NFL 25 under 25: Ranking the best young players entering the 2023 season

Justin Jefferson, Micah Parsons and Sauce Gardner are three of the NFL's top young stars

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Out with the old, in with the new.

Several high-profile NFL stars retired after last season, including Tom Brady, J.J. Watt, A.J. Green and Devin McCourty. But older players stepping away creates more opportunities for young stars across the league.

Nine of the 22 starters in the Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs last February were under 25 years old. Young stars Isiah Pacheco and Nick Bolton were game-changers despite having limited professional experience.

With that in mind, here are the top 25 players under 25 years old entering the 2023 season (sorted by position, player must be under 25 for Week 1):

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars QB

25th birthday: Oct. 6, 2024

After Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert recently graduated from this list (2021 and 2022), Lawrence is the lone quarterback remaining. The Jaguars’ quarterback had a breakout second season, making the Pro Bowl and winning his first playoff game in dramatic comeback fashion.

Bijan Robinson, Falcons RB

25th birthday: Jan. 30, 2027

Spoiler alert: Robinson is the only rookie to make the list in 2023. The former Texas running back was picked eighth overall by Atlanta, and he should make an immediate impact. Head coach Arthur Smith has leaned on the run game since coming over from the Titans, but he’s never had a back as talented as Robinson.

Jonathan Taylor, Colts RB

25th birthday: Jan. 19, 2024

Throw 2022 out the window for Taylor. The 2021 First Team All-Pro battled injuries throughout the season, and let’s not even get started on Indianapolis’ head coaching debacle with Jeff Saturday. Taylor is primed for a bounce-back with new coach Shane Steichen as he enters a contract year.

Garrett Wilson, Jets WR

25th birthday: July 22, 2025

Amidst the Jets’ disaster quarterback situation, Wilson was named Offensive Rookie of the Year after totaling 1,103 yards and 83 catches. Now he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. It’s fair to expect another jump from Wilson in his second season out of Ohio State.

Chris Olave, Saints WR

25th birthday: June 27, 2025

Speaking of Ohio State wide receivers, here’s another one for you. Olave was drafted one pick after Wilson in 2022, but produced a comparable rookie season with similarly shaky quarterback play. He finished with 72 receptions for 1,042 yards and, like Wilson, a new veteran quarterback joined him this offseason when the Saints signed Derek Carr.

Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals WR

25th birthday: March 1, 2025

Injuries depleted Chase’s final counting numbers in his second season, but he averaged 2.5 more receptions per game and 1.6 more yards per game in 2022 compared to his rookie year. The Bengals’ receiver, who turned 23 in March, somehow is likely nowhere near his prime yet.

Justin Jefferson, Vikings WR

25th birthday: June 16, 2024

That’s right – Jefferson doesn’t even turn 25 until next June. After winning Offensive Player of the Year and finishing fifth in MVP voting last season, the Vikings star could realistically be the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history. Jefferson has 4,825 yards through his first three seasons, most in NFL history by over 600 yards (Randy Moss, 4,163).

CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys WR

25th birthday: April 8, 2024

Lamb had his best season yet in 2022, totaling a career-best 107 receptions, 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns while being named Second Team All-Pro. It’s no coincidence that Lamb’s breakout season coincided with the Cowboys’ trade of Amari Cooper, proving that the Oklahoma product is a bonafide WR1.

Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins WR

25th birthday: Nov. 25, 2023

The Dolphins added star receiver Tyreek Hill last season – and Waddle’s numbers still went up across the board. He posted career marks in receiving yards (1,356) and touchdowns (8) while seeing 23 fewer targets than the year prior. While Waddle is technically the second receiver on his team, it’s clear that he’s capable of being a No. 1 option.

DeVonta Smith, Eagles WR

25th birthday: Nov. 14, 2023

Waddle’s college teammate from Alabama also had a breakout 2022 season despite his team adding a star WR1. Smith, paired with A.J. Brown, increased his receptions, receiving yards and touchdown totals in his second season while helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl.

Penei Sewell, Lions OT

25th birthday: Oct. 9, 2025

From pancaking pass-rushers to pre-snap motions and first-down catches, Sewell was an absolute star for the Lions in his second season. The former first-round pick will be a mainstay on Detroit’s offensive line for years to come.

