10 young stars to build around

  • KC Joyner [ARCHIVE]
  • ESPN Insider | July 12, 2012
LeSean McCoy AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonLeSean McCoy is one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL.

They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but in the case of sports teams, their future is only as strong as their young cornerstone players.

Building around young talent is essential to long-term success in the NFL, but whom do you want to build around? Which current players are best suited to be pillars both now and down the road? Dan Graziano asked coaches and executives that very question. The results varied quite a bit.

I'm going to take a slightly different perspective, evaluating my top 10 cornerstone players under the age of 25 by weaving some statistical analysis into the mix. A question such as this one never yields a clear-cut answer, so I've included the pros and cons for each player.

(Note: Age is as of the start of the 2012 season)

1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles, 24 years old

Pros: McCoy won his first All-Pro honor last season and became one of the highest-paid running backs in the league because he is the type of ball carrier a team can build an offense around. His 342 combined rushes/targets were the fourth most among running backs last season, and he has ranked in the top 10 in the category of good blocking yards per attempt in each of the past two seasons (GBYPA being a measurement of a ball carrier's productivity when given favorable blocking).

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