Anytime you have young talent being named among the best players 25 and under, it’s a credit to that team’s drafting ability. Pro Football Focus released its top 25 players in the NFL under the age of 25, and you don’t have to look very far to find the Chargers.
Among the players listed, the Chargers have two representatives: quarterback Justin Herbert and left tackle Rashawn Slater. The Chargers took each of them in the first-round of their respective draft class – Herbert in 2020 and Slater in 2021.
So where does PFF have them ranked? Let’s dig in.
Herbert comes in as the No. 2 player on PFF’s under 25 list, trailing only 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa.
There’s an argument to be made that Herbert should consume the top spot given that he impacts the Chargers more directly than an edge defender. But Bosa is no slouch either, as he’s developed in his short time in the NFL into being one of the better pass-rushers in the game, most recently recording 15.5 sacks last season.
In the case of Herbert, he’s put together the best statistical season by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, tossing a record-setting 31 touchdowns for first-year signal-callers. He also became just the fourth rookie to top 4,000 passing yards in a single-season.
Following his 2020 campaign, Herbert took strides of improvement, throwing 38 touchdowns and 5,014 yards in just his second NFL season.
Trevor Sikkema, PFF staff writer who compiled the list, stated the following about Herbert’s ranking:
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“Over the past two seasons, Herbert has ascended to become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. He threw for over 4,000 yards in his rookie season with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This past year, he threw for over 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. But even more important than the stats were the moments. From his insane 67-yard touchdown to Jalen Guyton in Week 14 to his heroic “every throw is do or die” performance down the stretch against the Las Vegas Raiders in the final week of the season, Herbert has only gotten better with time. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, and not just for his age.”
Slater comes in at No. 14 on the list after completing just his first NFL season last year. Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is the only offensive player ranked ahead of Slater who’s entering year two in the league. Each of the other players listed above Slater have previously played multiple seasons in the NFL.
It’s worth noting that the Chargers’ selection of Slater has been a huge piece in allowing Herbert to further blossom into the player he’s evolved into with more time in the pocket. It’s clear that Herbert is a transformative passer, so protecting him is monumental and Slater delivered just about as good of a rookie season as the team could have envisioned when they selected him No. 13 overall just a year ago.
Across 752 pass-blocking snaps last season, Slater allowed six quarterback hits on Herbert, including four sacks, per PFF. His pressure rate finished the lowest of any rookie at 3.7%.
Sikkema wrote the following about Slater’s placement in the rankings:
“In 2021, Slater did what very few players have been able to do throughout the course of NFL history: play left tackle as a rookie and not just survive the season, but thrive in doing so. Slater played 1,116 snaps, which was third among all rookie offensive linemen, and finished the season with an 83.6 overall grade, which was second among the same group. -blocking snaps) since 2010.”
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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.