Pro Football Focus released its annual top 25 players under the age of 25 for the 2022 season. Deebo Samuel is no longer eligible despite an All-Pro season as he turned 26 this past January.
The 49ers took Samuel in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. However, the player they took in the first round of the same draft, Nick Bosa, is two years younger than Samuel, making him eligible for the list.
Bosa, in a surprise to nobody, topped the list:
Bosa racked up 47 tackles, nine sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and an interception in 16 games and 14 starts across his rookie season. The sky was the limit going into his sophomore campaign, but unfortunately, he tore his ACL in Week 2 and missed the remainder of the year. Then, in 2021, he recorded 15.5 sacks with an elite 90.0 pass-rush grade. When on the field, he’s been every bit of the player he was hyped to be coming out of Ohio State.
Let’s focus on the last sentence. Bosa was supposed to be this all-world, do-everything player with no flaws. There aren’t many “can’t miss” prospects that enter the NFL. When they do, they rarely, if ever, live up to the hype.
As a rookie, Bosa was borderline elite. You’d have to nitpick to find flaws. Even without a preseason, he racked up nine sacks. His 2021 was more impressive, considering Bosa was coming off a season-ending injury.
Bosa had seven sacks in the team’s first seven games. You’d have no idea he tore his ACL the season prior. Bosa finished with six more tackles for loss, three more forced fumbles, and improved on his broken tackle rate by 4%. If you remember, he had the QB in his grasp a handful of times during his rookie year but couldn’t finish. That evened out last year.
I’m not sure how much better he’ll get as a player, but it won’t be surprising to see Bosa win a Defensive Player of the Year trophy sooner than later.
Is there another player on the roster who could at least warrant an honorable mention next year? Brandon Aiyuk is 24. He’d have to surpass 1,200 yards, more than likely. Javon Kinlaw has the talent, but he has to prove he can play a full season first. The obvious answer is Trey Lance.
Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence were the only quarterbacks listed in the top-25. With a slew of players on the list destined to fall off, there’s room for Lance next season. Lawrence didn’t exactly light the league on fire as the top pick last season. Lance has a better supporting cast than him and Herbert, so it’s not unreasonable to think Lance makes an appearance next year.