NFL: All-Under 25 Team (Offense)
The NFL is a grown man's game.
The majority of the league's greatest players are seasoned veterans, guys that use their combination of experience and ability to exploit their opponents. Off-season training, film sessions, practices and games all go a long way in helping these athletes reach their ultimate potential as football players. For most, it is years before they make a difference on the field or fully realize their ability.
Some players, however, adjust more quickly than others and are able to make a sizable impact early in their careers. Every player on this list certainly fits that bill, as they currently make positive contributions to their teams and will only improve as time goes on.
Following are the NFL's best offensive players at their respective positions who are under the age of 25.
Quarterback: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
A second year pro, Mark Sanchez has made strides after a promising, if incredibly inconsistent, rookie season. Possessing good size and underrated athleticism, he has all the tools to be a successful NFL QB for years to come.
Though he throws a great deep ball, Sanchez only has solid arm strength. Where he most needs to improve, though, is accuracy throwing the football, for despite his stellar numbers in 2010, his completion percentage leaves much to be desired. Only 23, Sanchez is far from a finished product, and poised to lead the Jets to many playoff berths in coming seasons.
2010: 60-103 (58.3%), 711 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INTs, 6.9 YPA, 105.3 QB Rating
Career: 256-467, 3155, 20 TDs, 20 INTs, 6.76 YPA, 72.3 QB Rating
Sam Bradford (Rams), Matthew Stafford (Lions)
RBs: Jamaal Charles, KC Chiefs and Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
At 5'11'', 199 pounds, Charles is undersized for an elite NFL RB. A third year player, what he lacks in strength and girth he makes up for with a relentless and energetic running style. Charles has supreme balance and vision to go along with world-class speed.
He is extremely quick and has the rare ability to lose no acceleration when getting out of cuts. Also a gifted pass catcher, Charles sometimes tries too hard for the big play and loses yardage in the process. The perfect runner for a two-back system, Charles already is and should remain a devastating NFL runner for years to come.
2010: 34 ATT, 238 YDS (7.0 AVG), 1 TD, 5 REC, 92 YDS
Career: 291 ATT, 1715 TDS (5.9 AVG), 8 TDs, 72 REC, 661 YDS, 2 TDs
A big, muscular player, Mendenhall has one of the league's best combinations of size and athletic ability. The third year RB has great strength and balance, to go along with deceptive speed with the ball in his hands. Mendenhall is light on his feet and able to accelerate quickly after making cuts. While he must learn to be more patient, he has improved in that area in 2010. After a difficult rookie season, Mendenhall began to fulfill his potential last season, and has all the makings of a great NFL RB.
2010: 89 ATT, 411 YDS (4.6 AVG), 4 TD, 4 REC, 21 YDS
Career: 350 ATT, 1577 YDS (4.5 AVG), 11 TDS, 32 REC, 305 YDS
Arian Foster (Texans), LeSean McCoy (Eagles), Johnathan Stewart (Panthers)
WRs: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles and Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
An extremely undersized player, Jackson is one of the most dangerous guys with the ball in his hands in the NFL. A threat to score from anywhere on the field, he has elite athleticism, frequently gaining yards after the catch that seemingly aren't there. His incredible speed and agility also make him an outstanding deep threat, though he lacks the size to win jump balls.
Despite sometimes dropping throws he should catch, Jackson has drastically improved his route running and coverage recognition in his short time as a pro. Just 23, he should remain as perhaps the league's most explosive receiver for years to come.
2010: 16 REC, 337 YDS (21.1 AVG), 2 TDs
Career: 140 REC, 2405 YDS (17.2 AVG), 13 TDs
An elite athlete, Harvin is one of the league's most versatile players. Well built at 5'11'', he possesses the bulk of a smaller RB which makes him lethal in the open field. Quicker than straight line fast, Harvin is extremely agile, shows good hands and is not afraid to challenge the middle of the field. He is frequently used on reverses and sometimes carries the ball out of the backfield.
Harvin must improve his route running and understanding of defensive schemes, but—health permitting—he will be a rare playmaking threat for many seasons in the future.
2010: 12 REC, 106 YDS (8.8 AVG), 1 TD
Career: 72 REC, 896 YDS (12.4 AVG), 7 TDs
Austin Collie (Colts), Michael Crabtree (49ers), Hakeem Nicks (Giants), Sidney Rice (Vikings, injured)
Tight Ends: Jermichael Finley, GB Packers and Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders
At 6'5'' and a chiseled 247 pounds, Finley is one of the best athletes to play TE in NFL history. Flashing the speed and agility of a player 50 pounds lighter, he is a threat in the short, intermediate, and deep passing games. Finley is a great leaper and consistently wins jump balls, showing strong but soft hands in the process.
