I figured it would be interesting to know which teams in the NFL roster the youngest players, while at the same time analyzing how that may affect their performance on the field. After doing some research of the youngest teams in the NFL, I realized that age (or lack thereof) may not affect NFL teams in the way you might think.
Three of the top 5 youngest teams in the NFL going into this year’s free agency made it to the postseason last year.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 youngest teams in the NFL. Note that these numbers were taken after the Super Bowl, so before the 2013 free agency period had begun.
5. Cleveland Browns
Well Cleveland fans, it has been 10 years since the last time the Browns made it to the playoffs, and it’s been forever since the last time any team from your city has won a championship. But there is some optimism here; two Cleveland-based professional sports teams (Browns, Cavaliers) are among the five youngest teams in their league.
What’s interesting about the Browns is that they actually have the youngest average age rankings for projected offensive starters in 2013, and are tied with the St. Louis Rams for the youngest average age for projected defensive starters.
Running back Trent Richardson, who finished his rookie season with 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns while collecting 51 receptions for 367 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown, provides the Browns with a legitimate offensive weapon in their backfield.
And on defense, players like newly acquired linebacker Paul Kruger and 24-year-old playmaker Joe Haden bring promise to a young defense that finished last season 25th in opponent’s passing yards and 19th in opponent’s rushing yards.
Keep your heads up Cleveland fans, your time will come soon.
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are one of the three teams on this list who made it to the postseason last year despite having one of the youngest teams going into this year’s free agency.
What the Vikings accomplished in the 2013 draft not only made their team younger, but also better and more skilled at certain positions.
The Vikings were able to snag 3 first round picks in 2013, making the team one of the biggest winners from that draft.
With their 23rd overall pick the Vikings selected Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle out of the University of Florida. Many analysts thought Floyd would be a top ten pick, but going at number 23 made Floyd a steal for the Vikings.
Accused by some as being a product of hype, Floyd was a pre-draft favorite of NFL Network’s Mike Mayock — who called him the draft’s “most explosive defensive tackle” – and NFL Films guru Greg Cosell, who labeled Floyd “without question” the top college prospect in all the land.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Well Colts fans, in the span of one year you saw your quarterback-less team tie for the worst record in the NFL at 2-14, then follow that up by going 11-5 the following season and making the playoffs because of a kid named Andrew Luck. Heard of him? He has some analysts predicting he will eventually be better than that guy named Peyton Manning.
If that doesn’t excite you, I bet having the third youngest team in the NFL will.
In his rookie season, the 23-year-old Luck finished the season with 4,374 passing yards and 23 passing touchdowns. But his athleticism is what shocked me the most, as his ability to move around in the pocket helped him finish with 255 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.
The scary thing about this offense is that 4 of Luck’s top targets, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen and LaVon Brazil are all 24 years old or younger.
So much for a rebuilding stage. In the span of one year, the Colts went from the laughing stock of the NFL to one of the most promising franchises in the league.
2. Green Bay Packers
Ted Thompson has to be one of the top ten General Mangers in all of sports, let alone in the NFL. This guy not only makes sure his Packers ballclubs are winning and competing for a Super Bowl title every season, but he does it with young talent that he also happened to draft.
The Packers have the 4th youngest average age ranking for projected offensive starters in 2013.
On their current 93 man roster, 52 of their players, or 56 percent, have had 2 years of NFL experience or less. From those 93 players, 27 of them are rookies, which means that 29 percent of the roster from the reigning NFC North champions are players who haven’t played an NFL regular season game. Now I know it’s only the preseason and the Packers have yet to make any cuts to the team, but those numbers indicate and give you an idea of the formula GM Ted Thompson uses for his teams success.
And the 2013 NFL Draft was no different for Thompson and the Packers.Defense had a problem with the pass rush? Draft defensive end Datone Jones out of UCLA and defensive tackle Josh Boyd out of Mississippi State, both of whom can help fix that void.
Offense couldn’t run the ball last season? Move up in the second round and steal University of Alabama’s running back Eddie Lacy, one of the best running backs in all of college football in 2012, and team him up with sleeper Jonathan Franklin out of UCLA.
Defense needed a shut down corner? No problem, they’ll take University of Iowa’s cornerback Micah Hyde in the 5th round, who was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in 2012 and was selected as the Hawkeyes’ most valuable player on defense.
While other GM’s are searching in the free agency pool to help fill the needs on their team, Thompson is going with the smarter, more beneficial, and more efficient route, by investing his time and money in the draft. This guy is a draft guru, which is why the Packers are where they are, taking home the past two NFC North division titles.
1. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams are an interesting team who are in an interesting situation heading into the 2013 season. In a division that is highlighted by two Super Bowl contenders in the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams find themselves tied for the youngest average ranking for their projected defensive starters and are the 6th youngest average ranking for their projected offensive starters.
With that said, cornerback Cortland Finnegan believes that if his team won’t win the Super Bowl this year, the Detroit Lions will.
In an article written on the Detroit Free Press, Finnegan said, “If we don’t win it, I’ll take the Lions winning it next.”
So does that mean Finnegan believes the youngest team in the NFL will compete with the Detroit Lions for the NFC Championship title and a possible berth to the Super Bowl? I hope so, because it’s about time we see some playoff action around here in Detroit.
But in all seriousness, I don’t expect the Rams to even make the playoffs in this upcoming season. They are definitely a talented team, and head coach Jeff Fisher has those players on the right track, but they happen to be in the wrong division, and the NFC as a whole is a pretty tough conference this year.
But the Rams do have a lot of potential. Their quarterback, Sam Bradford, is only 25 years old. His offensive weapons, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Daryl Richardson, are all 26 years old or younger.
And on defense, 7 of their 11 starters are also 26 or younger.
It will be interesting to see how the Rams perform in 2013 after their cornerback’s lofty expectations for the team.