Saturday, August 13, 2022

NFL All Under 25 Defensive Team for 2022: Cowboys, Buccaneers tied with most first-teamers

What does virtually every contending team in the NFL have in common? They have young talent. Young players who provide instant impacts to their respective clubs not only provide you with building blocks to work with for the foreseeable future, but they also are the most cost-effective way to put a quality product on the field as you can allocate whatever is remaining in your salary cap to other areas on the roster. If you can strike oil and add a few players like that, you’re well on your way to being in the Super Bowl conversation. 

Here, we’ll dive into some of the league’s best and brightest young stars with our NFL All Under 25 first and second teams. The only rule we’re following with this group is that the players must be under 25 years old at the start of the 2022 season. That means players like Raiders pass rusher Maxx Crosby, who turns 25 in August, are disqualified from this group. 

Are you ready to see some of the best young talents that the NFL has to offer? Let’s jump in.  

First Team

EDGE: Nick Bosa (49ers)

Nick Bosa bounced back from a torn ACL in 2020 in a big way last season. The 49ers pass rusher picked up where he left off during his stellar Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019 and was a monster coming off the edge. In 2021, Bosa tallied 15.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss (tied for the most in the NFL) to go along with 32 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus, his 89.8 pass rushing grade ranked sixth among all edge rushers in the NFL. Bosa’s 29.3% win rate in pass rushing sets also ranked sixth among eligible pass rushers last year. All that was good enough to get him the second Pro Bowl nod of his young career, and he’s just scratching the surface of what he’ll be at his peak. 

EDGE: Brian Burns (Panthers)

Burns is one of the best young pass rushers that the league has heading into this season and is fresh off his first Pro Bowl campaign in 2021. The 24-year-old tied his career high in sacks (nine) and had as many tackles for a loss last season (13) as he did the first two years of his career. Burns’ 137 pressures throughout his three-year career rank fourth most in the NFL among players under the age of 25, per PFF. His 20.0% win rate in pass rushing sets also ranked inside the top 20 in the NFL among eligible edge rushers. 

IDL: Jeffery Simmons (Titans)

Simmons’ third season was his best year in the NFL, and he is on a trajectory towards being considered one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league. His 62 pressures were the fifth-most at his position, and he was tremendous at batting the ball down at the line of scrimmage, totaling five on the season (tied with Chiefs star Chris Jones for second in the NFL at his position). Not only is Simmons able to get after the quarterback, but he has also been able to stifle the run game. Simmons’ 11.4 stop percentage ranks third in the league among eligible defensive linemen. 

IDL: Quinnen Williams (Jets)

Williams is another all-around defensive tackle. After a rookie season in 2019 where he recorded just 2.5 sacks, the 24-year-old has found more success getting after the quarterback in recent seasons, totaling seven and six sacks in 2020 and 2021, respectfully. Last year, his pass-rushing win rate was tied for sixth-highest in the league among all defensive linemen. Williams could still stand to improve against the run, but his 10.2 stop percentage did rank 13th last year. What’s exciting about Williams is that it still feels like he has plenty of room to grow in Robert Saleh’s defense and possibly look like the dominant force we saw during his collegiate days at Alabama. 

LB: Micah Parsons (Cowboys)

Not only has it taken Micah Parsons just one season to establish himself as one of the best young talents in the NFL, but he’s also arguably already the best player at his position. In CBS Sports’ top-10 linebacker rankings that came out earlier this offseason, Parsons captured the No. 1 spot. He was the ultimate chess piece for Dallas during his rookie year and was just as dominant as an off-ball linebacker as he was coming off the edge. As a pass rusher, his 93 PFF grade was the highest in the NFL, and he tallied an absurd 38.7% win rate in pass rushing sets to go along with 13 sacks. Meanwhile, Parsons finished 12th among linebackers in 2021 with a PFF coverage grade of 70 in 295 coverage snaps and allowed zero touchdowns. The first-team All-Pro and unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year is as complete a linebacker as you’ll find in the NFL today.

