20 Under 25 results: Tatum, Mac Jones heading in opposite directions originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Ready for a laugh?
At this time last year, there was a serious debate over whether Mac Jones or Jayson Tatum was the better Boston athlete under age 25. And Mac Jones won.
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Fast forward to the 2023 edition of NBC Sports Boston's annual "20 Under 25" fan survey, where the most compelling question was, "Who's coming in second?"
Tatum was the runaway winner in this go round, in which fans give each player a video game-style rating out of 100 based on a combination of their current achievements and future potential. Tatum's meteoric rise to First-Team All-NBA and leader of the best team in the Eastern Conference helped him earn a 97.6 rating, more than 10 points higher than the next-closest athlete.
As for Jones? Well, see for yourself. After tallying your rankings of players on the Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox and Revolution, here is the full top 20 list for 2023, followed by our biggest takeaways from the results.
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20) Payton Pritchard
RATING: 70.3 | LAST YEAR: 23 | TURNS 25: 1/28/23 - The additions of White and Brogdon pushed Pritchard to fourth on the point guard depth chart, and he logged DNPs in seven of Boston’s first 10 games this season. But “Fast PP” stayed ready, and when Joe Mazzulla called his number, he delivered, most notably by dropping 24 points over a two-game span to help lift the Celtics to wins over Oklahoma City and Atlanta. Pritchard’s team-first attitude is exactly what the C’s need at the end of their bench, and he could see more run going forward if Brogdon misses more time due to injuries or load management.
19) Tyquan Thornton
RATING: 70.4 | LAST YEAR: N/A | TURNS 25: 8/7/25 - The rookie speedster out of Baylor enjoyed a strong training camp and preseason before suffering a fractured collarbone that forced him to miss New England’s first four games. He caught six catches over his first two NFL games and snagged a touchdown in Week 6 but has seen his role diminish since then, with only four catches in his last five games.
18) Ceddanne Rafaela
RATING: 70.5 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 9/18/25 - Rafaela broke out in a big way in 2022, earning the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year award with his blend of power, speed, and defensive prowess. Next season will tell us a lot about whether Rafaela was a flash in the pan or the Mookie Betts comparisons he’s been getting are warranted.
17) Bailey Zappe
RATING: 70.9 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 4/26/24 - Zappe has played in four games with a 2-0 record as a starter. He has completed 70.7 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Zappe really impressed in his limited action during Mac Jones’ absence due to injury, so much so that there was talk of a legit QB controversy entering the Week 8 game against the Bears. Zappe has intriguing potential. The only question is whether he’ll get an opportunity to realize that potential in New England or elsewhere.
16) Mason Lohrei
RATING: 71.0 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 1/17/26 - Lohrei has an excellent two-way skill set, impressive size (6-foot-4 and 205 pounds) and skates really well in all three zones. He’s got the potential to be a top-four defenseman at the NHL level. No other prospect in the Bruins’ system has that kind of ability right now. He’s probably another year or two from making it to Boston, but the future is bright for the Ohio State star.
15) Henry Kessler
RATING: 71.1 | LAST YEAR: 19 | TURNS 25: 6/25/23 - Kessler, selected by the Revs with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, has already built an impressive résumé for his young age. He led the club in interceptions, tackles won, possession won, and clearances as a rookie. New England’s center back will be a key part of the team’s success again in 2023.
14) Cole Strange
RATING: 71.8 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 7/31/23 - Strange has had his share of struggles this season, but overall, the rookie left guard has been solid. He does look like a long-term starter, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Patriots could have upgraded a more important position with their 2022 first-round pick.
13) Brayan Bello
RATING: 72.7 | LAST YEAR: 27 | TURNS 25: 5/17/24 - Bello debuted with Boston in 2022 and provided a glimpse of his front-end starter potential. He will be an important part of the rotation in 2023, especially if the Red Sox don’t add another impactful starter or two this offseason.
12) Fabian Lysell
RATING: 73.3 | LAST YEAR: 18 | TURNS 25: 1/19/28 - Lysell has legit top-six forward potential at the NHL level with an impressive blend of goal-scoring ability, playmaking skill, and speed. He puts opposing players on their heels nearly every time he touches the puck, making him one of the most exciting players in the B’s organization. Lysell is in his first AHL season with the Providence Bruins and could see action in the NHL during the 2022-23 campaign if injuries create depth issues for Boston.
11) Đorđe Petrović
RATING: 74.5 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 10/8/24 - Petrovic proved to be an excellent replacement for goalkeeper Matt Turner, earning Team MVP honors in 2022 after posting seven clean sheets and a league-best four PK saves in 21 starts. He was named a finalist for 2022 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
10) Triston Casas
RATING: 74.7 | LAST YEAR: 11 | TURNS 25: 1/15/25 - The Triston Casas era in Boston officially began in September when the slugging first base prospect finally was promoted to the major league roster. He will retain his rookie status in 2023 and is a strong American League Rookie of the Year candidate.
9) Grant Williams
RATING: 74.8 | LAST YEAR: 20 | TURNS 25: 11/30/23 - His teammates may give him a hard time, but Williams just continues to get better in ways that are crucial to Boston’s success. He’s averaging a career-high 9.1 points per game this season while hitting 45.2 percent of his 3-pointers, good for 15th in the NBA. Williams has also started 10 of 20 games and more than held his own on the defensive end with Robert Williams sidelined. Williams’ strong play should earn him a significant raise in free agency next summer, but he’s an excellent fit for this Celtics team and should strongly consider re-signing with Boston if the price is right.
