The NFL is filled with young talent, and a team of all players under 25 could make quite the squad. This NFL All-Under-25 Team for 2019 includes several All-Pros, which is the roster format I used (so two wide receivers, a FLEX on offense, and 12 players on defense including an extra defensive back) for this. In order to qualify for this team, the player must be under 25 by the start of the 2019 season on September 5, so ages at that date are listed in parenthesis.
QB: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (23)
The reigning NFL MVP will turn just 24 this September, and he’s a relatively easy choice for the All-Under-25 Team despite the presence of other excellent young franchise quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Josh Allen. If given a choice, Mahomes is probably the player most decision-makers around the league would choose to lead their franchise if there was a re-draft of the entire league.
RB: Saquon Barkley, Giants (22)
Saquon Barkley is a player all 32 teams would love to have in their backfield, as he’s a do-it-all running back with elite speed, acceleration, agility, power, and receiving ability. It’s crazy that Barkley stepped into the league and was immediately dominant as a 21-year-old rookie, and he’s basically a lock to be considered the best under-25 running back for the next three years.
FLEX: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (23)
Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara are among the other under-25 running backs that were in the mix, but Christian McCaffrey is an absolute beast that’s been undervalued from the moment he was drafted by the Panthers eighth overall in 2017. The criticism of McCaffrey being too small or just a scat back was proven to be way off last season, and the former Stanford star should have another huge campaign this year.
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (22)
JuJu Smith-Schuster already has 169 receptions for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns in two NFL seasons, but he doesn’t turn 23 until this November. Despite his young age when entering the league at just 20 years old, Smith-Schuster has shown that he’s a mature player (that happens to have a funny personality that some might see as immature from the outside), and he plays extremely hard on every snap whether the ball is coming his way or not. And when the ball does come his way, JuJu has excellent ball skills and is tough to bring down after the catch.
WR: Calvin Ridley, Falcons (24)
Mike Williams and Chris Godwin have played well the last two seasons and should both have their strongest years in 2019, but Calvin Ridley gets a very slight edge over them for me after the Alabama product caught ten touchdowns as a rookie last season. Ridley is a crafty route runner that excels on double moves, but he can also simply run past defensive backs and can take a quick in-breaking route to the house in an instant.
TE: O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (24)
Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard hasn’t had huge statistical production yet, but I still can’t believe he lasted until the 19th pick of the 2017 draft. Howard is a monstrous six-foot-six and about 250 pounds with legit 4.50 speed that translates to the field, and he had to block well during his college career at Alabama. He’s a highly-explosive player that knows how to put his rare athletic gifts to use in his sport.
OT: Cam Robinson, Jaguars (23)
It’s three straight former Crimson Tide players on the All-Under-25 Team, and Cam Robinson is another guy I was surprised lasted as long as he did in the 2017 draft. Robinson was selected by the Jaguars in the second round (34th overall) when he could have easily been a top-15 selection, and he’s become one of the best left tackles in the league entering his third NFL season.
OG: Quenton Nelson, Colts (23)
Aside from Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson was probably the safest pick in last year’s draft, and he started his professional career on an elite level after road-grading at left guard for a resurgent Colts team while being named a First Team All-Pro in the process. Nelson is a good bet to be on another two All-Pro teams before he turns 25.
C: James Daniels, Bears (21)
Center is one of the toughest positions for the All-Under-25 Team, but I’ll give the nod to 2018 second-round pick James Daniels as he makes the transition back to center for his second NFL season. Bengals center Billy Price (a first-round pick last year) will look to take a big step forward in a new scheme in 2019, so he is another option here.
OG: Will Hernandez, Giants (24)
Guard Will Hernandez, fellow member of the Giants’ 2018 draft class with Saquon Barkley, was a big reason Barkley was able to break big plays last season. Hernandez certainly isn’t afraid to do the dirty work up front for his team, and he’ll look to become one of the league’s top offensive linemen in 2019.
OT: Orlando Brown Jr., Ravens (23)
Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is another example of teams putting a little too much stock in the NFL Combine, as a very poor performance by the big Oklahoma product caused him to drop on draft boards and land in the third round. Baltimore appears to have a bookend on the right side for the next decade, and Brown is a critical part of an offense that’ll look to pound the ball this season.
EDGE: Danielle Hunter, Vikings (24)
I think Danielle Hunter is a bit under the radar in Minnesota because the Vikings have such a talented defense, but he’s a flat-out beast coming off a 14.5-sack season, and he already has 40.0 sacks despite being just 24 years old. Hunter has 20-sack potential moving forward, and it won’t be surprising if that happens this year in his fifth NFL season.
IL: Jonathan Allen, Redskins (24)
For whatever reason, a number of players that dropped in the draft landed on this All-Under-25 Team, and this time it’s another former Alabama player. Jonathan Allen bounced back from his injury-plagued rookie season to record 61 tackles and eight sacks last year.