He's developed a knack for finding open spots against zone coverage, and has improved as a route runner since his rookie season. A willing if unrefined blocker at just 23, he has great area to improve in this aspect of his game. Finley has developed into QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite target, and should be a mainstay on postseason All-Pro teams for years to come.
2010: 21 REC, 301 YDS (14.3 AVG), 1 TD
Career: 82 REC, 1051 YDS (12.8 AVG), 7 TDs
A fourth year pro, Miller has been Oakland's leading receiver in each of the past two seasons. Standing 6'5'', he possesses the speed to stretch the seam for big gains and size to make tough catches going across the middle. He shows solid initial quickness off his release, and fair agility for a player his size.
Miller also has big, soft hands that allow him to catch throws in and out of his box. Despite his solid weight of 255 pounds, he is not an impact or dominating blocker, though he does consistently maintain position and work to gain playside leverage. Miller is already one of the most well-rounded TEs in the game, and should only improve as his career goes on.
2010: 22 REC, 278 YDS (12.6 AVG), 2 TDs
Career: 188 REC, 2305 YDS (12.3 AVG), 9 TDs
Fred Davis (Redskins), Jermaine Gresham (Bengals), Aaron Hernandez (Patriots), Tony Moeaki (Chiefs)
Tackles: Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos and Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens
An already accomplished player in terms of post-season accolades, Clady has started at LT for Denver since his rookie season in 2008. He has ideal size at 6'6'', 325 pounds, and possesses long arms he uses to keep defenders from getting to his chest.
A rare athlete at his position, Clady shows great knee-bend and quickness in kick-slides. He also does a great job sinking his hips and always keeping a strong base of balance. Though he needs to add some strength and power (especially in the run game), that is nit-picking at this point, as Clady is already considered by some to be the top offensive lineman in the NFL.
2008: 2nd Team All-Pro
2009: 1st Team All-Pro
Better known for The Blind Side than his exploits on the field, Oher's game is beginning to live up to his story. A good athlete with ideal girth, he effortlessly slides and adjusts in pass protection, using his strong hands to keep rushers at bay.
Having started most of his rookie season at RT, Oher is also an adept run blocker, using his natural strength to provide good pop at the line of scrimmage. Though he must get more consistent in footwork and gain understanding of rush moves, Oher should be a mainstay protecting QB Joe Flacco for years to come.
2009: 2nd in Offensive Rookie of the Year Voting
Eugene Monroe (Jaguars), Jeff Otah (Panthers), Branden Albert (Chiefs)
Guards: Louis Vasquez, SD Chargers and Mike Iupati, 49ers
Just a second year pro, Vasquez started 14 games for San Diego in his rookie season. He has exceptional size at 6'5'', 335 pounds, and shows good initial quickness and balance to go along with it. Vasquez has heavy hands that he uses to lock on to opponents in the run game. He also has a considerable nasty streak, which serves him well as a blocker.
Vasquez is limited in pass protection, as his football work leaves much to be desired. As an interior lineman, though, Vasquez has the necessary combination of size and strength to make a sizable impact—in the run game especially—for many years going forward.
Drafted in the first round by San Francisco just last April, Iupati boasts an impressive combination of size and athletic ability for an NFL G. He possesses great quickness off the ball, and is comfortable moving in space and making impact blocks on the outside or second level. Decent in pass protection, Iupati has the potential to be a devastating blocker in the run game.
Iupati has every tangible trait teams look for in a quality interior offensive lineman. He obviously needs more experience and must continue to gain understanding of different pass rush moves, but early in his career Iupati has the look of a multi-year Pro Bowler for the 49ers.
Josh Sitton (Packers), Jeremy Zuttah (Bucs)
Center: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns
Just a second year pro, Mack has already firmly established himself as the game's best young center. He has an ideal combination of size, strength and overall athleticism. He has plenty of quickness to make an impact on the second level, and understands angles and leverage like a player far beyond his years.
A good knee-bender with the ability to sink his hips, Mack fares well against both bull and speed rushes in pass protection. Just 24, every team in the NFL wishes they had an anchor like Mack to guide the offensive line for the next decade.
Eric Wood (Bills)
Check back later this week for the defensive players of the NFL All-Under 25 Team, led by Green Bay OLB Clay Matthews, Jr.