Quarterbacks have generated a year of dramatic risers and fallers in Football Outsiders' ranking of teams by their talent that is under 25 years old. With the public pressure on teams to start their rookie passers in Week 1 -- or at least as soon as their placeholder veterans lose a few games -- it's little wonder that players such as Baker Mayfield can swing their teams' standings by 10 or more spots once they accumulate more than their few hundred freshman pass attempts.
After a different sort of regression, one such player propelled his team to the top spot for 2020. Despite their disappointing playoff exits the past two seasons, they are in even better shape than the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs to make Super Bowl trips over the next few seasons.
These ratings consider not just talent under age 25, but also the value and length of those players' current contracts. This will push up the teams with productive players who have several years left on inexpensive rookie contracts and push down the teams that have already had to, or will soon have to, pay their experienced young talent.
Head here for more information on our ranking methodology, and go here for intel on some stats we reference throughout. You can learn more about these and other Football Outsiders statistics from this article, the Football Outsiders glossary or in the newly released Football Outsiders Almanac for 2020.
Here are our rankings for this season. All ages are as of Sept. 1, 2020. "Blue chip" players are cornerstone assets from whom teams will likely derive their biggest future value. Players are considered "graduated" if they have turned 25. Read through the full file 1 to 32, or jump to your favorite team by clicking on a link here:
2019 ranking: 25
Blue-chip players: Lamar Jackson, QB; Marlon Humphrey, CB; Orlando Brown, RT; Mark Andrews, TE; Marquise Brown, WR
Notable graduated players: Bradley Bozeman, LG; Chuck Clark, SS; Gus Edwards, RB
Football Outsiders research has shown that quarterbacks tend to make their biggest performance jumps from Year 1 to Year 2, but Lamar Jackson's sophomore breakout was the Bob Beamon of those.
As a rookie, Jackson was a product of a system that was designed to highlight his strengths and avoid his weaknesses. He was an inefficient passer with a 58% completion rate and -9.2% DVOA, but he only threw 23 passes per game. In 2019, Jackson became the kind of quarterback who can carry a franchise no matter their system or other problems. His passing rates spiked to 66% completions and 34.9% DVOA. His rushing efficiency flipped from -27.2% to 20.5% DVOA thanks in large part to a reduction from 12 to nine fumbles despite eight additional starts -- Jackson seems to have developed a talent to avoid big hits even when he cuts toward the middle of the field and even when defenders appear to take the proper angle to tackle him. Altogether, Jackson led the position with an 81.8 QBR and was named NFL MVP.
But the Ravens don't need Jackson to solve all of their problems. They continue to use a system that takes advantage of Jackson's talents, but they have also accumulated exceptional young depth on both sides of the ball. Jackson's favorite target -- Mark Andrews -- came from his same 2018 draft class. The third-round tight end finished seventh with 123 DYAR at a position whose efficiency leaders tend to be more experienced veterans and made his teammate and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst expendable in a trade with the Falcons. Jackson seldom needed to open up the offense beyond its running game and tight end targets, but 2019 first-rounder Marquise Brown still stretched the field with more than one-fifth of his catches coming on passes thrown 20 or more yards in the air. Miles Boykin can do the same and should also contribute more in the red zone in 2020 with his exceptional size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and leaping ability. Third-round receiver Devin Duvernay complements Brown and Boykin with his slot quickness, and second-round running back J.K. Dobbins should seamlessly replace an aging Mark Ingram either in 2021 when Ingram's contract escalates or in 2022 when it expires. Finally, right tackle Orlando Brown was one of five Baltimore linemen with 500 or more snaps and a 1.5% blown block rate or better. His development into a Pro Bowl blocker should help the team survive the loss of retired eventual Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda.
Neither pass-rusher Jaylon Ferguson (15 hurries) nor 25-year-old Tyus Bowser (22) ascended to fully replace Za'Darius Smith (66), who left for the Packers in 2019 in free agency. But the Ravens maintained a top-three pass defense thanks in large part to excellent coverage anchored by All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey's 67% coverage success rate and 5.0 allowed yards per target were top six among positional qualifiers, ahead even of Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore (57%, 6.4). If the Ravens had any weakness in 2019, it was on run defense. But the team likely erased that deficiency with its first- and third-round draft selections of linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, the former of whom has the speed and athleticism to excel in coverage and play all three downs. The Ravens have so much young talent that they could have pushed for the top spot in these rankings even without Jackson under center.