In the spirit of being bombarded with various lists of players going into the 2021 NFL season, CBS Sports once again released their top 25 NFL players under the age of 25.
Full article on the Top 25 players under 25 https://t.co/W1Utk0CpwI— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) May 27, 2021
Other than being under the age of 25, what process did CBS use to determine their list? Luckily, they spelled it out for us before even naming a single player:
What goes into the ranking? Both past performance and projection, as well as, to a lesser degree, positional value. So it helps if a player has already been really good for three years, but it also helps if his future outlook is really bright. It also probably helps if the player starts at, say, quarterback rather than running back, for obvious reasons. Try not to get too caught up in whether this ranking indicates where they currently rank or where we think they will rank after 2021; it’s a hodgepodge of where they stand right now and where we think they’re headed this year.
Because past NFL experience is one of the factors, all players from the 2021 NFL draft were not eligible for the list. While players such as Trevor Lawrence might be projected as one of the best players, he is basically put in the same category as a player who has a lot of potential but did not see an NFL snap in 2020.
First up for the Steelers is wide receiver Chase Claypool coming in at number 24 on the list. Here’s the breakdown which landed Claypool in this spot according to CBS Sports:
There are so many young wideouts to choose from, but Claypool brings so much to the table long term. He’s got size you can’t teach. He was an instant big-play weapon in Pittsburgh. And he’s got Steelers WR history on his side; no one drafts pass catchers like Steel City, and he’s already showcased the tools to be a future No. 1.
Claypool is the fifth of five wide receivers who landed on the list. The others include D.J. Moore (17) A.J. Brown (10) D.K. Metcalf (9) and Justin Jefferson (7). While an argument could be made for Chase Claypool being ahead of D.J. Moore on the list as Claypool has more touchdowns in his one season in the NFL than Moore does over his three year career, Moore did have 1100 receiving yards each of the last two seasons. All things considered, the fact Claypool made the list right call regarless of where he landed.
Where the list seems to go a little bit astray is with the Steelers next selection. Not turning 25 until Week 11 of the 2021 season, Minkah Fitzpatrick still meets the criteria. The fact Fitzpatrick is eligible to be on the list should put him towards the very top as he is the only two-time All-Pro player in the top 25. Despite this fact, he lands at number 13 according to CBS Sports:
13. Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick (24)
A handful of experts scoffed when the Steelers traded a first-rounder to land Fitzpatrick during the 2020 season, but since then, he’s done nothing but establish himself as maybe the game’s top ball hawk on the back end. Nine picks and 20 pass deflections in 30 games with Pittsburgh? When isn’t this guy around the ball? He’s an ideal center-field-style leader.
The fact Fitzpatrick is not in the top 10, let alone the top five, is baffling. I can understand a former league MVP coming out on top of the list in Lamar Jackson, but It appears Fitzpatrick doesn’t play an important enough position to land higher in the list as it is riddled with receivers and quarterbacks. Surprisingly, cornerback Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers did manage to land in the fifth spot despite only one Pro Bowl selection in his three seasons in the NFL.
Ultimately, these lists don’t affect how players are going to perform on the field in 2021, but it’s just nice to see some recognition. The fact the Steelers are getting some quality play from the younger players will not help during the 2021 season, but also for season to come.