The NFL All-25-and-Under Team

The All-25-and-Under Team consists of players who were 25 or younger as of June 1. (The All-Over-30 Team can be found here.)

This team, like all of the other teams in this series, was selected with the idea of constructing the best overall roster. Usually, that means simply picking the best players. But once in a while, it means picking the players whose styles best complement one another, which is how actual NFL rosters are built.

Starters listed in bold.

Quarterback

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs—23 years, nine months

Baker Mayfield, Browns—24 years, two months

History suggests Mahomes will be better this season than in his MVP 2018 season, and better again in 2020, but it’s hard to envision much room for improvement. He lit the league on fire in 2018. However, he can still get even better not just mentally (where he’s already ahead of the curve and figures to start seeing things faster) but physically. Amazing as he was, Mahomes last season misfired on a handful of throws each game. That’s likely one reason he is working diligently on his footwork this summer. Mahomes might never throw with unwavering down-to-down accuracy—an errant ball or two could be the cost of doing business with such an unconventionally gifted thrower. Of course, Mahomes more than compensates for rogue incompletions by connecting on a few throws each game that other quarterbacks couldn’t even attempt. With Mahomes under center, you can do anything and everything schematically.

Running Back

Alvin Kamara, Saints—23 years, 11 months

Saquon Barkley, Giants—22 years, four months

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys—23 years, 11 months

Elliott is a better pure runner than Kamara and, in terms of efficient north/south movement, probably Barkley, as well. But Kamara’s and Barkley’s value in the passing game can’t be understated. We’d gladly put Elliott on the field for most of the snaps, but given the choice, we’ll wind up just going with runners who can flex out as slot and wide receivers. Kamara’s and Barkley’s route running prowess there provides unlimited schematic dimension. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ll put them on the field simultaneously.

Wide Receiver

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers—22 years, seven months

Stefon Diggs, Vikings—25 years, seven months

Tyler Boyd, Bengals—24 years, seven months

Mike Evans, Bucs—25 years, 10 months

Brandin Cooks, Rams—25 years, nine months

Cooks would not have made this team except that the top of our receiving corps, aside from Diggs, lacks ideal speed. If defenses start sitting on our routes, we can threaten their safeties with the Rams’ burner. Most likely, however, Evans will provide our verticality off the bench. He is not particularly fast, but long limbs and a long stride make him viable downfield. He runs a broader route tree than Cooks. The other members of our receiving corps are rock solid fundamentally, which will help Mahomes resist the temptation to play off-schedule too often.

Tight End

George Kittle, 49ers—25 years, eight months

Evan Engram, Giants—24 years, nine months

Mark Andrews, Ravens—22 years, nine months

Two skinny pass-catchers who are basically wide receivers and one budding all-around tight end (Andrews) who can block and catch. Andrews is not as fast as Kittle or Engram, but he may wind up stealing the starting job if his run-blocking proves too valuable. It’s not like Andrews is a road grader, but we can feel comfortable with him aligned on the line of scrimmage. We probably can with Kittle, too (depending on the play call) but not with Engram (who is a glorified wide receiver).

Offensive Tackle

LT Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins—24 years, 11 months

LG Quenton Nelson, Colts—23 years, three months

C Billy Price, Bengals—24 years, eight months

RG Shaq Mason, Patriots—25 years, 10 months

RT Ryan Ramczyk, Saints—25 years, two months

Ronnie Stanley, Ravens—25 years, three months

Andrus Peat, Saints—25 years, seven months

Tunsil is as athletic and nimble as any blocker in football. Nelson got stronger in pass pro as a rookie and is already the game’s best on-the-move run-blocking left guard. He teams well with Price, who has the necessary mobility to give us a multidimensional ground game and screen game. The right side of our O-line is solid. Our world is made easier by the fact that Ramczyk can be trusted to pass block on an island. Our only concern is that neither of our backups is experienced snapping the ball. If something happens to Price, we’ll move Shaq Mason to center and plug Peat in at right guard. Collectively, we have enough athleticism to run an outside zone scheme, but we would leave opportunities on the table if we limited ourselves to only running outside zone. With a mixture of power and athleticism, we can have an expansive rushing attack built off man-blocking concepts. Aside from Tunsil, these linemen all come from man-blocking NFL schemes.

Edge

Danielle Hunter, Vikings—24 years, eight months

Myles Garrett, Browns—23 years, six months

Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars—24 years, three months

T.J. Watt, Steelers—24 years, eight months

We’ll use stunts and twists to capitalize on our D-line’s athleticism. Hunter and Ngakoue, who are both long and fluid, are great at looping inside. Watt, who is mechanically sound, can also stunt and twist. Garrett, with his fast, violent hands, is great at attacking blockers to create pass rushing lanes for teammates.

Defensive Line

Trey Flowers, Patriots—25 years, 10 months

Kenny Clark, Packers—23 years, eight months

Chris Jones, Chiefs—24 years, 11 months

DeForest Buckner, 49ers—25 years, three months

What’s most to love is these guys’ versatility. Clark, who has one of football’s best combinations of size and athleticism, is the truest nose-shade tackle of the bunch, though Flowers and especially the explosive, long-armed Buckner can align there, too. Those two can also penetrate, though neither quite as well as Chris Jones, who dominated down the stretch last year.

Linebacker

Darius Leonard, Colts—23 years, 11 months

Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys—23 years, four months

Roquan Smith, Bears—22 years, two months

Jarrad Davis, Lions—23 years seven months

This group offers speed, athleticism and the oft-overlooked length, which can separate good and great linebackers. (The longer your arms, the more leeway there is for how you take on blocks.) The only concern is that these men are all better in zone coverage than man-to-man, and our cornerbacking group is too enticing to not play man-to-man. Fortunately, with a strong D-line, we are not dependent on blitzing, which means we can always call on our safeties to help in coverage.

Cornerback

Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—24 years, eight months

Marshon Lattimore, Saints—23 years, one month

Kenny Moore, Colts—23 years, 10 months

Marlon Humphrey, Ravens—22 years, 11 months

Denzel Ward, Browns—22 years, two months

Ramsey will travel with the bigger receivers, Lattimore with the smaller, quicker guys. If that’s too unfamiliar for Lattimore (who often takes the bigs in New Orleans’s scheme), we can turn to Marlon Humphrey, who was quietly sensational in those assignments last season. Or we can look to Ward. The undrafted Moore might seem like the outlier of this group, but he is one of football’s best slot corners (and, as of recently, its highest-paid). He’s a fervid tackler, sharp blitzer and an alert zone defender.

Safeties

Kevin Byard, Titans—25 years, 10 months

Derwin James, Chargers—22 years, 10 months

Jamal Adams, Jets—23 years, eight months

Landon Collins, Redskins—25 years, five months

Our top three safeties can operate anywhere on the field, putting all blitz and coverage disguises in play. All are playmakers, too. Byard is a ball hawk in deep centerfield. James and Adams are destructive near the line of scrimmage. Collins, along with Baltimore’s Tony Jefferson (who is too old for this team), is football’s most dangerous “unblocked” defender.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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