In each of the last four years, I’ve presented the AV-adjusted age of each roster in the NFL. Measuring team age in the NFL is tricky. You don’t want to calculate the average age of a 53-man roster and call that the “team age” because the age of a team’s starters is much more relevant than the age of a team’s reserves. The average age of a team’s starting lineup isn’t perfect, either. The age of the quarterback and key offensive and defensive players should count for more than the age of a less relevant starter. Ideally, you want to calculate a team’s average age by placing greater weight on the team’s most relevant players.
My solution has been to use the Approximate Value numbers from Pro-Football-Reference.com. The table below shows the average age of each team, along with its average AV-adjusted age of the offense and defense. For the second year in a row, the Jaguars and Rams were the two youngest teams in the NFL; this year, though, the team formerly known as St. Louis took the top spot.
The average AV-adjusted team age last season was 27.1 years; the Rams (25.6) and Jaguars (25.8) were the only teams below 26, while the Jets (28.2) and Colts (28.6) were the only teams above 28 years. Here’s how to read the table below, using the St. Louis line: the Rams were the youngest team in the NFL in 2015, with an average age of 25.6 years as of September 1, 2015. The team’s offense had an AV-adjusted average age of 25.0, the youngest in the NFL, while the defense was at 26.0, the second-youngest.
|Rk||Team||Ovr Age||Off Age||Off Rk||Def Age||Def Rk|
The Rams and Jaguars were a virtual tie for the youngest offense, at 24.99 and 25.00 years, respectively. The difference, of course, was the Jacksonville actually had a pretty good offense, while the Rams offense was a disaster. But there may be hope for the Rams, with Todd Gurley (21.1 as of 9/1/15), Tavon Austin (24.5), and Greg Robinson (22.9) — three former high first round picks — as the only players on the offense to produce more than 5 points of AV last year. Now in Los Angeles, the real issue for the team will be figuring out what to do at quarterback, but there are more than enough young, highly-drafted players on this offense that could emerge with competent play under center.
In Jacksonville, it seems like the entire offense is young. On September 1, Blake Bortles was 23.3 years old, Allen Robinson 22.0, Allen Hurns 23.8, Luke Joeckel 23.8, and T.J. Yeldon 21.9. And that’s even ignoring other pieces like Denard Robinson (24.9), Marqise Lee (23.8), and Rashad Greene (22.9). From a skill-position player perspective, Jacksonville is in incredible shape (and that’s despite the whole Justin Blackmon thing).
On offense, the Jets stand out as really old, and with good reason: New York had an unorthodox approach to building an offense, which was through veteran acquisitions. Of the Jets top 8 offensive players in AV, only two were homegrown, and those players (Nick Mangold (31.6) and D’Brickashaw Ferguson (31.7)) were both drafted back in 2006! Otherwise, there’s Brandon Marshall (31.4, acquired via trade with Chicago), Ryan Fitzpatrick (32.8, trade with Houston), Chris Ivory (27.4, trade with New Orleans), Eric Decker (28.5, free agent signing), Breno Giacomini (29.9, free agent signing), and James Carpenter (26.4, free agent signing). Willie Colon (32.4, free agent signing) would have joined that group if not for injury.
What does that mean for 2016? It’s hard to say, although for now, only Ivory is gone (replaced with another older player, Matt Forte). Fitzpatrick’s status is up in the air, but the Jets certainly seem likely to once again have one of the oldest offenses in the NFL. What are the odds that Marshall, Decker, and Forte stay healthy, along with the three offensive linemen in their thirties? Not great, which may be why New York is driving a hard bargain in the Fitzpatrick negotiations.
Can the Jets reload on offense — i.e., get younger — before it’s too late? That’s the big question, and it all starts at quarterback. Putting that position aside, though, the hope would have to be that wide receiver Devin Smith (2nd round, 2015), tight end Jace Amaro (2nd round, 2014), Quincy Enunwa (6th, 2014), and Brian Winters (3rd, 2013) could develop into key contributors. Frankly, that may be expecting too much, so the Jets may be reloading on the fly with Forte-like acquisitions again next year. The other variable is if Bryce Petty (4th, 2015) somehow turned into a legitimate starting quarterback, but he did not take a snap during his rookie year so his development remains hidden to observers outside of Florham Park.
The San Diego Chargers had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year, but it also had the youngest. Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Joe Mays were both 30 last year…. and were the two oldest players on the San Diego defense! Melvin Ingram (26.3), Jason Verrett (24.2), Kendall Reyes (25.9), Manti Te’o (24.6), and Jeremiah Attaochu (22.6) were the top players on the defense by AV, which maybe is one sign for optimism for Chargers fans entering 2016.
And then you have the Colts. The top defenders by AV were Vontae Davis (27.3), D’Qwell Jackson (31.9), Mike Adams (34.4), Jerrell Freeman (29.3), Kendall Langford (29.6), and Dwight Lowery (29.6) As Bill Barnwell wrote yesterday, the Colts have wasted the early years of a star quarterback on a cheap contract, and nowhere is that clearer than when looking at the Colts defense.