- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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When it comes to talent under 25, one report says that no team has less than the New Orleans Saints.
Check out this Insider report by Football Outsiders. It has the Saints firmly at No. 32. It points to last year’s trade up for Mark Ingram and the picks that were forfeited in the bounty scandal as reasons why the Saints are low on young talent. I’m not ready to write off Ingram, whose rookie season was interrupted by injury, just yet and the forfeited draft picks were out of the Saints’ control. It’s important to know that tight end Jimmy Graham already has turned 25. If he were still under the age line, I think he would have been enough to keep the Saints out of last place.
The Atlanta Falcons didn’t fare much better. They’re No. 28 and Football Outsiders points to last year’s trade up to get Julio Jones as a reason why the Falcons are short on young talent. I get the point. But I’m thinking I’d rather have Jones, a potential superstar, than several other guys that might be nothing more than special-teams players.
I definitely think there’s some value in this exercise. You need to keep adding young talent to keep replenishing your talent from year to year. But what does it really mean to be ranked highly in this category? Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were No. 1. They ended up going 4-12. In 2010, the Houston Texans were No. 1 and they went 6-10.
That said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that this year’s Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers rate high on this list.
The Bucs are No. 4 and they have plenty of young talent – rookies Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David all should start right away. There still is a lot of hope for quarterback Josh Freeman, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and defensive end Gerald McCoy. If new coach Greg Schiano can get the young guys to play anywhere close to their potential, the Bucs will be competitive.
The Carolina Panthers came in at No. 8. No doubt quarterback Cam Newton carried a lot of weight in Carolina’s ranking. In fact, if I had to start a team with one NFC South player under 25, there’s no doubt I’d go with Newton.