NFL Media analyst Elliott Harrison, after speculating a lot recently about up-and-coming college players, wanted to look back at some of the rising stars currently in the NFL.
Specifically the ones under 25 years of age.
As Harrison notes, he and his colleagues have been doing this list for several years now, he keeps the chart of prestigious players who will be 24 or younger as of the first day of the season. They also accounted for the differences in defensive schemes and chose four linebackers.
Accordingly, Preston Smith, someone "no one noticed," made the list.
"The rundown on Smith coming out of Mississippi State was that he had everything you wanted from your Y2K-era 3-4 OLB edge rusher (a lot of acronyms, there). Per my conversation with NFL Now researcher and draftnik @MarkDulgerianOS, Smith had the measurables, which is why he went so high in the second round. Last season, he posted eight sacks and forced three fumbles -- and he only has room to grow."
In his rookie season, Smith collected 35 tackles as an edge rusher, gaining five sacks in his last three games, including three in the division-clinching game against the Eagles.
He also sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a safety in the Wild Card playoff game.