Top 25 NFL Players Under 25 Years Old

Rivers McCown@riversmccownNFL AnalystJune 25, 2015

Top 25 NFL Players Under 25 Years Old

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    "Top prospects" lists for NFL teams are unnecessary. Top prospects are rushed onto the field and do their developing in full view of everyone. 

    So for most purposes, this list is a stand-in for that idea. We're looking for good young players who are going to have the most value going forward. 

    Before we get started, here is some clarification on the concept of "top" and what it means to me:

    • Position matters. The history of running backs wearing down before they hit 30 is well-known at this point. The history of a franchise quarterback being important to a team's chances of future success is almost trite to mention. If a quarterback and a running back are in the same stratosphere to me, I'm taking the quarterback. 
    • What they've already accomplished in the NFL matters. The more great years we've seen, the more credit I'll give them. Tyron Smith is somehow already on his second contract and still hasn't turned 25. 
    • Projection matters. Let's take Browns wideout Josh Gordon, for instance. He clearly belongs on this list based on pure talent after what he did in 2013. Considering the fact that I have no clue if he'll ever play in the NFL again at this point, though, it's hard to say he's a great bet to cash in on this skill. Thus, he didn't actually make my list. 
    • Ultimate upside matters. I took more risks toward the bottom of this list based on what I believe are solid indicators of skill. It could be that we'll look back in a few years and laugh at how silly it was that I put a rookie on this list. It could be that we'll ask why he wasn't considered a top-10 player. The bottom of this list is full of players I believe in at the expense of, let's say, the 25th-best young player in the NFL who has already played well. I'm sure Jaguars guard Brandon Linder will survive this obvious snub.

    With that out of the way, let me give a brief mention to the last 10 that I left out:

    • OT Terron Armstead (Saints)
    • CB Darius Slay (Lions)
    • WR Josh Gordon (Browns)
    • WR Keenan Allen (Chargers)
    • OG Brandon Linder (Jaguars)
    • S Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals)
    • OT Taylor Lewan (Titans)
    • QB Derek Carr (Raiders)
    • WR Jarvis Landry (Dolphins)
    • WR Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers)

    There are players in this group who have put together good NFL seasons. But between ultimate upside, injury risk, off-field issues and inconsistent play, I found one reason or another to keep these guys on the outside looking in.

    Now let's begin...

25. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 21
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    Plus-74 passing grade in 2014 (college)
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    61.3 percent chance of busting

    After considering all angles of Jameis Winston's hilariously oversaturated predraft process, Winston can be a good NFL quarterback but probably not a great one.

    Winston has great mechanics, and the Bucs picked him No. 1 overall because he fits what NFL teams are more comfortable with: the classic pocket passer who had more tight-window opportunities to show off his arm strength, even if he tries to squeeze a bit too many into coverage. Dating back to 2004, five of the 12 No. 1 overall picks have been this style quarterback: Winston, Sam BradfordMatthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell and Eli Manning. 

    At the same time, I am less comfortable with him than I would be with, say, Stafford or Manning because, hey, we need to acknowledge that the off-field life he lives is less than stellar for an NFL franchise. Maybe he fixes that, or maybe he doesn't. This ranking is a reflection of that uncertainty.

    Either way, we're going to see an inconsistent rookie season—remember that Manning and Stafford were pretty bad when they first started, too.

24. Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 22
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    Minus-4.3 pass-rushing grade in 146 snaps in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    30.2 projected sacks through his fifth season

    Jadeveon Clowney is a fascinating litmus test for how far down you're willing to move someone's grade after one terrible year. A knee injury that eventually required microfracture surgery kept him from showing his freakish skill past the preseason. And while the Texans claim they expect Clowney in Week 1, there's no telling what kind of instant impact he'll have. 

    But let's back up to 2014, when the Clowney hype train was in full force. He was seen as a transcendent pass-rushing force who could shift the balance of the AFC South. 

    My expectation for Clowney now is somewhere between "bust" and "star." Let's say for the sake of argument that his health limits his upside to the bottom of the top 10 pass-rushers in the NFL. He has a chance to be Charles Johnson or Clint Avril. That's still a valuable young player. 

    So, you weigh the uncertainty with that upside and the chance that Clowney can overcome microfracture surgery, and this is where I'm willing to put him right now. He is either entirely off the radar next season or firmly a top-10 player under 25. This is splitting the difference.

23. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 22
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    Minus-5.0 grade over 1,051 snaps in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    71 DYAR, minus-5.7 percent DVOA in 2014

    Sammy Watkins is getting an unfair rap at this point because of things that haven't worked out for him that are beyond his control. The Bills aren't expected to be a dominant fantasy football offense, which has hurt his standing because he was supposed to be a talent that could transcend that.

    Well, Watkins played with an injured hip that led to offseason surgery last season—and he still almost managed 1,000 receiving yards...in an offense that was quarterbacked by a guy who spent September on his couch (Kyle Orton). 

    So it's not Watkins' fault that the Bills are probably rolling with Matt Cassel at quarterback. It's not Watkins' fault that the Bills traded two first-round picks to move up and get him. 

    His stock hasn't changed as much as people like to think. The issue isn't himit's the players (and now coaches) around him.

22. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 21
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    27-14 BTT/TWP ratio in 2014 (college)
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    77.2 percent chance of being an adequate starter or better

    It's weird to say this given how the draft played out, but Marcus Mariota is a safer bet than Jameis Winston. His extra athleticism, better completion percentage (I know about the Oregon offense) and smarter decisions indicate he has a better chance of being a decent NFL starter than Winston does. 

    That said, adequacy at quarterback isn't necessarily the thing you want to chase. That's where the argument begins for most teams. Mariota has sky-high upside, but it's fair to say that there's less of a chance that he hits it than there is of Winston becoming a top-10-caliber quarterback. After all, Mariota will have to prove his processing speed and ability to perform under pressure will stand up outside of the Oregon offense. 

    But when you take into account his better odds of (some) early success with the fact that Mariota is a stereotypical squeaky-clean, boring quarterback (if not a loud one on the field), he rates slightly ahead of Winston.

21. Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    No. 4-rated pass-rusher in 2015 class
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    34.0 projected sacks over first five seasons

    I'm aware that this is a reading of Vic Beasley's stock at as high as it can probably be coming into his rookie season, but let me explain why he's the rookie with the best chance to be great. 

    Every player in the NFL draft has a story about why he wasn't selected No. 1 overall. Beasley's, from a scouting perspective, is that while he's fast and bends the edge as a pass-rusher, he's not much of a run-defender.

    But who cares? Yeah, you'd like him to be well-rounded, but if I'm focusing on one thing from my edge-rusher, it's that he gets after the quarterback. Beasley is the best bet in the class to do that; he combines pass-rush skills with incredible physical traits. 

    The fact that he fell to the Falcons, a team that has desperately needed a player like Beasley since John Abraham got too old to be a full-time player, is just the cherry on the sundae. It's not out of the question for Beasley to get 10 sacks in his rookie season. The only reason he's not higher on this list is that we haven't seen him do it yet.

20. Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    No. 2-rated center in the NFL, plus-17.5 run-block grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    Dallas finished No. 1 in adjusted line yards in 2014

    How to separate Travis Frederick from his brethren on the Dallas offensive line? This is a bit crude, but Frederick isn't in their league as a pass-blocker. That is literally the tiniest of nits that you can pick between great players, especially given how important a center is to run blocking, but I'll fall back on all-around play when I'm trying to break ties. 

    Additionally, there was more of a question about Frederick coming out, when most pundits slapped a third-round grade on him, than there was about Zack Martin or Tyron Smith.

    Ultimately, I will take the lineman who does more to impact the more prevalent side of the play than the one who dominates as a run-blocker.

19. Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    Plus-9.3 overall grade, plus-7.0 pass-rush grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    Minnesota finished 12th in defensive adjusted sack rate in 2014

    An absolutely freakish athlete, Anthony Barr is a great bet to be the next in a long line of good Minnesota edge-rushers. Per PFF, Barr recorded 11 hurries as a pass-rusher and wasn't too shabby in coverage, either. He gives the Vikings a lot of versatility as an outside linebacker in base sets, sort of like how the Broncos use Von Miller. (Obviously, Barr hasn't performed at Miller's level yet.)

    The only thing that kept Barr at No. 19 here is the question about how likely he is to reach his ceiling as a pass-rusher. If he shows what he's capable of next season, he could jump into the top 10 on this list.

