Last week, we had an Instant Debate asking which player you would most want when starting a team from scratch. It's an interesting query. Who would your selection be?
Pro football is a young man's game -- no doubt about that. Nonetheless, it is generally understood that the prime of a player's career is when he is still in his athletic peak, yet the game has slowed down enough for him, in a figurative sense, that he knows what he's doing without thinking about it. Wilson does not meet both criteria, in theory, because he still could use more seasoning, whereas we're seeing Adrian Peterson -- who has six NFL seasons under his belt -- at the height of his career.
If a general manager is building a team, though, he wants young players. He wants to get the longevity you get with a player in ascension -- he doesn't want one elite year, then a decline -- without having to pay as much coin as he would for an established player like Peterson.
With that in mind, I began pondering ... Who are the best players in the league? And more crucially, which guys have the most upside (with the caveat being that they are under 25)? Call it the All-Start-Up Team, with the best 25 players under 25 on the board -- 11 on offense, 11 on defense, a kicker, a punter and one extra defender, to account for 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.
Talk about some tough calls to make! Wilson over Andrew Luck. ... Alfred Morris on the outside looking in. ... Dez Bryant getting the nod over Julio Jones. (Jones hasn't shown a propensity for dominating games, and Bryant was statistically superior in 2012. It was the slimmest of margins.) J.J. Watt's inclusion required no such internal debate.
We're sure you'll find several slots below worth haggling over. There is a dark horse or two, a Jacksonville Jaguar and at least one dude you might not have heard about. Per the usual, feel free to send your own take to @Harrison_NFL.
Now, let's get to the All-Under-25 Team!
(Click on player name to see complete 2012 statistics.)