Is there anything more exciting in sports than talking about the next wave of young superstars entering the league? It’s what makes the NFL draft so exciting and gives hope to all the fans of the bad teams out there. Trust me. I know.
So, I decided to put together a list of the NFL’s top 25 offensive players under 25 to showcase the league’s future – and current – stars.
Here were the criteria:
Let the debate begin!
And be sure to check out our Top 25 Defensive Players Under 25 for the 2022 season as well. You can also head over to our NFL hub for NFL game picks and analysis of everything from Super Bowl odds to Week 1 odds and more.
1. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
This was probably the easiest player to rank on the list. Herbert has cemented himself as one of the best QBs in the league through two seasons and is coming off a season of 5,000-plus yards, 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. We see plenty of Pro Bowls, All-Pros and playoff games in this 24-year-old’s future.
2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Already one of the two or three best receivers in the league, Justin Jefferson is a legitimate superstar. He has more receiving yards before the age of 23 than any player in NFL history, and he’s tied for first in NFL receiving leader odds for this season.
3. Tristan Wirfs, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wirfs isn’t just one of the best players under 25, he’s arguably the best player at his position in the entire league.
A stud Day 1 starter since entering the league, Wirfs is coming off a first-team All-Pro selection at right tackle last season that followed a Super Bowl championship in his rookie year. And he’s still just 23. We’re talking about a potentially special career trajectory here for the young mauler on Tom Brady’s right side.
4. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
What a rookie season Chase had. The fifth overall pick last season, he had a rough preseason and training camp before finishing fourth in the league in receiving yards and third in touchdowns at just 21 years old following an entire season off due to COVID-19. It’s scary to think how good Chase could be going forward with Joe Burrow throwing him the ball.
5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
After a solid rookie season when he rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns, Taylor exploded in Year 2 with 1,811 rushing yards to lead the league along with 360 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns. He became the youngest player in NFL history to have more than 2,000 scrimmage yards and might already be the best running back in the league at age 23.
It isn’t the best value, but Taylor is the leader in NFL rushing leader odds.
6. Rashawn Slater, OL, Los Angeles Chargers
Slater was a Day 1 starter at left tackle for the Chargers and has quickly emerged as one of the best players at his position in the league.
A Pro Bowler as a rookie, Slater was also a second-team All-Pro selection and was fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. This ranking might be a bit aggressive for someone who has only played one season in the league, but I think we have a future superstar on our hands here.
7. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
It’s hard to believe Metcalf qualifies for this list now entering his fourth season in the NFL, but the big wideout doesn’t turn 25 until December.
Metcalf has established himself as a difference-maker on the outside with a size/speed combo few humans can match.
He unfortunately will be dealing with a sizable QB downgrade this season, but it doesn’t change how good a player he is.
8. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Now entering Year 3 in the league, Lamb is coming off a 79-reception, 1,102-yard, six-touchdown campaign and he just turned 23 in the spring. Now, he seemingly has the offense to himself with Amari Cooper traded to Cleveland, and Michael Gallup and James Washington hurt. We’re expecting a huge jump in production for Lamb this season and love him at +1200 in NFL receiving leader odds.
9. Creed Humphrey, OL, Kansas City Chiefs
Don’t recognize the name? You should. Humphrey quickly became one of the top centers in the league in his rookie season last year as PFF graded him as the top overall player at his position in the league and the fourth-best offensive lineman overall. Humphrey and Mahomes will be a tandem we hear about for a long, long time.
10. Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver as Tee Higgins appears here at 10. Higgins hit 908 yards with six touchdowns in his rookie year and followed that with 1,091 yards and six more TDs in Year 2. The arrow is pointing up on this offense and the only thing holding Higgins back from a truly monster season is the fact that he shares the field with Chase.
11. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Rookie tight ends *never* put up the kind of numbers Pitts did in his rookie season. The former Florida star had 68 catches for 1,026 yards with one touchdown in a season that feels very underrated given how long it usually takes tight ends to develop. To be fair, Pitts has been deployed more as a receiver than as a tight end so far in his career, but it doesn’t make what he did any less impressive.
12. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
It wasn’t a great start to the 2021 first overall pick’s career, but I have a lot of hope left for Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence. The best QB prospect to enter the NFL in years, Lawrence’s first season was sewered by one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history with the fiasco that was Urban Meyer.
Now with a group of adults running the show led by former NFL QB and Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson, I’m expecting a big second-year leap from Lawrence. Improvements to his receiving corps and the return of running back Travis Etienne from injury should help him become one of the better young QBs in no time.
Check out our article on the top second-year breakout candidates for more info on how we think Lawrence and several other 2021 draft picks will fare this season.
