Top 25 NFL players 25 and under for 2024: Vikings’ Justin Jefferson among nine star WRs to make the list

Written by on June 25, 2024

The NFL isn’t exclusively a young man’s game. The 2024 season, after all, could be defined by some of the league’s most seasoned talent: Think Aaron Rodgers, who’s trying to revive the New York Jets (again) while going on 41 years old. And yet, when push comes to shove, many of the game’s top contenders are driven by relative newcomers, from rookie standouts like C.J. Stroud in 2023 to proven youngsters like three-time Pro Bowler Micah Parsons, who only just turned 25.

Speaking of, who ranks among the NFL’s top young talent entering the new season? We’re here to identify 25 of the league’s best players 25 or younger.

Before we get to the 2024 rundown, here’s our criteria:

  • Why the age-25 cutoff? Generally speaking, most top players enter the NFL at ages 20-21. That means this list essentially doubles as a ranking of the top players still on their rookie deals, and/or deserving of new contracts.
  • What is the actual cutoff? Players are eligible if they are 25 or younger when the 2024 season officially begins Sept. 5.
  • Is anyone else excluded? This year’s rookies. Our focus is on players who have already played in the NFL.
  • What goes into the ranking? Past performance, future projection and, to a lesser degree, positional value. At the end of the day, it’s a hodgepodge of where guys stand right now and where we think they’re headed.

Without further ado, this year’s top 25 players 25 and under:

25. Jahmyr Gibbs

Position: RB | Team: Detroit Lions | Age: 22

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The surprise first-round draft pick made just three official starts while splitting the backfield as a rookie, and even still, the slippery Alabama product eclipsed 1,200 scrimmage yards and 11 scores. His juice as a change-of-pace dual threat gives the already-balanced Lions a home run threat out of the backfield.

24. Sam LaPorta

Position: TE | Team: Detroit Lions | Age: 23

If Jahmyr Gibbs is lightning, then LaPorta is the thunder of this second-year Motor City pairing. Fresh off one of the finest rookie seasons by any tight end in NFL history, he’s a rock-steady No. 2 target in one of the league’s best offenses, excelling immediately as both a pass blocker and catcher.

23. Christian Darrisaw

Position: OT | Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age: 25

One of the most underdiscussed big men in the NFL, the former first-rounder has missed multiple games due to injury each year. When healthy, however, he’s been a top-graded pass blocker, helping pave the way for top-tier Kirk Cousins performances under Kevin O’Connell from 2022-2023.

22. Aidan Hutchinson

Position: DE | Team: Detroit Lions | Age: 24

The former No. 2 overall pick was solid as expected in his 2022 debut, but he quietly took a big leap in 2023, more than doubling his quarterback-hit count (15 to 33) while serving as an emotional anchor for Detroit’s defense. With 21 sacks in two years, he’s only ascending on an emergent contender.

21. Tristan Wirfs

Position: OT | Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Age: 25

Four years after starring as Tom Brady’s sturdy right tackle as a Super Bowl-winning rookie, Wirfs might just be entering his prime, fresh off his first 17-game run as Tampa Bay’s top blind-side blocker. His seamless transition to left tackle was a catalyst for Baker Mayfield’s 2023 rejuvenation.

20. Puka Nacua

Position: WR | Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age: 23

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After Cooper Kupp enjoyed historic production as Matthew Stafford’s go-to target, it’s fair to wonder if Nacua’s historic 2023 debut also stems primarily from Stafford’s big arm. You also don’t open your career with 105 catches for 1,486 yards by accident. He looks like the new Mr. Reliable for Sean McVay.

19. Trent McDuffie

Position: CB | Team: Kansas City Chiefs | Age: 23

The Chiefs were fine dealing top corner L’Jarius Sneed this offseason in large part because of McDuffie’s emergence on the other side. Although he’s still in search of his first career pick, the Washington product was often around the ball (three sacks, five forced fumbles) in 2023’s title-winning campaign.