IL: Kenny Clark, Packers (23)
It took some time for Kenny Clark to get going, but he started to break out at the end of his second season in 2017 and continued his emergence last season—which isn’t surprising for someone that started his career at just 20 years old. Now just 23, Clark should be even better this year for a Packers team looking to get back into the postseason.
EDGE: Joey Bosa, Chargers (24)
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has a case for being the EDGE player over either Danielle Hunter or Joey Bosa, but Bosa gets nod. Bosa is an all-around player that stops the run and gets after the passer with the best of them, and he’s still young than Garrett despite being drafted the year before him. With 28.5 sacks through three seasons, Bosa will likely pass Hunter’s 40-sack pace if he stays healthy this season.
LB: Darius Leonard, Colts (23)
Two Colts rookies were named First Team All-Pros last season, so they were both very easy choices for the All-Under-25 Team. Darius Leonard is an athletic freak that sets the tone for Indianapolis’ defense, as he flies around the field and is always around the ball. The former South Carolina State Bulldog set a goal of 40 tackles in one game after he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl last year, which shows his motivation and mindset while leading his team.
LB: Deion Jones, Falcons (24)
Like Leonard, Deion Jones was immediately a huge contributor for his defense when he entered the league back in 2016, so it feels like he should be older than 25—but he’s still just 24 for the start of this season. Despite missing most of last season, Jones already has 299 tackles, two sacks, eight interceptions, and three touchdowns in his career.
LB: Roquan Smith, Bears (22)
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was initially someone I immediately placed on the All-Under-25 team, but he just narrowly misses making it after I thought about it more. Khalil Mack gets a lot of headlines, but Bears linebacker Roquan Smith was superb in Chicago’s defense last season, recording 121 tackles, five sacks, and an interception.
CB: Tre’Davious White, Bills (24)
This was one of the easiest choices, as Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White is arguably the top cornerback of any age in the league, and he’ll play the entire 2019 regular season at 24 years old. Buffalo probably wouldn’t have ended their playoff drought a couple of seasons ago if it wasn’t for White’s stellar play, and the third-year cornerback is a big reason Sean McDermott’s defense should be among the top units in the league this year.
S: Derwin James, Chargers (23)
Again, a player that should have been drafted higher than he was (as was clearly the case with the previous two players as well) makes the All-Under-25 Team, as Derwin James was a major steal for the Chargers at No. 17 overall in last year’s draft. The former Florida State star proved it with 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three interceptions en route to earning First-team All-Pro honors as a rookie.
S: Jamal Adams, Jets (23)
Watch out for Colts safety Malik Hooker this season, but I don’t want to project too much for this exercise, so Jets safety Jamal Adams is the other safety for the All-Under-25 Team. Like James, Adams is an all-around player that flies around in his secondary, making plays all over the field for his team. Adams is also a clear leader for the Jets and loves football about as much as anyone.
CB: Marshon Lattimore, Saints (23)
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was probably better as a rookie in 2017, but he was still one of the better players at his position in the league last season, and he still just turned 23 years old earlier this offseason. Lattimore gets battle tested going against receivers like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Evans in the NFC South, so he should get more consistent as he gets more experience as a professional.
DB: Desmond King, Chargers (24)
Some of these players might have dropped a dozen picks or a round in their drafts, but former Iowa cornerback Desmond King lasting until the fifth-round of the 2017 draft was utterly absurd. King has proved the entire league—including the Chargers—wrong by out-playing his draft status by a large margin, and he was a First-team All-Pro as both a defensive back and a punt returner last season.
K: Harrison Butker, Chiefs (24)
Harrison Butker wasn’t quite as automatic last season (24/27) as he was as a rookie in 2017 (38/42), but he still has a case for the best kicker in the league behind the Ravens’ Justin Tucker. Cold late-season temperatures don’t seem to affect Butker’s ability to strike the ball with relative ease from 55+ yards.
P: JK Scott, Packers (22)
The fifth former Alabama player to make the All-Under-25 Team, JK Scott had a solid rookie season for the Packers, starting all 16 games and averaging 44.7 yards per punt. Scott has a huge leg and could be better this season as he gets more comfortable at the next level.
KR: Tremon Smith, Chiefs (23)
Tremon Smith didn’t return any punts as a rookie last season, but he was one of the league’s best kick returners. Smith’s speed pops off the screen, and he averaged 26.8 yards per return last season, with a long return of 97 yards.
PR: Tarik Cohen, Bears (24)
Tarik Cohen led the NFL in punt returns (33) and punt return yardage (411) last season, as Matt Nagy and the Bears want to get the ball into his hands in space as much as possible. “The Human Joystick” didn’t have any return touchdowns last year after having one as a rookie, but he’s a major threat to take it to the house whenever he touches the ball.
ST: Zeke Turner, Cardinals (23)
Zeke Turner went undrafted out of one of the better college football programs in the University of Washington, and he competed to earn a roster spot and have a big role on special teams for the Cardinals as a rookie. Turner recorded 15 tackles on special teams last season, which was tied for second in the league.