Did you know there were 40 first-time Pro Bowl players selected to last season's
big game on the little island? Never before have so many newcomers, be it selected
by the fans or added due to injuries, been a part of the NFL's all-star game.
That says a lot about the young talent in the NFL today. Every year we're treated
to a bumper crop of rookies. Some of them come in right away and make an impact,
others take a few years to develop before they become great.
It says a lot about the NFL. The multitude of young guys is great for the league -- not only does it give fans more exciting players to root for (and against), but it also makes for a far more competitive league.
So what we thought we would do is create the 25-and-under team as a tribute to those young players. Everyone on our team was born in 1979 or later. Chances are you've heard of most of these guys, but did you notice they're under 25? Most, if not all, of these players will play solid football for the next 10 years. Now that's something to look forward to.
Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville (born Jan. 14, 1980)
Leftwich started 132 games for the Jags, completing 239 of 418 passes for 2,819 yards and 14 scores.
Jeremi Johnson, Cincinnati (born Sept. 4, 1980)
This Johnson paved the way for Rudi Johnson to have a very successful season with the Bengals. He also contributed two touchdowns to the Bengals' cause in '03.
Clinton Portis, Washington (born Sept. 1, 1981)
Portis' numbers make you want to run out and buy his jersey so you look as good as he does. He ran for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, and caught passes worth 314 yards and six touchdowns. He's also the youngest member of the team.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (born June 23, 1979)
As amazing as Portis' numbers are, Tomlinson outdid him by nearly 500 yards. He finished with 1,645 rushing yards and 725 receiving yards. Oh, and he totaled 17 touchdowns as well.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona (born Oct. 3, 1980)
Boldin took off in his first NFL game and never looked back, finishing with 101
catches, 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns.
Andre Johnson, Texans (born July 11, 1981)
This strong receiver is going to drive defensive coordinators mad for years after
his 66-catch rookie campaign.
Steve Smith, Carolina (born May 12, 1979)
This explosive player caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns -- all career highs.
Todd Heap, Baltimore (born March 16, 1980)
Heap had 57 catches to lead all Baltimore receivers and three touchdowns last year. He also played in every single Ravens game.
Mike Pearson, Jacksonville (born Aug. 22, 1980)
Played in 96 percent of the plays for the 2003 Jags (1,026 of 1,063).
Jordan Gross, Carolina (born July 20, 1980)
The Panthers' first-round pick in 2003 played in 99 percent of their plays as a rookie right tackle.
Eric Steinbach, Cincinnati (born April 4, 1980)
Played in 1,022 of 1,078 offensive plays (94 percent) for the Bengals -- not bad for a second-rounder.
Steve Edwards, Chicago (born Feb. 20, 1979)
The 6-4¾, 340 pounder played every single one of Chicago's snaps in 2003. Now that's impressive.
Vince Manuwai, Jacksonville (born July 12, 1980)
This big man from Hawaii took part in every one of Jacksonville's 1,102 plays last season. That's amazing.
Matt Lehr, Dallas (born April 25, 1979)
Lehr played in 933 of 1,091 offensive plays for Dallas last year (85 percent).
Billy Cundiff, Dallas (born March 30, 1980)
Made 23 of 29 field goals for the Cowboys.
- Five first-round picks
- Four second-round picks
- One pick each from the third, fourth and fifth rounds
- Two undrafted rookies