13. Trey Smith, OL, Kansas City Chiefs
A sixth-round pick last year, the Chiefs found gold in Smith, who started all 17 games at right guard for KC. Already one of the top young guards in the league, Smith and Humphrey form one of the better interior right sides in all of football.
14. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
The fifth QB selected in last year’s draft, there is no debating that Jones was the best of the bunch last season. Does he have as high a ceiling as Trey Lance, Justin Fields and the other QBs selected ahead of him? No. But it might not matter if Jones continues to build on his solid rookie season.
He has better arm strength than given credit for and now enters Year 2 with an improved group of weapons around him. At worst, Jones should be a legit top-20 starter in the league moving forward. That means a lot.
15. Penei Sewell, OL, Detroit Lions
The expectations were sky-high for the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, and he mostly lived up to them. He wasn’t in superstar territory last season, but he showed enough promise that we’re confident he will continue to improve this season and beyond. Early reports from training camp are already talking up Sewell as being a dominant force early on.
16. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
This selection might be a bit controversial, but Williams led the league in broken tackles last season. And according to Player Profiler, he was sixth in evaded tackles, eighth in juke rate (evaded tackles per touch) and sixth in yards created.
Williams is an ascending talent in an ascending offense and is coming off 903 yards rushing and 316 yards receiving as a rookie in a shared backfield on a bad team. Insert rocket ship emoji here for Williams. He is also an attractive +2000 in NFL rushing leader odds.
17. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
Now entering his fourth NFL season, Jacobs has established himself as a solid if unspectacular running back. He went over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two seasons and had 872 last season with fewer totes on the ground.
However, Jacobs had his best season through the air last year with a career-high 54 receptions for 348 yards. He’s a good, young player.
18. Michael Onwenu, OL, New England Patriots
Onwenu is the latest offensive lineman the Patriots have magically turned into a good football player. The versatile Onwenu started only eight games last season after starting all 16 in his rookie year, but he is now on track to be the Pats’ starting right guard with longtime starter Shaq Mason traded to Tampa Bay.
The future is bright for Onwenu, who had the second-best pass blocking grade from PFF among second-year guards last season.
19. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Waddle had a fantastic rookie season with 104 receptions for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns, but his low average depth of target (6.3) and yards per reception (9.8) numbers leave much to be desired.
Despite being one of the fastest players in the league, Waddle is being asked to catch the ball close to the line of scrimmage and run with it rather than catch deep passes because it suits QB Tua Tagovailoa better. Now, Waddle will have superstar speedster Tyreek Hill on the field with him.
The offense will run through these two wideouts, and Waddle is a good player, but the role and situation could be better.
20. De’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
With 62 receptions last season and 46 the year before, Swift has quickly become one of the best dual-threat backs in the league. He went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season and is poised for a big third campaign in an improved Lions offense. Swift’s rushing efficiency isn’t great, but he’s a true three-down back with explosive traits.
21. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts
Pittman showed true alpha dog traits last season and emerged as the Colts’ top weapon on the outside with 88 receptions for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. With Matt Ryan now leading the offense, I think Pittman will continue to ascend. We wrote about him as an underrated option in NFL receiving leader odds at +5000.
22. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, Smith put up otherworldly numbers in college and had 64 receptions for 916 yards and five TDs in his rookie season. It was a solid season for the “Slim Reaper” but I’m worried he is locked into a WR2 role moving forward with A.J. Brown now in Philly.
Smith is a good player, but he’s already turning 24 in November despite playing only one season and is now playing second fiddle indefinitely.
23. Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Cleveland Browns
The 10th pick in 2020, Wills had a fantastic rookie season where he earned PFF’s best-ever rookie grade at left tackle. But the Alabama product took a bit of a step back last season, which has him lower on this list. Still, Wills is just 23 entering his third NFL season and should continue his progression moving forward – he’s just too talented.
24. Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
A fifth-round pick in 2020, Mooney had a solid rookie season and full-on breakout campaign last year. With 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns, he was by far the best wideout on the Bears and is now the locked-in No. 1 option for Justin Fields.
He doesn’t profile as a true top-of-the-league talent, but Mooney is a very good player with serious downfield speed who probably could have put up much better numbers last season with better QB play.
25. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
In terms of raw talent, Gibson is right up there with the top running backs on this list. Gibson had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two seasons, including over 1,000 rushing yards alone last season along with 10 total TDs. So why is Gibson so low here? It’s his role on the team.
Washington somewhat inexplicably refuses to hand the three-down keys to Gibson and drafted a running back in the third round this year who is reportedly handling goal-line duties.
The ‘Ders also gave good money to receiving back J.D. McKissic, so it appears Gibson might be ticketed for an early-down grinder role and not much more. The arrow is unfortunately pointing down on Gibson despite his spectacular talent and athleticism.
Honorable mentions: Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers; Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers; Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers; Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
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