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Top 5 Best Young Cores in the NFL

Photo by Field Yates

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams proved that going "all in" for a Super Bowl can be a legitimate winning strategy. Giving up piles of draft picks and money to add Matt Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. to their already strong roster is exactly what took them over the hump. On the other side of the coin, young teams that have been rebuilding for decades are finally starting to pile up youthful talent, leading these few teams to look like legit contenders in the near future. While success may not come instantly, these teams will flourish if they can build around their new stars.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

Yes, I am well aware of just how bad last year's first overall pick Trevor Lawrence looked the whole season. He rarely flashed and saw turnover numbers that were simply unlike anything we'd seen from him at Clemson. While it does not fully excuse this team's putrid 2021 season, they had arguably the worst head coach of all time in Urban Meyer for far too many games. There is tons to like about this team moving forward and they are oozing with potential. The arrival of Lawrence's college backfield mate Travis Etienne will work to form a nasty duo that we've already seen win a national championship together in 2019, to go along with their 24 year old franchise right tackle in Jawaan Taylor to sure up the offensive line. While their defense certainly still needs to add pieces, we saw moments of greatness last year from outside linebacker Josh Allen (25) who can develop into one of the best young defenders in the league. Once these young pieces get their swagger in the league, they could prove deadly.

Next predicted playoff appearance: 4 Seasons

4. New York Jets

Jets fans rejoice, you can finally have some hope for your team to be compete again. This front office absolutely nailed the 2022 NFL Draft, adding lockdown corner Sauce Gardner, dynamic receiver Garrett Wilson, and exciting edge rusher Jermaine Johnson in the first round alone, not to mention drafting the top running back in the class in Breece Hall. While Zach Wilson certainly did not look like the complete package in his rookie year, he had multiple encouraging flashes and connected well with fellow rookie classmate, receiver Elijah Moore. Their offensive line is young and shows great promise as well, headlined by Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker. The defense has a mix of experience and youth, with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams still yet to reach his full potential. They have struggled mightily with rushing the passer and pass coverage, and their rookie additions can and should make dramatic improvements to both. Overall, this roster is a wildcard and is yet to put it all together for a full season, but with the Jets adding such promising talent through the draft year after year it is hard to see a situation where this team does not improve in the near future.

Next predicted playoff appearance: 3 Seasons

3. Denver Broncos

The Broncos will serve as the age old story this season with the experienced vet in QB Russell Wilson leading the young bucks into hopeful playoff success. This is a squad that has largely been middling ever since the Peyton Manning days and the acquisition of Wilson seems to be a complete replication of exactly what won them Super Bowl 50. This offense is stacked with young studs, including breakout rookie running back Javonte Williams (22), promising receivers Cortland Sutton (26) and Jerry Jeudy (23), with Albert Okwuegbunam (24) at tight end to sure up a great offensive group for Wilson to put up points with. If Wilson is still truly his old self, we could see all of these pieces take huge steps forward and truly break out. The defense is a force to be reckoned with, headlined by rookie standout corner Pat Surtain and the highly talented edge rusher Bradley Chubb who still has tons of room to improve in the NFL. Adding experienced vets in the right places to a promising roster should result in success for at least the next few seasons until the full decline of Russell Wilson. While they currently compete in the most difficult division in football, they have all the talent to make a deep playoff run this year.

Next predicted playoff appearance: This Season

2. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set up to seamlessly transition from one era to another as they cast aside Jimmy Garoppolo in favor of Trey Lance. The young signal caller could not ask for a better situation around him, not only joining a yearly playoff contending roster but one that boasts some of the best young talents in football. Deebo Samuel, fresh off signing a huge new deal with the team, is only 26 and coming off an absolutely monster year. Fellow receiver Brandon Aiyuk is 24 and George Kittle still can have several great seasons ahead of him at age 28. Running back Elijah Mitchell showed great promise and ability in his rookie season last year as he took over the reigns of the eternally successful Kyle Shanahan running scheme. To go along with a high powered offense, this defense features two young bucks to lead the way in All Pro linebacker Fred Warner (25) and defensive end Nick Bosa (24). This squad is loaded from top to bottom and is not only set up for immediate success but to also contend for years to come.

Next predicted playoff appearance: This Season

1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals, led by national icon Joe Burrow, shocked the football world last year when they rose from being predicted as one of the worst squads in football to a Super Bowl appearance. It's no secret that they have the best young offensive core in the league, with their four main pieces in Burrow, Jamar Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon all being 26 or younger. These four all absolutely dominated last year and show no signs of slowing down. However, even more encouraging for this squad was the steps forward their defense took last season. While the Bills number 1 ranked defense could not hold the Kansas City Chiefs for a single drive in overtime in last year's playoffs, the Bengals D prevailed, intercepting Mahomes and sending them to the Super Bowl after completely stone walling the Chiefs offense for the entirety of the second half. Led by star safety Jessie Bates (25) this defensive group molded together brilliantly to pull above their weight and have a great sense of togetherness. The Bengals will be a contender year in and year out and can make a run at multiple Super Bowls if they are able to keep all of their explosive young talent under contract.

Next predicted playoff appearance: This Season

What do you think about my picks? Is there a team I missed? Comment below or tweet me @mikedilg!

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