Best NFL, college, high school football players by age 14-40

Reigning NFL rookies of the year Will Anderson Jr. and C.J. Stroud -- who were both taken by the Texans in Round 1 last year -- are 22 years old. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Have you ever debated your friends about the NFL's best young players? Or maybe wondered about the top players ... who are older than you? Well, so did we.

We set out to pick the best active football players at as many ages as possible, spanning the NFL, college and high school. We tapped NFL analyst Matt Bowen, draft analyst Jordan Reid and ESPN high school recruiting coordinator Billy Tucker to make their selections, leaning in on how dominant each player is right now. The result is 27 players, hitting ages 40 through 14.

The best player at age 40 was easy to pick, because three-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers is making his comeback from an Achilles injury. After that, though? It gets difficult. Patrick Mahomes or Myles Garrett at age 28? What about Penei Sewell, Sauce Gardner, Puka Nacua, Aidan Hutchinson or Kyle Hamilton at age 23?

Let's get into the picks, starting at Rodgers and counting down to players just entering high school. (Tucker handled ages 14-18, Reid picked for 19-22 and Bowen did 23-40.) There are a few players who have summer birthdays; we used the publication date (June 13) as the age cut off. We have key stats to know, notes on how each player has dominated and more.

Jump down the list:
College prospects | High school recruits

Age 40: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Jets

Birthday: Dec. 2, 1983

Key stat to know: Rodgers has won four NFL MVP awards, second in league history to Peyton Manning's five. His most recent was in 2021, when he threw 37 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

Why he's the best at his age: Rodgers was limited to four regular-season snaps in New York last season due to a season-ending Achilles tear, but he showed in 2022 he still has top-level arm talent. At this stage of his career, his rushing totals and scramble attempts have declined, but he remains one of the best pure throwers in the game, using his quick release to deliver the ball with anticipation and location.

Over 19 NFL seasons, he has thrown 475 touchdown passes, and he has another 35 scores as a runner.

Runner-up: Marcedes Lewis, TE, Bears