Patriots

20 Under 25: Who will make a bigger impact in Boston: Mac or Tatum?

Patriots

There's a new generation of stars in Boston sports, and a pair of 23-year-olds look like the brightest.

Jayson Tatum is already a two-time All-Star for the Boston Celtics, joining 25-year-old Jaylen Brown to form one of the NBA's best young duos. Tatum has been a staple in our annual "20 Under 25" voting contest, ranking No. 1 or No. 2 among the best Boston athletes younger than 25 (as voted by you, the fans) for four years running.

But a talented newcomer has arrived in Mac Jones.

"20 Under 25" candidates for each team: Celtics | Patriots | Red Sox | Bruins | Revs

The No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots rookie beat out Cam Newton for the starting quarterback job this summer and boasts the NFL's second-best completion rate (70.2%) while helping New England surge into the playoff picture after a slow start.

Both Tatum and Jones play huge roles in their team's success (or failure), and with several big names "graduating" from our 20 Under 25 list -- Brown, Bruins winger David Pastrnak and Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, to name a few -- the Celtics star and Patriots QB likely will battle for a top spot on this year's list.

That got us thinking: Will Tatum or Jones make more of an impact on their respective teams over the next, say, five years?

The case for Jayson Tatum

Tatum might be the NBA's most experienced 23-year-old. He's already been to three Eastern Conference finals in four seasons and has been the Celtics' go-to scorer for two years running.

 

When Tatum is on, so are the C's: Boston was 7-3 last season when he scored 34 or more points, and his 50-point effort helped will the Celtics to their lone victory over the Brooklyn Nets in last season's first-round playoff series.

The reverse is also true, of course. Tatum's early shooting slump contributed to Boston scuffling out of the gate this season, and his inconsistent play late in games is part of the reason why the Celtics are one of the NBA's worst fourth-quarter teams so far this season.

Forsberg: Shooting slump forces Tatum to take the next step

A single player can make a huge impact in the NBA, whereas an NFL player (even at an important position like quarterback) needs the rest of his team to play well to have success.

If Tatum continues his ascent to NBA superstardom and can become a top-10 player in the league within the next five years, that will go a long way toward the Celtics being a legitimate title contender.

The case for Mac Jones

It's true that football is much more of a team sport. But a good quarterback is the most important ingredient for success, and it sure looks like the Patriots have their man in Jones.

The Alabama product has thrown six touchdown passes to just two interceptions over New England's five-game winning streak. While he needs to improve his deep passing and movement in the pocket, Jones is developing much faster than many expected and seems to be a great fit for McDaniels' offense.

Cassel: Thoughts on McDaniels' coaching future and the Mac Jones effect

The Patriots are playing well enough on defense right now to compete with any team in the NFL. So, the difference between an early playoff exit (or missing the postseason entirely) and another Super Bowl run could hinge on Jones' ability to win with his arm.

If Jones continues his upward trajectory to become a legitimate franchise QB in the next few seasons, a rebirth of the Patriots' dynasty isn't out of the question. That's more than Tatum and the Celtics can say.

The verdict

Tatum is the bigger star with more professional accomplishments and plays in a league where one star can take over a game. But you could argue Jones has similar upside and could be the catalyst behind a deep playoff run in New England.

So, which player should be ranked higher in this year's "20 Under 25" list? We'll let you decide.

Vote below in our official ballot, and check out the full list of candidates here.