Many promising players enter the NFL stumbling. Transitioning to the pro level is no easy feat. Recently, young players have taken the NFL by storm, smashing records.
It’s rare to see so many youngsters become immediate superstars. One thing’s for sure, the future of the NFL is bright. Check out the top 11 players 25 and under.
11. WR DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
Through his first three seasons, DK Metcalf has recorded at least 900 receiving yards in each season. In 2020, Metcalf earned All-Pro honors after finishing with 1,303 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Seattle rewarded the fourth-year wideout with a three-year, $72 million extension this offseason.
At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Metcalf is a freak of nature. In the NFL Draft Combine, the former Rebel ran a 4.33-second in the 40-yard dash. Metcalf’s freakish speed for his size has elevated him to one of the NFL’s best deep threats. His large frame is a problem alone, but blazing speed makes him nearly impossible to defend.
10. CB Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
In 2020, Jaire Alexander became one of the NFL’s best cover corners. He made second-team All-Pro after holding opponents to a 51.3% completion percentage and 67.4 QB rating.
The former Louisville Cardinal missed most of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury. Green Bay is thrilled to have Alexander back. He brings elite physicality and speed to the Packers’ secondary. Alexander could be an All-Pro defender for many years to come.
9. LB Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
As a rookie, Micah Parsons competed for Defensive Player of the Year. Dallas asked Parsons to do nearly everything. He excelled at it all.
Parsons finished with 84 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. The Cowboy linebacker made first-team All-Pro, won Defensive Rookie of the Year and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. His ability as an off-ball linebacker and edge-rusher is unique. Going forward, Parsons could be an annual Pro Bowler.
8. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
Another second-year player lands on the list. Ja’Marr Chase set some of his own records as a rookie. Remember when Justin Jefferson set the rookie season receiving record at 1,400 yards? Chase broke that one year later at 1,455 yards.
The Louisiana native is already among the NFL’s five best wideouts. Chase regularly burned All-Pro caliber corners. Marlon Humphrey was torched for 201 yards in Week 7 of 2021. In the Super Bowl, Chase had little trouble getting open against Jalen Ramsey — the league’s best cornerback.
Cincinnati has a special receiver in its rising offense.
7. RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
In his breakout 2022 season, Jonathan Taylor established himself as one of the NFL’s best pure runners. After rushing for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry, Taylor was named a Pro Bowler, All-Pro and finished second for Offensive Player of the Year.
At 22, Taylor became the youngest player in NFL history to record 2,000 scrimmage yards. According to Pro Football Reference, the former Wisconsin Badger led the league with 941 yards after contact. For comparison, Najee Harris’ 675 yards after contact was the second-most. With Taylor leading the way, the Colts’ run game is feared across the league. NFL betting lines give Taylor the highest MVP odds (+5000) among skill position players.
6. WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
Thanks to Justin Jefferson, the Vikings have been fine since Stefon Diggs joined the Bills. Jefferson has arguably had the best start for a pro wideout. He set the rookie season record with 1,400 receiving yards in 2020. In his second season, Jefferson’s production went up with 1,616 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
In an interview with Kameron Hay of Complex, Jefferson was asked to list the NFL’s top receivers. Jefferson named his list and followed it with, “I’ll say after this year I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL.” Jefferson’s prediction is certainly possible; he’s already a top three wideout.
5. OT Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay in the 2020 offseason, the Buccaneers had to upgrade their offensive line. With the 13th pick, Tampa selected a promising tackle out of Iowa, Tristan Wirfs. Brady instantly got his security blanket as Wirfs shined from his first snap.
According to PFF, Wirfs allowed one sack and had three penalties in his rookie season. Last year, the star tackle got the recognition he deserved with first-team All-Pro honors. Per PFF, Wirfs allowed two sacks and had three penalties in 2021. In two seasons, the former Hawkeye has allowed three sacks with six penalties on 2,255 snaps. Wirfs could be the NFL’s best right tackle.
4. QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow’s rookie season did not go as planned. As soon as Burrow showed improvement, his rookie campaign was unfortunately cut short by a devastating knee injury. This was a major injury that included a torn left ACL and MCL. Many expected Burrow to struggle to start the 2021 season.
After leading Cincinnati to a Super Bowl appearance, Burrow became one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. He threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns with a 70.4% completion percentage. Burrow is the most important piece of the Bengals’ resurgence. NFL lines have Burrow with the fourth-highest odds (+1400) to win MVP.
3. QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
While Lamar Jackson’s production has declined since his 2019 MVP season, he’s still one of the NFL’s best young players. At 23, Jackson became the youngest player to win the MVP award. He finished the 2019 season with 3,127 passing yards, 36 passing touchdowns, six interceptions and 1,206 rushing yards.
Last year, Jackson had his second-worst QBR (50.7) and 13 interceptions, which marked a career-high. In Jackson’s defense, Baltimore was plagued with injuries. Outside of Mark Andrews, he had poor receiving targets. Look for Jackson’s numbers to rise in 2022 with a healthy roster and improved receivers.
2. DE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa is another superstar that has dealt with a major injury. Following his nine-sack rookie season, Bosa tore his ACL in year two. Most players struggle following significant knee injuries, especially edge-rushers. Bosa, however, is not normal. He did not drop off in his third season. Instead, Bosa confirmed he is one of the NFL’s best defenders.
In 2021, the former No. 2 pick recorded 15.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 75 pressures — which ranked fourth. Bosa was doubled more than Myles Garrett, yet the 49er edge-rusher had only three fewer pressures. Despite leading the NFL with a 26% double-team rate, Bosa was among the top five in pass rush win rate. Going forward, Bosa will be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
1. QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Since entering the league, Justin Herbert has left people in awe. Herbert has every QB attribute. He has a great 6-foot-6 frame combined with good athleticism. Most importantly, Herbert has a cannon for an arm. At every level, the Chargers’ QB puts impressive zip on each ball.
Last season, the former Oregon Duck made his first Pro Bowl with 5,014 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. With an improved Los Angeles roster, Herbert is in store for a huge year. Many expect Herbert to rise to the level of the league’s best signal-callers, like Mahomes and Josh Allen. NFL odds reflect Herbert’s star status. The sportsbook gives Herbert the third-highest odds (+900) for MVP and the highest odds for leading in passing yards (+600) and passing touchdowns (+450).