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With the 2018 regular season behind us, we witnessed the emergence of multiple stars. Whether it was Patrick Mahomes or Saquon Barkley, this segment covers the top skills players under the age of 25. For those not aware, the ‘skill’ positions includes quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end.
25. Sony Michel (RB, New England Patriots)
After a season that was lingered with committees and injuries, the list starts off with New England Patriots RB Sony Michel. In the 13 games that Michel was involved in, he rushed the ball 10+ times on 12 occasions. For a franchise that doesn’t receive enough credit for their run game, the Patriots ranked 5th in rushing in 2018.
24. Tarik Cohen (RB, Chicago Bears)
Truthfully, Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen is viewed as a more reliable receiver than running back. Forced into a committee with RB Jordan Howard and QB Mitchell Trubisky, Cohen hasn’t been permitted to showcase himself fully. Among running backs, Cohen ranked 6th in receptions with 71.
23. Jordan Howard (RB, Chicago Bears)
Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard should be prioritized above Tarik Cohen, but it’s almost like comparing apples to oranges. Neither running back preformed well in the Wild Card round of the postseason, but in the regular season, the duo combined for 1,379 rushing yards and 17 total TD.
22. Chris Carson (RB, Seattle Seahawks)
The Seattle Seahawks are not notorious for their running game, but RB Chris Carson was superb this past season. He played in 14 games, and finished ahead of Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, and Alvin Kamara in rushing yards. Prior to 2018, the Seahawks have not seen a 1,000+ rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
21. Jameis Winston (QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Since being drafted 1st overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, QB Jameis Winston has been frustrating for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan base. Winston holds a starting record of 21-33, and was benched 7 games throughout last season for Ryan Fitzpatrick based on inconsistent play. With Bruce Arians at the helm, perhaps Winston will magically turn around his series of unfortunate play.
20. Nick Chubb (RB, Cleveland Browns)
The Cleveland Browns saw quite the turnaround in 2018, and rookie RB Nick Chubb has been a factor in that success. Since becoming the full-time starter in Week 7, Chubb has carried the ball 15+ times on 7 occasions. Although Kareem Hunt is technically on the roster (pending suspension), Chubb is talented enough to be considered a three-down back.
19. Josh Allen (QB, Buffalo Bills)
I doubted Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen for a vast majority of last season, but at times, he has proven to be an above-average rookie quarterback. Having missed 4 games during the 2018 regular season, the team went 1-3 in Allen’s absence. Perhaps with a few more pieces around him, the Bills will see moderate success in 2019.
18. Phillip Lindsay (RB, Denver Broncos)
After going undrafted in 2018, Denver Broncos RB Philip Lindsay totaled the second-most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie in a single season with 1,037. The Broncos offense was mediocre for the most part, but ranked 12th in rushing. As long as his rookie season doesn’t prove to be a fluke, Lindsay will be on the rise.
17. Leonard Fournette (RB, Jacksonville Jaguars)
When on the field, there can be a debate on whether Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette should be in the top 10 of this segment. However, Fournette has been forced to miss 13 games in just 2 seasons, and has become a sudden headcase for Jacksonville. Regardless, Leonard Fournette still holds value moving forward.
16. Lamar Jackson (QB, Baltimore Ravens)
Despite an early postseason exit, Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has shown flashes of elite play. Just using his legs, Jackson’s 695 rushing yards were more than starters in Kerryon Johnson, Kenyan Drake, and LeSean McCoy. As long as Jackson continues to develop his arm, the Ravens should feel confident about their chances moving forward.
15. James Conner (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
After Le’Veon Bell unexpectedly held out from the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, sophomore RB James Conner did far more than fill in. In 5 of the 13 games Conner started, he rushed for 100+ yards. Although Pittsburgh didn’t make the postseason, Conner will be viewed as the starter moving forward.
14. Amari Cooper (WR, Dallas Cowboys)
Since being traded to the Dallas Cowboys, WR Amari Cooper finally found his footing. Finishing the season with 1,005 yards and 7 TD, if the Cowboys can find a deal in which Cooper remains in Dallas for the distant future, we may see a bit of progression for the 24-year old as time goes on.
