In a piece now posted on ESPN.com (Insider content), Danny Tuccitto and Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders rank the organizations with the best talent under the age of 25. The Patriots are the top-ranked team.
Tuccitto and McCown used the following criteria:
1. The number of games in 2011 started by players under the age of 25.
2. Whether or not a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements.
3. The number of 25-or-younger first-team All-Pros a team has on its roster.
4. The extent to which under-25 talent plays impact positions in the passing game.
5. Whether or not a team has a talented, young quarterback.
6. The amount of value a team added in the 2012 draft.
7. A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent.
In analyzing the Patriots, Tuccitto and McCown focus heavily on tight ends Rob Gronkowski (best DYAR for for any tight end since 1991) and Aaron Hernandez (NFL-high for tight ends with 21 tackles broken in 2011), while also noting offensive lineman Nate Solder and 2012 first-round draft choices Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower.
After reading the piece, two initial thoughts came to mind:
1. After lean drafts in 2006-2008, the Patriots have been more effective in recent years.
2. When the Patriots selected Gronkowski and Hernandez in 2010, both were considered risky selections. Those risks have paid off in a big way.