FOX Sports recently looked at the top 25 players in the NFL age 25 or younger, and two Colts made the list - wide receiver T.Y. Hilton came in at number 13 and quarterback Andrew Luck was, obviously, number one. Then Ed Valentine over at Big Blue View took a Giants-centered look at the same subject, looking at the best Giants players under 25. I thought that it would be an interesting offseason topic to look at as it pertains to the Colts, so let's rank the top five Colts players age 25 or younger.
Before we begin, it's important to note that rookies are not considered in this list. It's simply too difficult to accurately rank them in something like this without having seen them on the field for training camp, let alone a game. So rookies (such as Phillip Dorsett, who may have had an intriguing case) are not included on this list. Anyone who is not a rookie and will be 25 years old or younger when the 2015 season begins, however, were considered for this list.
T-5. Jonathan Newsome, outside linebacker
Jonathan Newsome, the Colts' fifth round pick in 2014, had a terrific rookie season as he wound up leading the team in sacks with 6.5, also recording 28 tackles and three forced fumbles while playing in every game (starting one). The Colts were desperately lacking in the area of pass rush last year, managing to get pressure only when sending blitzes. Newsome, however, showed the pass rush skills to both excite fans and to get to the quarterback more than any other Colt last year. There's still work to be done for Newsome, but there's plenty to work with and be excited about moving forward. He'll likely be competing for playing time with veterans Robert Mathis and Trent Cole in 2015, but he should certainly get a number of snaps and hopefully he will continue to develop into a good pass rush threat for the team.
T-5. Donte Moncrief, wide receiver
Age: 21 (he will turn 22 before the 2015 season starts)
The Colts' third round pick last year, Donte Moncrief had a quietly good rookie season, catching 32 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns (averaging 13.9 yards per reception) while playing in every game (starting two). He wasn't as well-polished of a receiver as some may have liked, but Moncrief provided the Colts their only deep threat not named T.Y. Hilton and, with Reggie Wayne injured and Hakeem Nicks struggling, ended the season as the second-best wide receiver on the roster. The hope is that he'll be a long-term fixture at the receiver position alongside Hilton and newcomer Phillip Dorsett, and if Moncrief continues to develop, that certainly would figure to be the case.
4. Jack Mewhort, offensive lineman
The top three players on this list are all pretty solidly established in their respective spots, but the following three players on this list are not. I think it's pretty clear that they are the three that would occupy the spots following the top three on this list, but the order could be arranged any way and you'd have a legitimate argument. For the sake of this list, I'm ranking Jack Mewhort fourth because of two primary distinguishing factors: 1) he has played much more than either Jonathan Newsome or Donte Moncrief in terms of total snaps, and 2) he is, in my opinion, the best of the group right now - though perhaps with the lowest ceiling of all of them (which is what makes this ranking thing so difficult).
Mewhort is a good offensive lineman who started 14 games for the Colts last year in his rookie season, plus the three playoff games. In 13 regular season games and the three playoff games he started at left guard, while he also made one start at right tackle. Mewhort wasn't anything special, but he absolutely held his own gave the Colts solid, consistent play - something they were desperately lacking along the offensive line. He may not have as high of a ceiling as other offensive linemen, but he's a guy that should be a starter for the Colts for many years to come and should give them solid play, something that any team would take instantly but that the Colts should be especially thankful for. The question with Mewhort is where he'll play in 2015, as it sounds like both left guard and right tackle are legitimate possibilities.
3. Dwayne Allen, tight end
Dwayne Allen is a fantastic player, capable of being one of the better overall tight ends in the league. The problem, however, is that he struggles to stay healthy. He missed all but one game in the 2013 season and then in 2014, though missing only three games, he struggled through injuries for much of the season. Ultimately, through three seasons in the league, Allen has played in just 62.5% of the team's games (30 out of 48).
When he's healthy, however, he can be a game-changer. In his rookie season (playing in every game), Allen caught 45 passes for 521 yards and three scores, and then last year in 2014 Allen added 29 receptions for 395 yards and eight touchdowns, proving to be a valuable target in the red zone. In three years, Allen has caught 75 passes for 936 yards and 12 scores, averaging 12.5 yards per reception. He's involved in much more than simply the receiving game, however, as Allen is a terrific blocker in the run game, providing the all-around threat from the position that is growing more unique in today's NFL. 2015 will be a huge season for him, as he enters a contract year with plenty of questions about whether he can stay healthy, but when he is on the field, he's a very good player and an important part of the team's offense.
2. T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver
If you asked FOX Sports, who ranked Hilton 13th on their list of top NFL players age 25 or under, he'd be the number one team on this list for 21 different NFL teams. But with the Colts, he's clearly not number one, though that says a lot more about Andrew Luck than it does about the receiver. And it's fitting that both players appear on the list at the top two spots, as they've formed one of the better quarterback/wide receiver duos in the NFL. In his three years in the league so far, Hilton has racked up 214 receptions for 3,289 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 15.4 yards per reception. In 2014, Hilton made his first Pro Bowl and either set or tied career highs in receptions (82), yards (1,345), and touchdowns (7), doing so while averaging 16.4 yards per catch.
He's turned into one of the league's most dynamic wide receivers (only five players in the league had more catches of 20+ yards than Hilton did in 2014) and clearly the Colts' number one wideout. Paired with Luck, they have become very successful and look to be one of the top duos for many years to come.
1. Andrew Luck, quarterback
Andrew Luck could have occupied this spot on the list from the very moment he entered the league, and he stays on it now as he's still just 25 years old. He's not just the best Colts' player ager 25 or under; he's the best player in the entire league age 25 or under - and one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, regardless of age. Having yet to miss a game through three years, Luck has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 12,957 yards (7.1 yards per attempt), 86 touchdowns, and 43 interceptions for a passer rating of 86.6. In addition, Luck has added 905 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. In 2014, he led the league with 40 touchdown passes and finished third with 4,761 passing yards - setting a new single-season franchise record while doing so.
But Luck's impressiveness goes far beyond simply the numbers. Playing with a supporting cast that is average at best and often below-average, Luck has helped to lead the team to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, including to the AFC Championship game a year ago. He has been far from perfect, but considering the surrounding talent and the abilities that Luck possesses, you'd have to be incredibly biased to rank him anywhere but number one on both this list and a similar list of the entire NFL.
What are your thoughts on this list? There aren't likely to be any arguments about the top spot (and probably not the top two or three), but spots four and five are absolutely up in the air. I think it's pretty clear that Mewhort, Moncrief, and Newsome should be the next three on the list after Luck, Hilton, and Allen, but you'd have a case regardless of the order you were to put them in.