Rashawn Slater, Chargers OT

25th birthday: March 26, 2024

Sewell stole the spotlight among second-year tackles last season as Slater battles injuries and only made three starts. Slater was Second Team All-Pro as a rookie in 2021 and should return to form this season if he can stay on the field.

Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers OT

25th birthday: Jan. 24, 2024

Through three seasons, Wirfs has two Pro Bowl nods, a First Team All-Pro, a Second Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl ring. He’ll face two massive challenges in Year 4 – first, not having Tom Brady (and his elite pocket presence) at quarterback and, second, moving from right tackle to left.

Andrew Thomas, Giants OT

25th birthday: Jan. 22, 2024

It took some time, but Thomas has developed into a star left tackle for the Giants after getting drafted fourth overall in 2020. He posted an 89.1 PFF grade in 2022, excelling in the run-blocking game while being named Second Team All-Pro.

Creed Humphrey, Chiefs C

25th birthday: June 28, 2024

Humphrey, a former second-round pick, finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2021 before making Second Team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl for the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs in 2022. It’s almost unfair that Kansas City stole an elite center for Patrick Mahomes at No. 63 overall.

Christian Barmore, Patriots DT

25th birthday: July 28, 2024

Barmore looked like a budding star as a rookie in 2021, but injuries killed his sophomore season. In Year 3, he could be the key to the Patriots’ defense if he stays healthy. Barmore won’t stack up counting numbers as a defensive tackle, but he’s a game-changer for Bill Belichick’s squad.

Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins OLB

25th birthday: May 28, 2024

It feels like Phillips is on the cusp of true stardom after a strong second season. He posted an 87.8 PFF grade, which better reflected his impact on the game than his pedestrian seven sacks. Phillips added 25 QB hits and 77 total pressures – his first double-digit sack season is coming.

Micah Parsons, Cowboys OLB

25th birthday: May 26, 2024

Is it time to crown Parsons as the NFL’s best defender? Here’s what he’s accomplished through two seasons: Defensive Rookie of the Year, two First Team All-Pros, two Pro Bowls, two Defensive Player of the Year runner-ups. And Parsons has done all that while switching back and forth between linebacker and edge rusher, thriving in both roles.

Nick Bolton, Chiefs LB

25th birthday: March 10, 2025

The Super Bowl, where he returned a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown, was Bolton’s official introduction to a wider audience. But the truth is that he’s looked like a star since being drafted in the second round in 2021. Bolton was second in the NFL with 180 tackles last season.

Sauce Gardner, Jets CB

25th birthday: Aug. 31, 2025

Before his rookie season, Gardner’s teammates refused to call him Sauce until he started making plays. Well, he earned that nickname and then some last year. The former No. 4 overall pick won Defensive Rookie of the Year, was named First Team All-Pro and had a league-leading 20 passes defended.

Patrick Surtain II, Broncos CB

25th birthday: April 14, 2025

Gardner shared First Team All-Pro honors with Surtain, who once again shined in his second season as a solid rookie year. While his play might not be as flashy as his All-Pro counterpart, Surtain is already among the league’s top shutdown corners.

Tariq Woolen, Seahawks CB

25th birthday: May 2, 2024

Woolen, a rookie fifth-round pick out of UTSA, had the most interceptions among cornerbacks last season with six. He exceeded everyone’s expectations to finish third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Now the challenge will be maintaining his play as those expectations are raised.

A.J. Terrell, Falcons CB

25th birthday: Sept. 23, 2023

Last season was arguably the worst of Terrell’s three-year career, and he was still solid. It wasn’t at the level of his Second Team All-Pro 2021 campaign, but Terrell is still an elite corner. The Falcons defense improved around him this offseason, which should elevate his play even more.

Trevon Diggs, Cowboys CB

25th birthday: Sept. 20, 2023

The oldest player on this list, Diggs will turn 25 just before Week 3. He burst onto the scene in 2021 when he totaled a league-high 11 interceptions. While he only recorded three picks last season, Diggs was arguably a better player overall. He was much more consistent and less of a boom-or-bust player, and now he gets to learn from longtime star corner Stephon Gilmore.

Talanoa Hufanga, 49ers S

25th birthday: Feb. 1, 2025

Here’s a player who came out of nowhere last season. Hufanga, a fifth-rounder in 2021, played sparingly as a rookie before developing into a First Team All-Pro safety in Year 2. He’s now the back-end anchor of an elite 49ers defense, which is often praised for its pass-rush rather than its secondary.

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