18. Garrett Wilson

Position: WR | Team: New York Jets | Age: 24

The Jets have endured one of the most dysfunctional quarterback situations since Wilson’s arrival, and all he’s done is produce Pro Bowl-level numbers, even as other teams zero in on him as a No. 1 target. A crisp route-runner, he’ll be eyeing his third straight 1,000-yard campaign in 2024.

17. Chris Olave

Position: WR | Team: New Orleans Saints | Age: 24

Not so dissimilar to his 2021 draftmate and former Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson, Olave hasn’t exactly enjoyed steady quarterbacking at the NFL level. After two 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, however, he’s already shown he can be a difference-making downfield threat.

16. Antoine Winfield Jr.

Position: S | Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Age: 25

It seems so long ago that Winfield was chirping at Tyreek Hill in Super Bowl LV as a rookie, and that’s partly because the do-it-all safety has gone from solid to borderline special as the back-end leader of the Bucs’ physical defense. He was everywhere in 2023, helping fuel another surprise playoff run.

15. DeVonta Smith

Position: WR | Team: Philadelphia Eagles | Age: 25

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A.J. Brown is the more physically imposing of the Eagles’ formidable receiving duo, but Smith plays so much bigger and tougher than his slender frame suggests, and he’s been a model of reliability on and off the field since his arrival, quietly producing almost 3,200 yards and 19 touchdowns through three years.

14. Kyle Hamilton

Position: S | Team: Baltimore Ravens | Age: 23

The Ravens defense is littered with standouts, but Hamilton impacted every level as a second-year All-Pro: the backfield (10 tackles for loss), open field (81 tackles) and secondary (four picks, 13 pass breakups). His positional flexibility should keep him at the heart of the “D” moving forward.

13. Patrick Surtain II

Position: CB | Team: Denver Broncos | Age: 24

Expectations have always been high for Surtain, the son of a former Pro Bowl corner. That’s yet to be an issue, as he’s had at least 10 pass deflections in each of his three seasons. While his pick totals have dropped since his rookie year, he’s been reliable on an otherwise rebuilding roster.

12. Creed Humphrey

Position: C | Team: Kansas City Chiefs | Age: 25

Offensive linemen don’t often make headlines, but if we can celebrate Jason Kelce for all he accomplished with the Philadelphia Eagles, let’s give Humphrey the respect he deserves: In three years, the Oklahoma product has never missed a game while giving Patrick Mahomes sterling protection on the interior.

11. Jordan Love

Position: QB | Team: Green Bay Packers | Age: 25

Too high considering Love has maybe a half-season of top-10 production under his belt? Perhaps. But his gun-slinging was easily the biggest reason the Packers made a surprise playoff push in 2023. He’s just finding his footing coming off a 30-touchdown debut as the top dog, and you can’t teach that arm talent.

10. Brock Purdy

Position: QB | Team: San Francisco 49ers | Age: 24

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Critics argue his MVP-level numbers are a product of the 49ers’ elite setup. So what else do they want from him? In one and a half years as Kyle Shanahan’s point guard, Purdy has gone 21-6 (including playoffs) with 44 touchdowns and 15 picks. He’s no statue, either, flashing as a poised off-script thrower.

9. C.J. Stroud

Position: QB | Team: Houston Texans | Age: 22

It’s not just that Stroud was both ultra-efficient and ultra-explosive (8.2 yards per pass attempt) as a rookie; it’s that his unexpected combo of both downfield aggression and ball control elevated the rest of a so-so Texans lineup. His size, confidence and pocket-passing prowess have future MVP written all over them.

8. Amon-Ra St. Brown

Position: WR | Team: Detroit Lions | Age: 24

The USC product was efficient from the get-go in Detroit, securing almost 76% of his targets as a rookie. Since then, however, he’s become even more dangerous as Jared Goff’s safety valve, welcoming more volume with splashier, crunch-time results. His 1,500-yard breakout in 2023 might just be the start.

