One of Pro Football Focus’ most-popular articles is their “top-25 under 25” list where they rank the best NFL players who will still be under the age of 25 at the start of the regular season.
In their most recent rendition of the exercise, the Chargers’ very own Derwin James was ranked as the NFL’s #4 player under 25, right behind the likes of the Panthers’ Christian McCafferey, the Colts’ Quenton Nelson, and the Chiefs’ golden boy Patrick Mahomes at #1. Mahomes just barely made this list as he will actually be turning 25 within a week of the regular season starting.
When week one rolls around, James will be exactly 24 years, one month, and seven days old. So obviously this will be his final year of meeting the qualifications.
Even with just one full season under his belt, James made enough of an impact as rookie that everyone in the NFL took notice. It also helped that he was named a First-Team All-Pro for that same year and played a huge role in helping the Chargers to a 12-4 record and their first playoff appearance since 2013.
Ben Linsey, the author of the rankings, had this to say about James’ spot on the list:
“We only really have one season to go off with James as he missed most of 2019 with injury, but he did exactly what we expected him to do in that 2018 rookie season coming out of Florida State. Like Jamal Adams, James is a versatile defender who can produce high-quality play in all phases of the game, as evidenced by his 80.0-plus grades in run defense, coverage and as a blitzer as a rookie. He did much of the same upon his return to the field in 2019 (82.5 overall grade), and it’s hard to see him not playing at that same level next season.”
Derwin James is an elite three-level defender with absurd alignment and assignment versatility — one of my favorites for CPOY in 2019.pic.twitter.com/5UTfDYFSAB— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) May 1, 2020
Aside from Joey Bosa, James has been the most consistent performer on the Chargers’ defense and all of us are likely chomping at the bit to see him out on the field again.
Looking ahead to other young players who could eventually make this list, I’d say the players with the highest chances are linebacker Kenneth Murray, wide receiver K.J. Hill, and potentially safety Nasir Adderley, who turns just 23 on May 31. I really wanted to add linebacker Drue Tranquill here but I didn’t realize the second-year defender turns 25 prior to the 2020 regular season.
Is there anyone that I didn’t name who could be on future installments of these rankings? Who did PFF miss on this version?