With football season approaching, I’m selecting 25 guys (11 on offense, 11 on defense, and three on special teams) that are under 25 years old at the start of the season for the NFL’s All-Under-25 Team. Offense is pretty straightforward, but for defense, I selected six front-seven players and five defensive backs, because most teams play a lot of nickel now anyway. Of course, there are a lot of great young players that just missed the cut.
QB: Marcus Mariota (Titans)
Deshaun Watson and Jared Goff are among the spectacular young quarterbacks that could headline the All-Under-25 team, but I am as high on Marcus Mariota as anyone. He’s had three years of NFL experience despite not turning 25 until October.
RB: Todd Gurley (Rams)
After his amazing 2017 season, Todd Gurley gets the nod over Ezekiel Elliott and the other young stud running backs under 25 that deserve consideration. It’s well documented what Gurley can do on the football field.
WR: Brandin Cooks (Rams)
He’s had the benefit of playing with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Tom Brady, but Brandin Cooks has produced as consistent, big-play receiver. It’s crazy that he’s entering his fifth NFL season at 24 (he turns 25 in September).
WR: Allen Robinson (Bears)
Allen Robinson is coming off an ACL tear and a relatively subpar season in 2016 before that, but he was a 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown player in 2015.
WR: Amari Cooper (Raiders)
This final wide receiver spot is really, really close. I originally had Stefon Diggs first on the list, and we’ll hear about Tyreek Hill later. But Amari Cooper has a couple of 1,000-yard seasons through three years in the NFL. Any combination of Cooks, Robinson, Cooper, Diggs, and Hill could have been on here.
TE: O.J. Howard (Buccaneers)
It might not show up in the stat sheet, but O.J. Howard is an exceptional young tight end. Howard has uncommon big-play ability along with capability as a blocker.
LT: Dion Dawkins (Bills)
They obviously wanted a franchise quarterback, but the fact that the Bills traded tackle Cordy Glenn to move up the draft board indicates how strongly they feel about Dion Dawkins at left tackle. Dawkins could be a Pro Bowl player soon.
LG: Quenton Nelson (Colts)
Quenton Nelson hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, but it’s not inconceivable that he immediately steps into the league and is a top-tier offensive lineman. I’d take him over any left guard under 25.
C: Pat Elflein (Vikings)
The Vikings needed to sure up their offensive line after it was historically bad in 2016, and third-round pick Pat Elfein was a big part of getting things right up-front.
RG: Forrest Lamp (Chargers)
The two guards haven’t played a snap in the NFL yet, as 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp tore his ACL last year. He has a chance to make a big impact this season as a highly-drafted guard.
RT: Jack Conklin (Titans)
Jack Conklin was named First Team All-Pro as a rookie in 2016, so he wasn’t going to be beaten out for the right tackle spot on the All-Under-25 Team. Conklin is coming off a torn ACL and might not be ready for Week 1, but he’ll be back on the field at some point this year.
DE: Danielle Hunter (Vikings)
The richest person on this list is Danielle Hunter, who at just 23 years old cashed in with a huge $72 million contract with the Vikings. With 25.5 sacks through three seasons, Hunter is simply a beast—and it’s scary to think he’ll get better.
DT: DeForest Buckner (49ers)
Through two seasons, DeForest Buckner has racked up 134 total tackles and nine sacks for the 49ers. He’s shown he can play well in multiple schemes as a defensive lineman.
DE: Joey Bosa (Chargers)
Joey Bosa is one of the easiest selections for the entire All-Under-25 Team, as he entered the league as a double-digit-sack guy and has 23.0 through two seasons.
OLB: T.J. Watt (Steelers)
The Steelers were able to get T.J. Watt late in the first-round last year, and the younger brother of fellow NFLers J.J. and Derek made an instant impact with 7.0 sacks and solid coverage for Pittsburgh.
ILB: Deion Jones (Falcons)
There aren’t many linebackers that can change a game like Deion Jones can. The athletic 23-year-old has six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns already in his career.
OLB: Myles Jack (Jaguars)
The knee issues which caused Myles Jack to drop to the second round of the 2016 draft appear to be a thing of the past after he was a key part of Jacksonville’s elite defense last season. Jack will turn just 23 in September.
CB: Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars)
Jalen Ramsey has quickly become one of the league’s most feared defenders—and one of the best trash-talkers. He could be more consistent as a tackler, but there’s no doubting his ability in coverage.
CB: Tre’Davious White (Bills)
As a rookie, Tre’Davious White arguably stepped right into the league as a top-three cornerback, so he’s an easy choice for the All-Under-25 Team. For those that aren’t aware of White’s game, they’ll probably learn soon enough.
CB: Marshon Lattimore (Saints)
Part of why Tre’Davious White went under-the-radar last season is fellow first-round draft pick Marshon Lattimore had such a great season with the Saints. There are a ton of great young corners in the NFL, and these three headline the group.
S: Landon Collins (Giants)
He and his team were not as good last season, but Landon Collins’ outstanding 2016 season shows that he’s clearly one of the NFL’s best players under 25.
S: Keanu Neal (Falcons)
Safety has a lot of options—including the Saints’ Marcus Williams and the Jets’ Jamal Adams—but I’m going with Keanu Neal. Atlanta’s big-time thumper has 222 tackles through two seasons.
K: Harrison Butker (Chiefs)
As a rookie kicker last season, Harrison Butker was basically automatic for the Chiefs. Jake Elliott gets strong consideration, but Butker (38/42 FG) might have been the best kicker in the league.
P: Rigoberto Sanchez (Colts)
Rigoberto Sanchez did well as an undrafted free agent last year, punting 84 times for the Colts with 28 inside-the-20 and a 44.8 average.
RET: Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)
Tyreek Hill easily could have made it on the All-Under-25 Team as a wide receiver, but him being a stud returner made things easier—though his role as a returner could decrease moving forward.