Commanders endure shocking fall in ESPN’s under-25 talent rankings
By Jerry Trotta
What makes the NFL so compelling is that it’s dominated by superstars of all ages. While Tom Brady could win his eighth Super Bowl at age 45, young phenoms Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert, among countless others, are already on a Hall of Fame trajectory. The Washington Commanders are no different.
Think about it. Veterans Charles Leno, Chase Roullier, Andrew Norwell, JD McKissic and Logan Thomas bring a ton of experience and leadership to Washington’s roster, while young talents like Chase Young, Kam Curl, Jahan Dotson and Sam Cosmi give the team a highly promising future.
So, where does the Commanders collection of young talent rank amongst the rest of the league? ESPN recently released an article ranking all 32 teams based on their players under the age of 25, which is the universally-agreed cutoff.
Ranked second in the NFL in this department before last season, Washington dropped all the way to No. 21 for the 2022 season. It was the steepest decline of any team, and understandably so given they dropped a whopping 19 spots.
The Commanders endured a steep fall in ESPN’s under-25 talent rankings relative to last season.
The Commanders’ fall comes with a big caveat, as Montez Sweat and Daron Payne both “graduated” and turned 25. With that said, two graduates shouldn’t have totally doomed Washington’s spot amongst the elite under-25 teams, but several of their top young players regressed last campaign, including Antonio Gibson and Chase Young, who had his year cut short due to a torn ACL.
Here’s what writer Scott Spratt said of the team’s young core.
"Running back Antonio Gibson broke one fewer tackle on 94 more touches than he had in his rookie season, and he dropped five more fumbles. Young had a compelling case as the most valuable non-quarterback after a rookie season with 6.5 sacks and 26 hurries. But he saw those totals slip to 1.5 and 20 in 2021 and missed the second half of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.And linebacker Jamin Davis underwhelmed for his first-round draft status with a 19.8% broken tackle rate that was bottom third among regular linebackers. All told, the Commanders’ defense flipped from third best in DVOA in 2020 to sixth worst in 2021."
Spratt makes some salient points. Some of Washington’s best performers included Jonathan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Kendall Fuller, Cole Holcomb, Kam Curl, Charles Leno, Brandon Scherff (when healthy), JD McKissic and Ereck Flowers. Of those players, Curl, who only turned 23 in March, is the only one under 25.
Just because the Commanders’ rank so low for 2022 doesn’t mean they can’t make a significant leap next season, however.
If Curl continues his stellar play, Young gets healthy and plays up to his potential, Davis makes a second year leap, Sam Cosmi stays healthy and rookies Jahan Dotson, Brian Robinson, Phidarian Mathis and Cole Turner have big impacts, we could be talking about Washington climbing to the top 10.
A lot is hanging on that, obviously, but the Commanders have the talent. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.