Top 25 NFL Players Under 25: Ranking Football’s Best Young Stars

The NFL is loaded with young talent across all positions, but who are the best young players in the game today? Find out as we count down the NFL’s top 25 players under 25, using September 1, 2021, as the age cutoff. This list does not include 2021 NFL Draft picks.

Top 25 NFL Players Under 25

25. Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets (23 years old)

Williams was a bit overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL as a rookie but started to show off his talent last year in his second season. In 13 games, he recorded 7 sacks and 14 quarterback hits. He did break his foot this offseason, and that will need to be monitored, but he doesn’t turn 24 until December and is one of the quickest and most athletic defensive tackles in the NFL.


24. Marcus Williams, FS, New Orleans Saints (24)

Williams barely makes the age cutoff here as he turns 25 on Sept. 8. However, he’s one of the league’s best and most consistent safeties. He’s already started 60 games in the NFL, totaling 13 interceptions and 30 pass deflections. Williams isn’t the best run defender, but he certainly makes up for it in the passing game.


23. Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers (24)

Warner has started every game since entering the NFL in 2018 and was an All-Pro selection in 2020. He’s one of the league’s best coverage linebackers and has the speed to run sideline to sideline. Warner could stand to get better against the run, but he’s already an elite linebacker regardless.


22. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (24)

We only saw a bit of 2020’s top draft pick last season before he suffered a devastating knee injury, but what we did see was impressive. In the first 10 games of his career, Burrow passed for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns. With a better offensive line in front of him and a new No. 1 receiver in former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow should be even better in 2021.

Top 25 NFL Players Under 25: Ranking Football's Best Young Stars

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow ranks 22nd in the Top 25 NFL Players Under 25. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)


21. Brian Burns, DE, Carolina Panthers (23)

Burns entered the NFL at the age of 21 and through his first two seasons, he’s recorded 16.5 sacks to go along with 37 quarterback hits. Burns is still adding strength and power to his game, but he is one of the best speed rushers in the NFL. He just turned 23 and should only get better with more experience. If he can become a more reliable run defender, there’s no reason why he can’t reach the Pro Bowl in the near future.


20. Devin White, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (23)

After being the fifth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, White has already established himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. His talents were on full display during the most recent Super Bowl when he helped slow down Travis Kelce and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense. He needs to be more consistent from game to game and isn’t always the best in coverage, but White is a rare talent who just turned 23 years old.


19. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys (22)

Despite playing with four different starting quarterbacks in 2020, Lamb still flashed stardom as a rookie. He recorded over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 7 touchdowns, including 1 kick return touchdown. With Dak Prescott returning in 2021, Lamb should continue to develop into one of the league’s best receivers.


18. Jedrick Wills, OT, Cleveland Browns (22)

As a rookie, Wills made the difficult transition from right tackle in college to a left tackle in the NFL. He quickly adapted to his new position and played well, especially in the second half of the season. With veteran offensive line coach Bill Callahan guiding Wills, don’t be shocked if he becomes a Pro Bowl tackle in the near future.


17. Mekhi Becton, OT, New York Jets (22)

Becton was a bit up and down as a rookie for the Jets, but his ceiling is undeniable. When healthy, he has a rare combination of power and athleticism that we haven’t seen in a long time. If he can continue to improve his pass sets and stay on the field, Becton has a chance to be the most physically dominating left tackle in the NFL.


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16. D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers (24)

Moore was a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, and yet, he is still one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL. He’s now had back-to-back seasons of 1,200 total yards, and he is one of only five receivers in NFL history to post multiple 1,200-yard seasons before turning 24. Moore is one of the league’s most dynamic receivers and is only getting better.


15. Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears (24)

It took a bit for Smith to get going, but he was one of the league’s best linebackers during the 2020 season. He started all 16 games and recorded 139 tackles — including 18 tackles for a loss — along with 2 interceptions and 4 sacks. He just turned 24 in April, but his speed and instincts already make him an elite linebacker.


14. Jessie Bates, FS, Cincinnati Bengals (24)

Bates doesn’t have a Pro Bowl to his name yet, but he might be the best free safety in the NFL. He’s recorded three interceptions in every season of his career and has racked up 320 tackles since entering the league in 2018. Bates can play as a single-high safety but has no problem making tackles in the run game either. This should be the season where he finally gets the recognition he deserves.


13. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (24)

By now, everyone knows how talented Barkley is and how dominant he can be when healthy. Injuries have prevented him from realizing his full potential, however, as he’s missed significant time in each of the past two seasons. He’d certainly rank higher on this list if he hadn’t torn his ACL last year, but he remains among the league’s most dynamic players at age 24.


