In honor of the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list that makes people everywhere feel inadequate, ESPN just released their “Top 25 NFL players under the age of 25” and would you believe that the New England Patriots were snubbed from the list. Not a single Patriots player made the list.
Some players make sense, like Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Chargers edge defender Joey Bosa. In fact, it’s hard to argue against any of the players listed, the result of a compilation of “four NFL talent evaluators” based on “a blend of production and potential, with availability also factoring. Positional value was a consideration, but not an overriding one.”
Sixteen teams were represented on the list and a further three more were added in the “just missed” category that includes the likes of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, and Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
And this is where I think the list goes sideways (which, in the scheme of things, isn’t really a big issue at all). If those players make the “just missed” list, how the heck did the Patriots not have any players in the “just missed” category?
So without further ado, here are the biggest snubs that make up the Patriots top 5 under the age of 25.
5. DT Malcom Brown
Age: 23 years and 10 months (February 2nd, 1994)
Brown is in his third year with the Patriots and he’s still the fourth-youngest player on the team, ahead of only rookie DL Adam Butler, sophomore LB Elandon Roberts, and rookie DL Deatrich Wise Jr. All four players were born in 1994.
Brown has started 32 regular season games in his career as a run-stuffing defensive tackle and has chipped in 7 career sacks. He’s primarily a two-down player and he’s really good at his job against the run. Brown has seen his playing time increase with each year in the league and was the top defensive tackle on the team prior to suffering an ankle injury.
He’ll still be eligible for this list next year.
4. LG Joe Thuney
Age: 24 years and 11 months (November 18th, 1992)
Thuney is two days away from his 25th birthday so he still makes the cut. I’m going through a bit of a lovefest phase with Thuney- you can read here about how Thuney is the best guard from his draft class and how’s he’s taken a big sophomore jump- but it’s well deserved.
The Patriots left guard has started every game of his career (25 out of 25) and has played nearly every single possible snap. He’s a franchise left guard that is still improving and about to enter his prime. He’s a keeper.
3. EDGE Trey Flowers
Age: 24 years and 4 months (August 16th, 1993)
The future is bright on the Patriots defensive line with Flowers, Brown, Butler, and Wise all under the age of 25 and Flowers is the best of all of them. He’s a stalwart on the defensive line, playing 91% of the defensive snaps, and he’s great against both the run and the pass.
The pass rusher the Patriots nicknamed “Technique” is the perfect heir to Rob Ninkovich as a non-flashy player that makes clutch plays and gets the job done, and he provides the versatility the Patriots need on the defensive front to flex between the even and odd fronts.
He’ll be even better when he has a supporting cast that allows him to take a rest every once in a while.
2. WR Brandin Cooks
Age: 24 years and 2 months (September 25th, 1993)
How the heck did Cooks not make the list? Cooks is on pace for 1,150 yards from scrimmage this season, his third-straight year of more than 1,150 yards. He’s on pace to have 3,993 career receiving yards by the end of this season.
The list of players in NFL history with more receiving yards than 3,993 before their 25th birthday: Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans. That’s it. Put Cooks on the list.
1. RG Shaq Mason
Age: 24 years and 4 months (August 28th, 1993)
Mason is in his third year as a starter and he’s settled in as one of the premier right guards in the entire NFL. He’s a beast against the run- one of the best in the entire league, and that’s not an exaggeration- and he’s continuing to improve as a pass blocker.
After playing in a triple option offense in college, Mason was starting from square one in the passing game, so he still has a ways to go before he can be considered near a finished product. If he’s already this good after just two and a half seasons with the Patriots, then “best right guard in the league” is absolutely within his reach.