has played solid against both the run and the pass. His 6'3" , 232 pound frame should also assist him in certain match-ups that most other safeties are less equipped to handle.

23. Justin Houston

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    Houston is primed and ready for a breakout season. I predict at least double digit sacks this upcoming season as well as a much improved Chiefs organization. 

    Justin struggled in coverage last year but was very effective against the run and as a rush option. He's just scratching the surface of his potential and should be a terror in his prime.

22. Nate Solder

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    Solder is one of the best young offensive linemen in the game, and one of the few who can play to such a high standard without making the youthful mistakes which commonly plague most linemen under 25.

    He should be a mainstay at tackle in New England for the next 10-12 years while easing the nerves of Brady following the Retirement of long time starting left tackle Matt Light.

21. J.J Watt

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    We may be looking at a better version of San Francisco’s Justin Smith here in the next few years. Watt is a big strong guy with a high motor and a ton of intensity, all crucial attributes for a 3-4 defensive end.

    Despite playing a position designed to clog up gaps and hold off blocks, Watt has still managed to establish himself as a consistent play-maker, who frequently camped out in opposing offensive backfields.

20. NaVorro Bowman

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    Bowman exemplified consistency by shoring up the middle of the best defense in the NFL. He may be just as good as the much more celebrated Patrick Willis. In fact, when Willis was out with a hamstring injury, the 49ers didn't missed a beat on defense.

    Bowman is a tackling machine who is highly underrated as a blitz option.

    No inside linebacker under the age of 25 is better.

19. Andy Dalton

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    Dalton may not be the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL, but he shows highly advanced awareness for a rookie leading the way for a young team that nobody expected to make the playoffs.

    Dalton seems to win wherever he goes, which is always the most important stat for any quarterback out there. He knows how to manage the game without making crucial mistakes, yet he's fearless  and without hesitation when the time comes to launch one down the field.

18. Joe Haden

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    With his incredible improvement in such a short amount of time, one can only wonder what type of player Joe will become over the next 5 years. Haden has grown into one of the best pure cover corners in a league that throws the ball more and more each year. His overall value to the Browns organization cannot be understated.

17. Percy Harvin

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    This guy does it all. He can run, catch, throw and even return kicks.

    Harvin would be rated higher on the list if he wasn’t prone to missing games due to his migraines. Despite those durability concerns, he's still one of the most dangerous guys in the league with the ball in his hands.

    With uncertainty surrounding the health of Adrian Peterson, expect Harvin to be handed a heavy load in the offense this season.

16. Sam Bradford

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    Despite the injury plagued year and the brutal performance in 2011, I still have high hopes for Sam Bradford. With a healthy offensive line and some new weapons to work with, I believe Bradford will establish himself as a top 10 quarterback in 2012.

    The Rams have been one of the worst teams in NFL history over the last 10 years, I think their fortunes change this year and they get closer to an 8-8 record, thanks largely in part by the solid play of Sam Bradford.

15. Demarco Murray

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    Before Murray was hurt for the  second half of his rookie season, he was running wild, setting the single game rushing record and looking like the best young running back in the league.

    Murray has shown the type of play making ability that many doubted because of concerns about his overall speed, which is why he slipped into the third round. I know many teams who passed on his services would love to have a do over.

14. Julio Jones

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    Jones is quickly becoming the player the Falcons expected when they paid a hefty price, mortgaging future draft picks for the rights to his services.

    He has all the tools for greatness and has flashed some scary potential; Look for a break-out season from Jones in 2012 as he should take advantage of single coverage all season long, courtesy of playing opposite of Roddy White.

13. Patrick Peterson

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    He struggled in coverage early on in the season but has made steady improvement. Peterson has already established himself as one of the deadliest return men in the league.

    With his elite athleticism and constant improvement as a cover corner, Patrick may be headed for Canton by the time his career is over.

12. Dez Bryant

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    Here is a guy with all the talent in the world. Yet Dez is still trying to figure this whole thing out and play an entire game without wearing down, or becoming disinterested.

    Bryant is a highly competitive receiver who runs hard and will make the difficult catches in traffic.

    His biggest issue seems to be his maturity level. If he can concentrate and remain in control of himself, he may take the league by storm and emerge as one of the best in the business.

11. Marcell Dareus

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    Dareus was a constant and disruptive force on the front line for the Bills. He should be a major piece to the defense this coming year especially with the Bills changing defensive schemes to a base 4-3. This will give Marcell great opportunities to do what he does best, penetrate the line, and wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

10. Aldon Smith

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    Few people expected Aldon to have the type of rookie season that he had. He managed to finish fifth in the league with 14 sacks without even being a full time starter.

    Perhaps the most impressive components about Smith’s rookie campaign was his stellar performances in the two play-off games where he tallied two sacks and applied constant pressure.

9. Tyron Smith

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    Most offensive linemen take at least three to four years to become one of the best in the league. Smith is starting early and has established himself as an elite left tackle regardless of age.

    The future is bright for Smith, look for him to be a mainstay as an All-Pro over the next 10 years. In the meantime, he may be a primary reason Tony Romo finishes the season standing upright next year.

8. Hakeem Nicks

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    Few Receivers in the league have better hands or route running ability than Nicks. He’s been a great target with surprising ability after the catch. Not the mention, he has already won a Super Bowl before the age of 25. If he can stay healthy, he will continue to be one of the best in the game.

7. Matthew Stafford

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    After a breakout season where Matt was able to stay on the field for an entire season, he set franchise records in passing and got the lowly Lions back to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

    Look for more growth and team success out of Detroit as Stafford enters his prime.

    Next year we will see if Matt can take that next step and establish himself as an elite quarterback, which will entail a lot more than some big passing numbers.

6. A.J Green

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    Green has yet to come close to his potential as a burgeoning star at the receiver position. His athleticism and height make him an elite target down the field.

     I look forward to many great years ahead as he grows into the position after only playing one season in the NFL.  A.J has flashed enough talent his rookie season for me to anoint him as the best young receiver in the NFL.

5. Von Miller

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    Despite playing hurt and out of position most of the season. Miller was dynamically productive as a pass rusher and overall defensive play maker.

    The speed and savvy play of Miller has him projecting as one of the most disruptive defensive players in the NFL for the next five to eight years.

4. LeSean McCoy

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    Fast, elusive, versatile, and just getting started in this league. McCoy is one of the deadliest weapons in the game today. 

    On a team featuring such explosive offensive talent as Desean Jackson and Mike Vick, McCoy still stands alone as the guy every defense must stop. Last year he rushed for 17 touchdowns to lead the league.  

3. Rob Gronkowski

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    Many times during the 2011 season ‘Gronk’ looked absolutely unstoppable. Not only was he the best tight end in football last year, but he also established himself as one of the best receivers in the entire league, leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 17.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that this kid is a terrific blocker as well.

     It would be hard to create a better prospect in a video game. In fact, his impact on the league has been so profound, that he has given new value to the tight end position.

2. Jason Pierre Paul

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    Not only is Jason one of the best pass rushers in the league, but he also is extremely effective against the run.

    With his combined size, speed and athleticism, Paul may end up having his own bronze statue immortalized in Canton after his gridiron legacy is complete.

1. Cam Newton

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    Cam has the most potential of any player in the league right now. He has proven to be a much more capable passer than we thought going into his rookie season.

    Consider for a moment what Newton was able to accomplish even without a full offseason to get comfortable with the playbook and his teammates. He has a lot to learn and can be one of the most dynamic players in the history of the game if he puts it all together.