13. Baker Mayfield (QB, Cleveland Browns)
I’m not sure anyone has made the same impact on the NFL as Baker Mayfield did with the Cleveland Browns. Forced to change an entire culture, Mayfield finished his rookie campaign with 3,725 yards, 27 TD, and 14 INT. More importantly, this came from a player who was initially benched for Tyrod Taylor at the beginning of the season.
12. Joe Mixon (RB, Cincinnati Bengals)
The sophomore season was more impressive for Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon in comparison to his rookie year, as he started 6 more games this past season. The 1,168 rushing yards for Mixon was the most for a Bengals running back since Cedric Benson (1,251) in 2009.
11. Mitch Trubisky (QB, Chicago Bears)
The rookie season of Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky was lackluster, but as soon as former HC John Fox departed, we started to see why the front office invested the #2 pick on the UNC product in 2017. The QBR of Trubisky after the 2018 regular season was a 72.8, which was the 40th-highest QBR in a single season in NFL history.
10. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
After back-to-back seasons of 900+ yards and 7 touchdowns, there is a possibility that JuJu Smith-Schuster could move up this list in the next few years. It seems likely that the Pittsburgh Steelers will move on from Antonio Brown, which shows promise for Smith-Schuster to fulfill a larger role in Pittsburgh’s offense.
9. Jared Goff (QB, Los Angeles Rams)
Before Jared Goff was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, the team had not previously made the postseason since 2004. After the departure of former HC Jeff Fisher, Goff started to emerge as an elite young talent in the NFL. Over the last 2 regular seasons, Los Angeles holds a regular season record of 24-7.
8. Deshaun Watson (QB, Houston Texans)
After a torn ACL in 2017, Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson found his way back to efficient form the following season. The Texans put up an 11-5 regular season record, which is the most amount of wins they have totaled in a single season since 2012. As long as Watson can remain healthy, he should be considered a threat for opposing defenses.
7. Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)
Over the last 2 seasons, New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara has been able to find the end zone on 31 occasions. To put that into perspective, that total is 13 more than Ezekiel Elliot. It will be interesting to see how New Orleans plays out Mark Ingram’s contract, as he has been responsible for 7 touchdowns as well.
6. Tyreek Hill (WR, Kansas City Chiefs)
Kansas City WR Tyreek Hill is not only one of the most skilled players in the game, but is perhaps one of the best special teams players we have seen in recent years. Elected to the All-Pro 1st team as a Flex, Hill was also named to the All-Pro 2nd team as a WR this past season.
5. Christian McCaffrey (RB, Carolina Panthers)
The last several seasons have been revolutionary for Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, but 2018 was particularly special. His 107 receptions were the most by a running back in NFL history, and was 52 more than the next-highest member of the Panthers (DJ Moore).
4. Saquon Barkley (RB, New York Giants)
His sample size is small, but New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley has made quite the impact. The 94 broken tackles Barkley held in 2018 was the most among any player in the NFL by 32 escapes. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Barkley was the 2nd-most efficient running back in the league behind Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot.
3. Ezekiel Elliot (RB, Dallas Cowboys)
Many will slide Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot to the #2 slot, but his 6 fumbles in the 2018 season has been a career-high. In the 2 full seasons Elliot has been a part of, he has led the league in rushing on both occasions, as well as in yards per game. He is likely going to see a hefty payday coming in his direction, as the contract of Elliot expires after the 2019 season.
2. Todd Gurley (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
Named to the AP All-Pro 1st team, Todd Gurley has been able to find the end zone on 17 occasions this past season. The centerpiece of the Los Angeles Rams is Gurley, and it has been over the last 4 seasons. As long as he can continue to rush the ball 250+ times per season moving forward, there should be no question about Gurley’s productivity.
1. Patrick Mahomes (QB, Kansas City Chiefs)
After a historic season, sophomore Patrick Mahomes has taken the NFL by storm. During the course of the regular season, Mahomes posted a total of 5,097 yards, 50 TD, and 12 INT. With a variety of talent surrounding him on offense, Mahomes is rightfully the top skill player under 25-years old.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel