The National Football League is one of the most physically demanding sports leagues on earth. It’s truly a “next man up” league because of the high rate of injury. The grueling schedule of an NFL player is downright absurd. They have OTAs, preseason, now a 17 game season, and postseason. There truly isn’t any rest for the weary. All of these variables age an NFL player rapidly, and the decline can be sudden. That’s what makes the NFL a young man’s league. That is what makes them leaders of the new school.
In this latest edition of Leaders of the New School, we will take a deep dive into some of the young guns that are blazing a path in the league. There are several young players we can highlight. You have MVPs like Patrick Mahomes, champions like Tristan Wirfs, and Pro Bowlers like Justin Jefferson. Needless to say, the NFL has had some shining starts debut over the last few seasons, and we will showcase a few that are truly deserving of the tag of being a leader of the new school.
Justin Herbert, 23
Justin Herbert is a big deal. We all saw it in his first season. This former Oregon standout had an amazing rookie campaign. The Chargers found their franchise quarterback with the sixth pick in the 2020 draft, in this 6’6″, 236 lbs stud from Eugene. Herbert lived up to his end of the deal. He set several rookie statistical records, including touchdown passes (31) and 300-yard games (8). Herbert’s poise and leadership at such a young age have his team, coaches, and fan base excited about what the future may hold.
Chase Young, 22
We’ve all heard the saying “man among boys”. This saying accurately describes Chase Young’s tenure at Ohio State. Young has looked like an NFL player since he was 18 years old. After dominating in college, the Washington Football Team took Young with the second pick in the 2020 draft. Most, including myself, felt Young was the best player in that class. He is off to a great start at showing it. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and led rookies in several statistical categories. Young also led Washington’s top-rated defense. This defense helped get Washington to the playoffs in his first season. The Football Team may have uncertainty in several areas of the organization, but defensive end isn’t one.
Josh Jacobs, 23
Josh Jacobs is one of the most electrifying running backs in the league. He exploded onto the scene Week 1 of his rookie season in 2019 and has been a problem since. His first few seasons at Alabama were tough because he was having to share carries in a loaded backfield, but he broke through in 2018. His shining moment was in the SEC Championship game, where he won MVP. Jacobs was selected to the All-Rookie team in 2019, and the Pro Bowl in 2020. This Tulsa native is the true definition of resiliency and perseverance on and off the field. His life story could easily be a movie. I think Las Vegas made a safe bet with this pick.
The three players mentioned are paving their way. Lots of people won’t agree with these selections. I know Andreco C will call me talking junk about this article. While my boy, J. Coe, will be happy I mentioned Chase Young, he won’t feel the others. My boys Daniel and Donta will wonder why I didn’t pick Lamb of the Cowboys. My Belly Up family might give me a few side-eyes too!
Leaders of the New School is a series of articles highlighting the best players in a sport under 25 years old. If you would like to read past articles from this collection, please check them out at Belly Up Sports. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at cboyd0.