The NFL’s official website got in the act, selecting 26 players as the best players in the league under the age of 25 when the regular season opens Sept. 10. NFL.com media analyst Elliott Harrison, who was all over the ascent of Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes last summer, lists three other Vikings on his new under-25 list for 2015 – Teddy Bridgewater, Sharrif Floyd and Anthony Barr.
Bridgewater set several franchise rookie records in 2014, including the most wins (six) by a Vikings rookie QB, most starts (12), most games without an interception (four), completion percentage (64.4, which was third-best for a rookie in NFL history) and passer rating (85.2)
Barr became the third rookie linebacker in team history to start 10 or more consecutive games, was second in franchise history with four sacks by a rookie and fifth in tackles (99) by a rookie, and tied for second-most fumble recoveries (three) by a rookie.
In his second season, Floyd set career highs for tackles (55), sacks (4½), tackles-for-loss (11) and QB pressures (43).
The three Vikings named to the under-25 team tied for the most by any team – Dallas has three players named, all of them offensive linemen.
Here is the entire team as selected by NFL.com:
Quarterback – Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota.
Running Backs – Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh; Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati.
Wide Receivers – Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston.
Tight End – Zach Ertz, Philadelphia.
Offensive Linemen – Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas; Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans; Zack Martin, G, Dallas; Joel Bitonio, G, Cleveland; Travis Frederick, C, Dallas.
Defensive Linemen – Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets; Fletcher Cox, DE, Philadelphia; Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis; Sharrif Floyd, DT, Minnesota.
Linebackers – Khalil Mack, OLB, Oakland; Anthony Barr, OLB, Minnesota; Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina, Chris Borland, ILB, San Francisco.
Cornerbacks – Darius Slay, Detroit; Bene' Benwikere, Carolina.
Safeties – Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona; Eric Reid, San Francisco.
Kicker – Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona.
Punter – Brad Wing, Pittsburgh.
Return Specialist – De’Anthony Thomas, Kansas City.
In all, 17 teams were represented on the 26-man roster. The Vikings and Dallas had three players each. Five other teams had two players each – Arizona, Carolina, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Ten teams had one player each – Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland and St. Louis.
Two Vikings that were under 25 last season and in consideration for position nominations – Xavier Rhodes and Blair Walsh – didn’t qualify for the team because they both will be 25 on Sept. 10 – Walsh turned 25 in January and Rhodes turns 25 in June.
If the numbers mean anything, it’s that the NFC has the top-end young players that teams are building around. Of the 23 position players named (there were four defensive linemen and four linebackers selected to account for the extra player), 17 of them were from NFC teams.
There are going to be a lot of lists like those that will be coming forward, but the theme may be the same in many of them – the Vikings are a young team on the rise.