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Lunchbreak: ESPN Beats Clock to Name Justin Jefferson NFL's Best 24-Year-Old

EAGAN, Minn. – It's hard to believe that Justin Jefferson is only 24 years old.

Well, for three more days.

The phenom wide receiver has been impressing the league since being drafted by Minnesota at just 20 years old.

ESPN recently highlighted the best NFL, college and high school football players at every age between 14 and 40 years old. They tabbed Jefferson, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Sunday, as the league's best 24-year-old. ESPN wrote:

Jefferson topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2023 ... despite missing seven games. He's a do-it-all volume target with three-level ability and the big-play chops to flip the field. He has 104 receptions of at least 20 yards – more than 25 [percent] of his 392 career catches – which speaks to his highly creative route skills and the numbers he can produce after the catch.

As a "stat to know," ESPN pointed to the fact that Jefferson has "averaged 98.3 receiving yards per game in his four-year career, the most of any receiver during that stretch."

ESPN's runner-up in the 24-year-old category was Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II.

Jefferson was the only Viking on the list and one of three NFC North players.

Bears receiver Keenan Allen, who joined Chicago from the Chargers via trade this offseason, was named the league's best 32-year-old, and Lions tackle Penei Sewell was highlighted as the best 23-year-old.

Sewell, who is entering his fourth season, has quickly emerged as one of the league's premier tackles. With elite movement ability and body control, he locks down edge rushers in pass protection, matching to both speed and power rushers, while displacing defenders as a run-blocker. After allowing 10 sacks as a rookie, he has surrendered a total of seven over the past two seasons, showing accelerated growth in his technique and playing style.

He has the traits of a blue-chip talent and was handed a four-year, $112 million contract in April.

The youngest NFL player on ESPN's list was 20-year-old receiver Malik Nabers, whom the Giants drafted sixth overall in April. The Vikings are slated to face Nabers Week 1 in New York.

An explosive and dynamic playmaker, Nabers established himself as an elite player last season. He broke out as a junior with 89 catches for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns, becoming LSU's all-time receptions leader (189). Nabers was my third-ranked prospect in the 2024 draft, and he should step into New York's No. 1 receiver role.

Click here to see ESPN's full list.

CBS Sports calls Brandon Powell a player who "could emerge from the shadows"

The 2024 NFL season seems just around the corner.

Each season, there are players across the league who previously had flown under the radar but stand out in a big way. CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin recently selected one player from each NFC team.

View photos of Vikings WR Brandon Powell from the 2023 season.

Benjamin looked to receiver Brandon Powell for the Vikings. Originally an undrafted free agent in 2018, Powell joined Minnesota last spring as a free agent and put up career highs in catches (29) and receiving yards (324) with one touchdown. Benjamin wrote:

As long as Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison are on the field, Minnesota's offense goes through them. But Powell is a shifty multipurpose option set for new opportunities with K.J. Osborn gone and T.J. Hockenson recovering from injury. He's also a proven return specialist.

Worth noting is who Benjamin highlighted from the rest of the NFC North division, as well.

In Chicago, he pointed to running back D'Andre Swift, whom he said has been an addition "lost in the shuffle" of larger Bears moves, such as drafting Caleb Williams No. 1 overall and trading for Allen.

Benjamin spotlighted Lions cornerback Ennis Rakestraw, Jr., and Packers receiver Dontayvion Wicks.

Terrion Arnold was the splash of the Lions 2024 draft, surprisingly sliding to Motown at the back of Round 1. But Rakestraw's tenacious physicality could make him an equally seamless fit for a [Head Coach] Dan Campbell contender, especially depending on Carlton Davis III's availability at corner.

Mekhi Blackmon makes PFF's 'All-Breakout Team' for 2024

Analytics site Pro Football Focus is expecting some big things from 2023 draft pick Mekhi Blackmon.

View photos of Vikings CB Mekhi Blackmon from the 2023 season.

PFF's Gordon McGuinness put together a 2024 All-Breakout Team and gave Blackmon one of the three cornerback spots. McGuinness wrote:

The former USC Trojan had a nice rookie campaign, posting a 71.8 PFF coverage grade after joining the Vikings as a third-round draft pick. He allowed just 28 receptions and had a combined nine pass breakups and interceptions from 329 coverage snaps in 2023.

The other two corners on PFF's All-Breakout Team for the upcoming season were Chicago's Tyrique Stevenson and Buffalo's Christian Benford.

The Vikings will of course play the Bears and Stevenson (assuming he stays healthy) twice this season, in Weeks 12 and 15.

Stevenson was on the field for 830 snaps as a rookie and endured some struggles in the first half of the season. He looked much improved in the second half of the year, earning a PFF coverage grade above 65.0 in four of his final six starts.