Twenty-six years and six months. No, that's not the average length of a typical NFL replay review (though it certainly feels like it sometimes). It's the average age of all NFL players currently under contract. A whopping 85.6% of those players have yet to turn 30, and 38.2% are under the age of 25.
In this ranking, we're going to focus in on that latter group to identify the future -- and, in some cases, current -- faces of the league. The NFL has become a young man's game, so this was a very hard list to cut down, but these are the league's 25 best players under the age of 25.
To qualify for the list, the player must not have turned 25 before Nov. 18. All stats are through Week 10. Asterisks (*) denote that the player has a fifth-year team option in his contract.
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Turns 25: Sept. 17, 2020
Signed through: 2021*
Cutting down and ordering this list wasn't easy, but determining who should be No. 1 took less than a second. Mahomes, the reigning MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, joined Peyton Manning as only the second player in NFL history to reach both 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns through the air in a single season. Of course, Manning hit those marks in his 15th NFL season, and Mahomes did it before making his 18th start.
Injuries and some anticipated touchdown regression to the mean have put Mahomes on pace for 4,596 yards and 32 scores in his second full NFL season, but his career 112.5 passer rating is easily highest in league history. There's little doubt that he is the league's most dangerous player.
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Turns 25: Jan. 7, 2022
Signed through: 2022*
Say what you want about Jackson's inconsistencies as a passer, but he is a difference-maker on every snap. Despite starting only seven games as a rookie, he set the single-season quarterback record with 147 carries, totaling 695 yards and five scores. In 2019, Jackson is on his way to easily breaking his own record with a 16-game pace of 188 carries, 1,248 yards and 10.7 touchdowns. And that's just with his legs. Jackson has tossed 15 touchdown passes, is completing 62.8% of his passes (up from 58.2% in 2018) and is averaging 8.0 yards per attempt.
Sure, Jackson isn't as polished as some other top quarterbacks, but his combination of passing and rushing contributions cements him as one of the most dangerous players in the league. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 2018 first-round pick is squarely in the MVP discussion this season.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Turns 25: Sept. 14, 2020
Signed through: 2021*
If not for Mahomes and Jackson, Watson would undoubtedly be getting significantly more attention as one of the league's newest superstars. He is the only player in NFL history to reach 8,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards before making his 32nd NFL start (he's at 8,296 and 1,099, respectively). He doesn't get enough credit for his passing effectiveness, as his career average depth of throw (9.2) is well above league average and he has completed 67.6% of those throws. Watson's career 104.3 passer rating trails only Mahomes' for best in league history.
Add that to his rushing prowess and Watson is unquestionably one of the league's best players -- not just best "young" players. He's on the short list for the MVP award this season.