Top 25 NFL players 25 and under: Justin Herbert headlines 2022 stars

The NFL isn’t always a young man’s game. Take, for example, two of the best quarterbacks still doing it in the NFL: Tom Brady, 44, and Aaron Rodgers, 38, just might be the favorites in the NFC this season, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean football is hurting for young talent. Rookies are increasingly expected to contribute early, and a slew of hotshot signal-callers, like recent Super Bowl starters Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, contended for titles on their first contracts.

And that’s just the QBs. Each year at CBS Sports, we rank the top 25 players 25 and under. And this year, in particular, was incredibly difficult. Why? Because the NFL is absolutely loaded with promising young players. That’s one of the reasons we’ve included such an extensive honorable-mention list for 2022; there are too many up-and-comers to properly acknowledge in a list of 25. Still, we’re confident our top pecking order will convey just how many stars of today and tomorrow reside in football.

Before we get to the rundown, some criteria:

  • Why is age 25 the cutoff? Generally speaking, most top players enter the NFL at ages 20-21. That means their first contracts tend to run right up until about 25. It doesn’t mean 26-year-old superstars aren’t young, but this gives us an easy dividing line. That way, in many cases, you can view this list as the top players still on their rookie deals (or deserving of new ones).

 

  • What is the cutoff for a player turning 26? We’re counting a player as long as they are 25 or younger when the 2022 season officially begins on Sept. 8. It doesn’t matter if they turn 26 in Week 2; anyone who begins the year 25 or younger is in play.

 

  • Is anyone else excluded from the list? Yes, this year’s rookies. While we could project top picks like Travon Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux onto the list, our focus is on players who have already established themselves in the NFL, even if for just one season. Hence …

 

  • What goes into the ranking? Both past performance and projection, as well as, to a lesser degree, positional value. So it helps if a player has already been really good for three years, but it also helps if his future outlook is really bright. It also helps if the player is a quarterback rather than running back, for obvious reasons. Try not to get too caught up in whether this ranking indicates where they currently rank or where we think they will rank after 2022; it’s a hodgepodge of where they stand right now and where we think they’re headed.

Without further ado, the ranking:

 

25. Panthers S Jeremy Chinn (24)

Carolina’s woes have overshadowed his impact as a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. As a quasi-linebacker/cover man, he’s racked up 224 tackles, 10 QB hits and forced or recovered six fumbles in two years. That’s production you have to game-plan around.

 

24. Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb (23)

Playing in a stacked receivers room alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, he’s still produced like a star-in-the-making, totaling 2,037 yards and 11 scores in two years. With Cooper gone, he’s poised to see an even bigger share of Dak Prescott’s throws as the explosive counterpart to Gallup and Dalton Schultz.

 

23. Buccaneers LB Devin White (24)

Is he a perfect linebacker? Surely not, as evidenced by slip-ups in coverage. But you can’t teach speed, and he has it. Over his last two seasons, as a lynchpin of Todd Bowles’ championship defense, he’s been a missile at the heart of their unit, totaling 268 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 34 QB hits and 23 tackles for loss.

Author: Lucy Green