8) Josh Uche
RATING: 75.8 | LAST YEAR: 13 | TURNS 25: 9/18/23 - Uche has had an up-and-down tenure in New England, but he seems to be trending in the right direction. After missing 12 games combined in his first two seasons, the Michigan product has racked up five sacks and five tackles for loss through nine games. If Uche can keep up that production, the Patriots’ pass rush will continue to be dangerous with Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise leading the charge.
7) Marcelo Mayer
RATING: 76.6 | LAST YEAR: 6 | TURNS 25: 12/12/27 - Mayer’s first full professional baseball season was a success as the 2021 No. 4 overall draft pick slashed .280/.399/.489 with 13 homers and 53 RBI in 91 games with Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville. He’s at least a couple of years away from reaching the big leagues, but all signs point to the No. 13 ranked MLB prospect being a future All-Star.
6) Marcus Jones
RATING: 77.5 | LAST YEAR: -- | TURNS 25: 10/22/23 - Have the Patriots found their next great return man in Jones? The Houston product won the Paul Hornung Award in 2021 as the most versatile player in college football, and he’s already a menace in the return game, breaking off an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown in Week 11 to help the Patriots beat the Jets. Jones has played sparingly on defense, but New England’s third-round pick is looking like the kind of player who can make an impact whenever he’s on the field.
Jones seemed well on his way to being the new face of the franchise. He guided the Patriots to the postseason as a rookie, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions to earn Pro Bowl honors.
Then Patricia replaced McDaniels, and the results haven’t been pretty. Jones has more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six), missed three games due to an ankle injury, was booed off the field in Week 7 and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in passer rating before boosting that number to 87.3 with an excellent performance against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s clear he’s still a work in progress.
Barmore was a force in 2021, playing in all 17 games while landing on the Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie Team. He has regressed slightly in 2022, however, and hasn’t played since Week 6 due to a knee injury. Still, the future is bright for the 2021 second-round pick out of Alabama if he can stay healthy.
Despite a slow start to the 2022-23 season, Swayman has tremendous potential as a starting-caliber goaltender. He’s one of the best under-25 netminders in the league and could be a Team USA fixture over the next decade. Swayman is in the final year of his contract and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal he signs next. Most goalies with his age and track record sign a short-term extension.
Stevenson has blossomed into a do-it-all back in his second season. The Oklahoma product has already surpassed his rookie rushing total with 680 yards through 11 games and is tied for fourth in the NFL with 18 broken tackles. He also leads the Patriots in receptions with 50 for 359 yards and is averaging just shy of 100 total yards per game. He’s the team’s offensive MVP right now.
What more can we say? Tatum is a legitimate top-three MVP candidate who’s averaging 30.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in addition to playing elite defense against the opponent’s best players. After falling short in the 2022 NBA Finals, Tatum has been on a mission to do whatever he can to impact winning, and the result is a 6-foot-8 monster who can do pretty much everything on the basketball court at an extremely high level. If he wins a championship, he’ll already deserve consideration as one of the Celtics’ all-time greats.
1. Did the Patriots break Mac Jones?
The transition from Josh McDaniels to Matt Patricia as offensive play-caller hasn't been kind to Jones. And that's an understatement.
After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Jones has thrown just seven touchdown passes to eight interceptions through 11 games and ranks 32nd among 33 qualified quarterbacks in ESPN's Total QBR metric, ahead of only Baker Mayfield.
Those stats have plummeted Jones in our rankings from a 93.3 rating in 2022 (No. 1 overall) to a 78.9 rating in 2023 (No. 5).
Many expected Jones to take a Year 2 leap, so the fact that he's regressed this much is quite the indictment on the Patriots' coaching setup, which includes a first-time offensive play-caller in Patricia, a first-time NFL quarterbacks coach in Joe Judge, and a head coach in Bill Belichick who failed to find an adequate replacement for McDaniels.
The question now is whether Jones can be fixed or will continue to regress under the current leadership. Check back in a year.
2. The Celtics' future has arrived
Unlike Jones, Tatum has clearly established himself as the face of the Celtics. And he has plenty of help.
Jaylen Brown (26 years old) and Robert Williams (25) are both recent graduates of the 20 Under 25 class, and they combine with Tatum and the 28-year-old Marcus Smart to form arguably the NBA's best young core.
While Tatum and Grant Williams are the only two Boston rotation players on this year's 20 Under 25 list, that's a testament to the continuity the Celtics have developed in watching their homegrown talent flourish into key players on a championship contender.
We've written plenty about how the Celtics can only go so far as Tatum and Brown can take them, and the last 12 months have proven that they're every bit capable of bringing Banner 18 to Boston.
3. Is confidence dwindling in Boston's young talent?
Were you all in a bad mood when you did this survey?
Last year, 10 players received ratings of 80 or higher, with three topping 90 overall. This year, only two players (Tatum and Rhamondre Stevenson) had a rating above 80.
The Bruins, Red Sox and Revolution all failed to put a player in the 80s, which is somewhat of a surprise given the supreme upside of Red Sox shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer (76.6 overall rating) and the promising talent of Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (79.3 rating).
Our theory: Voters prioritized actual results over potential, and the reality is that few young Boston athletes outside Tatum, Stevenson and maybe Swayman have emerged as everyday contributors this season. (A note: This year's voting opened on Dec. 1, so fans may have voted before Josh Uche went on his December sack binge.)
That hasn't been an issue for the Celtics or Bruins, who are loaded with veteran talent. But the Patriots and Red Sox may need more from their young players if they want to turn their fortunes around.