With the 2018 NFL Draft only a week away, there will be a new wave of players under 25 players looking to make a name for themselves in the NFL. But until then, let’s look at the current crop of young guns taking the league by storm.
10. DeShaun Watson: Quarterback, Houston Texans (22)
Watson would have been higher up on the rank if it wasn’t for a torn ACL that ended his stellar rookie campaign in 2017. He played in seven games last season and started in six, going 3-3 with 19 passing touchdowns and adding two more on the ground. From the time he took over the starting quarterback position, for then-starter Tom Savage, Watson electrified crowds time and time again. From his 49-yard touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals to his 72-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins against the Seattle Seahawks, he was electric.
Had Watson played the rest of the season, the Texans could have made a deep run in the playoffs. Our hopes are that Watson is able to bounce back from his ACL injury and continue to showcase his talents for years to come.
9. Alvin Kamara: Running Back, New Orleans Saints (22)
The Saints started the 2017 season with a crowded backfield. Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, and Kamara all vied for touches in the Saints pass-happy offense. It was not until Peterson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals that Kamara was able to go off. Kamara is the prototypical running back to have in the Saints backfield. He is able to run the ball from the shotgun off tackles and catch the ball from the slot position.
Kamara finished 2017 with 728 rushing yards and 826 receiving yards. His 100 targets and 81 catches were second among running backs only to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Not to mention he finished his rookie season with 14 total touchdowns, eight rushing, five receiving, and one kickoff return. Scary for a rookie right?
And to think, he’s just getting started.
8. Jared Goff: Quarterback, Los Angeles Rams (23)
A year ago, Goff would not have been on this list after an abysmal 2016 rookie season, which saw him go 0-7 in seven starts. He was able to make a full 180 and lead the Rams to the playoffs.
After throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2016 Goff bounced back and tossed 28 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. A huge part of Goff’s transformation was new head coach Sean McVay.
McVay worked with Goff during last offseason and was able to help Goff play to his strengths. The former first overall pick looked every bit like the future of the Rams last season. If Goff can stay on course he can potentially lead the Rams to the Super Bowl, which many believe is possible in 2018.
7. Landon Collins: Safety, New York Giants (24)
It feels as if Collins has been in the league for years now. At age 24, the former second-round pick is entering his fourth season with New York. In his long but relatively young career, Collins has been a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the most feared safeties in the NFL today.
His aggressive style has saw him record over 100 tackles in each of his three seasons with the G-Men. Collins also has exceptional coverage skills, often picking up the opposing tight ends or slot receivers. Pro Football Focus ranked him sixth among safeties with an overall grade of 88.5. Collins will be out to prove that he and the Giants are better than their 3-13 record indicated last season.
6. Tyreek Hill: Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs (24)
Hill is arguably the best offensive weapon in the NFL. Whenever he’s on the field he is a threat to take the ball the distance and score. Dubbed with the nickname “Cheetah,” Hill has shown why he is the fastest player in the NFL. He racked up 1,183 receiving yards and seven touchdown is his second season with the Chiefs.
If you want evidence on how explosive and fast Hill is, look no further than the week 13 matchup in 2017 when Hill torched the New York Jets for 185 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard bomb.
5. Mike Evans: Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24)
Since coming into the league in 2014, Evans has been one of the most consistent receivers over that span. The former seventh overall pick has gone over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. His name is often brought up when people discuss the top five wide receivers in the league, and for good reason.
At 6’5 231 pounds, Evans is a physical presence on the outside with the ability to stretch the field and take the top off of defenses. Even with arelatively inconsistent quarterback play down in Tampa Bay, Evans has still been able to produce monster numbers and remains the Bucs best player.
4. Joey Bosa: Defensive End, Los Angeles Chargers (22)
Bosa is widely considered the second coming of Houston’s J.J. Watt. Bosa has racked up 23 sacks in two seasons with the Chargers, surpassing 10 total sacks in each season. He is the son of former NFL defensive end John Bosa who played three seasons for the Miami Dolphins. Ironically enough, John’s career was over by the age of 25, while Joey is flourishing in Los Angeles as one of the best players under the age 25.
He is a nightmare for opposing tackles and quarterbacks with a quick first step and a relentless pursuit from the snap of the ball until the whistle is blown. Bosa could be due for a 20-sack season if his production continues to increase in the 2018-19 season.
3. Ezekiel Elliott: Running Back, Dallas Cowboys (22)
When you are considered one of the best running backs in the league, you deserve to be on this list.
“Zeke the Freak” took the league by storm in his 2016 rookie campaign where he racked up 1,631 rushing touchdowns and 16 total touchdowns. His production declined a bit in 2017, but it was not because he lacked talent. Elliott served a six-game suspension for off the field issues only allowing him to play in 10 games for the Cowboys in 2017. He still managed to gain 983 rushing yards and score nine total touchdowns.
We still have not seen Elliott on the field for a full 16-game stretch. Once he’s able to place all the off the field issues behind him and solely focus on football, he will be a terror running behind that line in Dallas. And with Dez Bryant out of Dallas, Elliott will now be the sole focal point of the Cowboys offense.
2. Jalen Ramsey: Cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars (23)
There’s nothing better in the NFL than a player who can talk trash and actually back it up. Ramsey, from day one, has done just that.
Not only is he one of the best talkers in the NFL, he is also one of the best corners in the game. In only his second season, PFF ranked Ramsey as the third best cornerback in the NFL last season.
He is undoubtedly the best player on the league’s best defense down in Jacksonville. In 2017, he allowed a passer rating of just 57.2, a catch rate of 47.5, and allowed only 33.6 yards per game when he was in coverage. And if a receiver was lucky enough to catch a pass against Ramsey, he was not afraid the make his presence felt and let that receiver know about it.
Ramsey’s skill will continue to get better and confidence will continue to grow, so look for him to be more dominant and entertaining in the 2018 season.
1. Todd Gurley: Running Back, Los Angeles Rams (23)
After bursting on the scene in his 2015 rookie season, Gurley looked poised to take over the title of “Best running back in the NFL” when he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, much like his quarterback in Los Angeles, Gurley had a forgetful 2016 campaign. He finished his sophomore season with just 885 yards and six touchdowns while averaging a mere 55.3 yards per game. That all changed when McVay took over the reigns as coach.
He helped Gurley produce his best season yet, being named Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. He ran for 1,305 and 13 touchdowns also adding 788 receiving yards and an additional six touchdowns. Gurley finished second in league MVP honors, being beat out by quarterback Tom Brady.
Still, at just age 23, Gurley has a lot of juice left to build on after his remarkable 2017 season and looks to not only capture the MVP award but also the Lombardi Trophy next season.