12. Tristan Wirfs, RT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)

As a rookie last year, Wirfs immediately stepped into Tampa Bay’s starting right tackle role and dominated. The 2020 first-round pick had little trouble adjusting to the NFL, providing crucial protection for Tom Brady all season long. Given Wirfs’ age, production, and physical style of play, not many offensive linemen in the NFL have a better outlook.

Top 25 NFL Players Under 25: Ranking Football's Best Young Stars

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Tristan Wirfs might grow into the league’s best offensive lineman — if he isn’t already. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)


11. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals (24)

Murray has quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks over his first two seasons. Last year, he scored 37 total touchdowns and played like an MVP candidate for much of the season before being slowed by a shoulder injury in the second half. If he stays healthy and continues to improve, Murray has the ceiling to be one of the top signal-callers in the NFL.


10. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (22)

After an incredible career at Wisconsin, Taylor hit the ground running (literally) as a rookie last year. In 15 games, he totaled 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also finished the season on fire with 8 touchdowns and 723 total yards over his final five regular-season games. Heading into Year 2, Taylor is already considered one of the league’s best backs and is among the favorites to lead the league in rushing yards this year.


9. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (23)

Herbert was the third quarterback selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, but it certainly didn’t appear that way during his rookie season. All Herbert did was author one of the most impressive debut campaigns in NFL history, racking up 36 touchdowns and 4,336 passing yards. With some more seasoning, Herbert could easily become a top-5 quarterback within a few years.


8. Chase Young, DE, Washington Football Team (22)

We’ve only seen one season of Young in the NFL, but it’s already clear that he’s going to be a superstar. He has the rare ability to take over games at the defensive end position, similar to J.J. Watt in his prime. Young still needs to polish the finer parts of his game before reaching that level, but he has a chance to be the league’s best defensive player in a year or two.


7. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (22)

The former LSU receiver is coming off one of the best rookie seasons of all time in which he amassed 1,400 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns at the age of 21. He averaged nearly 16 yards per reception and hauled in over 70 percent of his targets. While it’s going to be hard for him to maintain that efficiency, it’s clear that Jefferson is a dominant No. 1 receiver.


6. Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers (24)

Just a few years ago, cornerbacks like Alexander were being overlooked in favor of bigger, longer defensive backs. But with NFL offenses going smaller, Alexander is the perfect cornerback to cover speedy receivers. He had the best season of his career in 2020 as he was named to his first Pro Bowl, but he’ll likely earn a few more before his career is over.


5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Pittsburgh Steelers (24)

Fitzpatrick has been a linchpin of Pittsburgh’s outstanding defense over the past two years, making back-to-back Pro Bowls and forcing turnovers left and right. He’s only 24 years old and has already established himself as one of the league’s best safeties. Think the Dolphins regret trading him?


4. Nick Bosa, DE, San Francisco 49ers (23)

A Week 2 ACL tear cut Bosa’s second season short, but we already know how special of a player he is. As a rookie in 2019, he tallied 9 sacks to go along with 16 tackles for a loss and 25 quarterback hits. At 23, Bosa has the potential to be the league’s best pass rusher and should be healthy for the 2021 season.


3. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks (23)

After falling to the end of the second round of the 2019 draft, Metcalf has been everything the Seahawks could have hoped for when they selected him. He totaled over 1,300 yards in 2020 and scored 10 touchdowns as he developed into Seattle’s No. 1 receiver. Metcalf has quickly emerged as Russell Wilson‘s favorite weapon and projects to be an elite receiver for years to come.


2. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans (23)

You could easily make a case for Metcalf here, but I think Brown has been the better receiver so far. Not only has Brown scored more touchdowns than Metcalf, but he is also the far more efficient receiver. Over the last two seasons, Brown has averaged 17.4 yards per reception — more than any player in the NFL (min. 100 catches) during that span. With Julio Jones now playing opposite Brown, he should be even better in 2021.


1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (24)

Somehow, Jackson is still one of the league’s most underrated players despite winning an MVP award. He’s 30-7 as a starter and has led the Ravens to the playoffs in all three of his seasons. While his passing is still a work in progress, he’s already one of the most explosive quarterbacks ever to play the position. With an improved receiving corps in 2021, Jackson appears poised for another monster season.

For more NFL debate like the Top 25 NFL Players Under 25, listen to our Take The Points podcast with Marcus Mosher and Adam Kramer:

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