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LB: Devin White (Buccaneers)

Devin White is another ascending player at the linebacker position. He already had a Super Bowl ring and an All-Pro nod on his résumé heading into last season and is now coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021. The former No. 5 overall pick had 128 tackles in 2021 and a career-high 18 quarterback hits. His 65.9 pass-rushing grade ranked 13th in the league last year, and his 43 total pressures were second in the league, only looking up to Parsons. What makes White somewhat polarizing and why some people may not call him a legit top-tier linebacker is his coverage skills. Still, he’s extremely athletic and has proven he can rise up in the biggest moments during the postseason. 

LB: Patrick Queen (Ravens)

Patrick Queen has enjoyed a steady start to his career after Baltimore selected him in the first round of the 2019 draft. He was immediately able to total over 100 tackles in his rookie year, which helped him finish third in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2020. He followed that up with another solid season in 2021 where he played all 17 games and had a team-high 98 tackles and a career-high 10 tackles for a loss. Queen received a 65.9 pass rushing grade by PFF for 2021 and a 17.2 pass rushing win rate, which both ranked 13th among linebackers.

CB: A.J. Terrell (Falcons)

Only Jalen Ramsey recorded a better coverage grade from PFF than Terrell last season, which puts him in elite company. The Falcons second-year corner was extremely impressive in 2021, allowing a league-low 43.9% of his targets to be caught and allowed just a 47.5 passer rating when targeted. Over 16 games played last year, Terrell allowed 29 receptions on 66 targets for just 200 yards. He also had three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. With the Falcons set for a rebuilding year in 2022, Terrell is primed to be one of the few bright spots on the roster. 

CB: Trevon Diggs (Cowboys)

If an opposing quarterback messed up, Trevon Diggs was going to make him pay. The Cowboys corner put together a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl season in 2021 during which he totaled a league-leading 11 interceptions. While interceptions are often volatile, a chunk of Diggs’ picks showed the corner’s ability to diagnose the route he was facing, read the quarterback, and strike. He also allowed just 57.3% of his targets to be caught and had a 71.7 passer rating, both of which landed him inside the top 10 among eligible corners. Diggs did allow a league-high 1,016 yards receiving, so there is room for him to improve heading into Year 3. If he takes that number down over the next few years, he’ll have an even better case to be considered a top-3 corner in the league. 

S: Antoine Winfield Jr. (Buccaneers)

Antoine Winfield Jr. has quickly emerged as one of the league’s top safeties. After helping the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title during his rookie year, he followed that up with a Pro Bowl campaign in 2021 that had him graded as the fifth-best safety in coverage by PFF. He allowed a passer rating of just 63.9 last season and wasn’t responsible for a single touchdown allowed by the Bucs. Given how important Winfield has been to Tampa Bay’s secondary, he should be considered one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball as a Day 2 pick. 

S: Jevon Holland (Dolphins)

Holland is another Day 2 pick who teams may be kicking themselves for not taking earlier as his career possesses. The 2021 second-round pick impressed during his rookie season with Miami, finishing with an 87.7 coverage grade that ranked fourth among eligible safeties. That mark was better than the likes of Winfield and Marcus Williams, and he only looked up to Kevin Byard, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde — who are all considered to be among the top players at the position. Along with his strong play in coverage, Holland was also solid against the run. He ranked tied for 12th among NFL safeties with a PFF run defense grade of 77.

Second Team

EDGE: Chase Young (Commanders)

EDGE: Rashan Gary (Packers)

IDL: Dexter Lawrence (Giants)

IDL: Christian Barmore (Patriots)

LB: Kenneth Murray (Chargers)

LB: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Browns)

LB: Nick Bolton (Chiefs)

CB: Patrick Surtain II (Broncos)

CB: Greg Newsome II (Browns)

S: Xavier McKinney (Giants)

S: Trevon Moehrig (Raiders)

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