7. Jaylen Waddle

Position: WR | Team: Miami Dolphins | Age: 25

Bumps and bruises “limited” him to just over 1,000 yards in 2023, but the speedster has proven capable of multiple roles in Miami’s track-team offense, starring as a high-volume possession type in 2021 before exploding as a deep threat alongside Tyreek Hill in 2022. Few wideouts fly as easily as he does.

6. CeeDee Lamb

Position: WR | Team: Dallas Cowboys | Age: 25

It didn’t take long for Lamb to establish himself as Dallas’ most dynamic pass outlet even when the sure-handed Amari Cooper was still in town, but he’s now bordering on uncoverable, going from 1,100 to 1,300 to 1,700 yards over the last three seasons. His catch rate also hit a career-high 74.6% in 2023.

5. Sauce Gardner

Position: CB | Team: New York Jets | Age: 24

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The Jets don’t make enough — correction: any — postseason noise to justify the attention they often get, but Gardner has lived up to his shutdown reputation, racking up 31 pass breakups in two years as New York’s top cover man. More turnovers would be nice, but his physicality and reaction time are elite.

4. Penei Sewell

Position: OT | Team: Detroit Lions | Age: 23

The big man has always been noteworthy for his size (6-5, 335), and he was key to Detroit’s push for relevance late in 2022. His 2023 campaign, however, arguably solidified him as the top right tackle in the game, with his second-level athleticism paving the way for arguably Jared Goff’s finest NFL season.

3. Ja’Marr Chase

Position: WR | Team: Cincinnati Bengals | Age: 24

Injuries dinged his marks in 2022, and quarterback questions may have done the same in 2023, but if there’s one wideout capable of approaching Justin Jefferson’s sheer big-play sizzle, it’s probably his former LSU teammate. His 1,455-yard debut as Joe Burrow’s No. 1 proved his game-breaking speed.

2. Micah Parsons

Position: DE/OLB | Team: Dallas Cowboys | Age: 25

In a loaded Dallas lineup headlined by longtime veterans like Dak Prescott, it speaks volumes that Parsons is often viewed as the Cowboys’ locker-room spokesperson after just three NFL seasons. His unteachable physical tools and tenacity have already helped him to 40.5 career sacks, and it still feels like he’s yet to approach his peak as the centerpiece of the defense.

1. Justin Jefferson

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Position: WR | Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age: 25

“Jets” missed literally 40% of the 2023 season and still topped 1,000 yards receiving for the fourth time in four years. He remains one of, if not the toughest wideout to guard in all of football, and his effortless explosion turns routine plays into potential home runs. The undeniable face of the Vikings after less than a half-decade of NFL play, Jefferson is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory.


Aged out

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, Chargers QB Justin Herbert, Packers RB Josh Jacobs, Seahawks WR DK Metcalf, 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers DE Nick Bosa, Raiders DE Maxx Crosby, Jets DT Quinnen Williams, Giants DT Dexter Lawrence

Honorable mention

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence (24), Falcons RB Bijan Robinson (22), Jets RB Breece Hall (23), Dolphins RB De’Von Achane (22), Bengals WR Tee Higgins (25), Vikings WR Jordan Addison (22), Falcons TE Kyle Pitts (23), Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth (25), Chargers OT Rashawn Slater (25), Cowboys OG Tyler Smith (23), Eagles OG Landon Dickerson (25), Ravens C Tyler Linderbaum (24), Texans DE Will Anderson Jr. (23), Eagles DT Jalen Carter (23), Steelers LB Patrick Queen (25), Chiefs LB Nick Bolton (24), Giants OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (23), Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon (23), Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs (25)

The post Top 25 NFL players 25 and under for 2024: Vikings’ Justin Jefferson among nine star WRs to make the list first appeared on CBS Sports.


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