18. C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    10th-rated middle linebacker, plus-12.4 PFF run-stop grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    Baltimore finished seventh in adjusted line yards in 2014

    Here's the interesting thing about rating somebody like C.J. Mosley: A player has to be a true three-down linebacker to make a great impact on the game, and Mosley was actually a bit subpar as a pass-defender. 

    The runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year is already a good player, but this is about as high as I could put him without seeing more development from him as a pass-defender. Sometimes, that transition takes time—Luke Kuechly was more down than up in his first season as well.

17. Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    Seventh-ranked defensive tackle, plus-12.1 run-stop grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    New York ranked 13th in power success last season

    Perhaps the most anonymous player in the top 25, Johnathan Hankins was drafted as a big nose tackle to solve New York's run-defense woes. While that's only partially in his control—try drafting some actual linebackers, Jerry Reese—he's been a war daddy every time the Giants have put him on the field during his first two years. 

    Perhaps most impressively, Hankins showed a little pass-rushing skill last season, picking up eight sacks.

    It's hard to attract much attention under the shade of Odell Beckham Jr. and New York's perpetual injury-generating machine. But Hankins deserves a bit more of it.

16. Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

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    David Seelig/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    No. 6-rated guard in the NFL, plus-13.3 pass-block rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Dallas finished No. 1 in adjusted line yards in 2014

    Zack Martin had a more even split of his play as a rookie than teammate Travis Frederick, and that was part of the reason the rookie was an automatic first-team All-Pro. 

    We're in a league now where the guard position's importance is approaching that of tackles—there's a reason Laken Tomlinson was drafted in the first round this yearbut that bias does still exist to an extent. 

    Martin wound up here (and not any higher) for two reasons. First, as amazing a year as it was, it was just one good year. There's every reason to believe he has it in him to do it again, but we often fall into the trap of believing there's "potential" for a guy to improve upon a season that was already terrific. For more, see No. 15. 

    Second, Martin had an easier job last season than a few of the other linemen on this list. The Dallas offensive line has three players on this top-25 list. Plus, right tackle Doug Free was good and guard Ronald Leary was fine. The overall skill of the line was so high that it helped Martin look excellent.

15. Larry Warford, Detroit Lions

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    No. 16-rated guard in the NFL, plus-5.7 pass-block rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Lions ranked 15th with 65 percent power success in 2014

    The cautionary tale of Zack Martin applies to Larry Warford, who happens to be the next player on this list. You can be a great guard for one season, but it's still just one season. 

    So Warford was only pretty good last season—why is he here? It's simple: He just has better on-field production than Martin at this point. That's slightly unfair, but the eye test shouldn't be discounted. 

    Additionally, Warford had to work with Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims and Travis Swanson last season on the interior line. Raiola was so bad that Swanson took his job out of necessity, and Sims was valued so highly by the Lions that they drafted a guard in the first round to replace him. There are reasons to believe that Warford experienced diminished production last season because his struggling teammates brought him down.

14. Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    No. 5-rated guard in the NFL, plus-11.7 run-block rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Cleveland finished 15th in adjusted sack rate last season

    Joel Bitonio was part of a ridiculous Cleveland offensive line thrust under a ton of pressure by bad quarterback play. He arguably had a better rookie season than Zack Martin despite being relatively unheralded, so I'll give him his just due here. He was an excellent second-round find for the Browns, who have had their share of problems drafting over the past few seasons. 

    Long term, he's facing the exact same problems that Martin is: It's hard to find more upside in a guard who has already performed this well. So the question becomes whether he can stay at this level or if it was one of those seasons where everything went right. 

    Given their reliance on shaky quarterbacks, the Browns desperately need Bitonio to continue to play like a star.

13. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota Vikings

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    No. 5-rated defensive tackle in the NFL, plus-14.8 run-stop rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Minnesota finished 12th in defensive adjusted sack rate in 2014

    There are three distinct half-lives in Sharrif Floyd's career. The first was when he was drafted 23rd overall, falling well below the range most draftniks had him pegged. The second was when he barely played at all during his rookie season, learning on the job from Kevin Williams. 

    The third was when he burst onto the scene in 2014.

    Floyd is precisely the player the Vikings were hoping to acquire to replace Williams: He's a do-it-all 3-technique tackle who shows versatility on passing downs and stuffs the run as well as anyone at his position. The only question is if he'll be able to translate more of his hurries into sacks.

12. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
    12th-rated wide receiver, plus-10.3 overall grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    237 DYAR (15th), 10.3 percent DVOA (23rd) in 2014

    After bizarrely spending a year running clear-out routes for Gary Kubiak and an offense that could have really used his skills underneath, DeAndre Hopkins broke out in a big way in 2014, catching 63 percent of his passes despite being thrown balls by luminaries such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett and Jeff Garcia. We only made one of those names up. 

    Hopkins is the heir to Anquan Boldin's crown as the best contested-catch receiver in the business. And although there's much untapped upside here, he's a very valuable player already. 

    Let's all say a prayer that, one day, he may find an actual quarterback to play with.

11. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 23
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Top-rated running back, plus-23.8 overall grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    205 DYAR (fifth), 8.6 percent DVOA (ninth) in 2014

    The only running back on this list and a surefire lock to go in the top three of any fantasy football draft despite a looming suspension, Le'Veon Bell is one of the few players in recent NFL memory who have turned the "losing weight" meme into something that actually improved his performance.

    Why isn't he higher? Well, as explained earlier, running backs tend to be fungible creatures. One year they're great, the next year they're above-average, and the year after that they're gone. 

    If you had to bet on one to buck that trend at this point in time, it would probably be Bell. But, because I would not bet too much on it, he's slotted here.

10. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 22
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Plus-4.5 grade, 15th-rated quarterback overall in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Minus-159 DYAR (38th), minus-16.9 percent DVOA (37th) in 2014

    It was a fun ride for the Internet, going down the Teddy Bridgewater Bad Pro Day No Leadership express for nearly half a year. Where it ended up was actually predictable: It turns out that Bridgewater is actually a good NFL quarterback. 

    The question now is: How good? Is he going to build on his nice second half and take another step forward? Or will he settle into being a nice second-tier guy, like a poor man's Matt Ryan?

    Either path has value. Until I see the first actually play out—and I do believe it will play out that wayI'm reticent to move him above established stars on this list.

9. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Plus-30.5 grade, fifth-rated 3-4 defensive end in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    Philadelphia defense finished seventh in run-defense DVOA in 2014

    Fletcher Cox had been a nice player for a few years, but 2014 was his coming-out party. He displayed a level of pass rush we previously hadn't seen consistently from him. Cox destroyed some good offensive lines in a midseason push that landed him on the Associated Press' second-team All-Pro squad. 

    Every 3-4 defensive end in the NFL plays in J.J. Watt's shadow right now. Cox isn't that good as a pass-rusher, but he's shown the ability to at times take his game up a notch.

    He's here at No. 9 mostly because he's only done this for one season so far, but Cox should be a building block for the Eagles as long as Chip Kelly doesn't trade him for eight beans and three former Oregon players as process dictates.

8. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    No. 6-rated tackle in the NFL, plus-10.8 pass-block rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Dallas finished No. 1 in adjusted line yards in 2014

    It's almost unfair to put Tyron Smith on this list—he's on his second contract already! And in true Cowboys tradition, that contract has already been restructured!

    Smith, just 21 when he was drafted out of USC in the first round, has been the starting left tackle for the Cowboys for three seasons. In those three seasons, he's been to the Pro Bowl twice, was named first- or second-team All-Pro twice and has done it all while battling through off-field pressure from his estranged family.

    The only reason he's not higher on this list is offensive line is the least important of all the positions primarily involved in the passing game.

7. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    No. 1-rated 4-3 outside linebacker, plus-46.9 run-stop rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Oakland finished 14th in run-defense DVOA in 2014

    While it was ignored on a team that was down and out from the beginning, Khalil Mack did appear to have a huge effect on Oakland in his rookie season. The Oakland defense hadn't finished above 18th in run defense DVOA since 2010. 

    Mack is on this list at this spot solely because his pass-rush arsenal is still a work in progress. He had just four sacks, and though he had plenty of quarterback hurries, he wasn't able to translate them to the negative plays that the best in the NFL can. 

    Mack should only build on his rookie season and get better, but he's already been impactful for a team that needed every impact player it could get.

6. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 22
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     13th-rated wide receiver, plus-10.2 overall grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    222 DYAR (17th), 11.4 percent DVOA (21st) in 2014

    Despite being saddled with Mike Glennon and Josh McCown, Mike Evans' rookie season was wildly successful. The rookie picked up 12 touchdown receptions in proving to be an immediate threat in the red zone and on deep balls.

    Going forward, Evans will continue to grow. And it's insane that we can prognosticate growth off a 1,051-yard rookie season, but he could have been more efficient and should have better quarterback play in 2016, if not 2015. 

    The package of physical skills in Evans' arsenal is rare. Imagine if Mike Wallace were actually good at the things people want him to be good at. That's Evans' ceiling.

5. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons

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    Chris Keane/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     No. 6-rated cornerback, plus-9.1 coverage grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    Atlanta finished dead last in defensive DVOA in 2014

    It feels weird to place a second Falcons defender on this list given the team's lack of success last season, but Desmond Trufant was a one-man show in the Atlanta secondary. In fact, should Robert Alford move to safety, the entire secondary joining Trufant could be new or playing in different positions than in 2014.

    According to Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey, who watched all of Trufant's coverage snaps in 2014, the third-year veteran is on the verge of joining the shutdown-cornerback conversation.

    He just barely squeaks in qualifying for this list with a September birthday, but Trufant is the best bet of this young generation of corners to beef with Richard Sherman in a few years.

4. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams

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    Tim Umphrey/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note: 
    No. 1-rated defensive tackle, plus-16.8 pass-rush rating in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    St. Louis finished fourth in run-defense DVOA in 2014

    It was only silliness about ideal height and weight that kept Aaron Donald from being a top-10 pick in the 2014 draft, and the 12 teams that passed on him were forced to watch as he racked up nine sacks in just 12 starts. Donald took home the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award and went to the Pro Bowl, and he was a force against the run and the pass. 

    Other than the standard rookie question of how repeatable this is, I'm at a loss to suggest reasons as to why Donald didn't go any higher. The top three players on this list have simply demonstrated either historically good seasons or have a longer track record to fall back on. 

    Donald sticks out as a big reason you should believe in players with mediocre physical attributes who still get mentioned in the first-round conversation.

3. Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Plus-39.9 grade, second-rated 3-4 defensive end in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note: 
    New York defense finished 11th in run-defense DVOA in 2014

    In just two seasons, Sheldon Richardson has emerged as the best young defensive lineman in the NFL. He crushes opposing run games, and his pass rush took a step forward in 2014 as he reeled in nine sacks. It's criminal that the 2013 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year hasn't been an All-Pro yet.

    The Jets are building an interesting young defense between Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and first-round pick Leonard Williams. It will be one that gets Richardson more attention in the near future.

    And he's already earned it.

2. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 24
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Top-rated inside linebacker, plus-15.8 coverage grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    Carolina finished ninth in pass-defense DVOA in 2014

    Simply put, Luke Kuechly is a true three-down linebacker, the best in the NFL, at 24 years old. If J.J. Watt did not exist, Kuechly likely would already have two Defensive Player of the Year trophies. As it is, he's gone to two Pro Bowls, was named first-team All-Pro in his first two seasons and is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. 

    In many ways, when we talk about Carolina, the media gets caught up in the Cam Newton trap. Is he developing, when will he develop and when will he lead the Panthers deep into the playoffs?

    But Kuechly is already a better face of the franchise, and he's the one who pulls the Carolina offense kicking and screaming into the playoffs.

1. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Age (as of September 2015): 22
    Pro Football Focus Stat of Note:
     Third-rated wide receiver, plus-20.4 overall grade in 2014
    Football Outsiders Stat of Note:
    396 DYAR (sixth), 25.8 percent DVOA (ninth) in 2014

    A good litmus test for how great a season was is if it created a cottage industry of people claiming regression is mandatory. Adrian Peterson endured it after 2012, and Odell Beckham Jr. will endure it in 2015.

    I have a background in statistics and know Beckham will probably regress at least somewhat. It's a rational conclusion. To put up 1,300 yards in just 11 starts is completely ridiculous, and he was an easy pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year and a selection to the Pro Bowl. In B/R's writer predictions, I even placed Beckham as a first-team All-Pro. 

    That said, until there's actually proof of regression, this is what we have to work with. I'm comfortable putting him here and letting him prove the regressionistas wrong. It's not like it's boring to watch Beckham play football, you know?

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