The Arizona Cardinals had an interesting blend of experienced and young talent in 2014.
In terms of Opening Day rosters, the Cardinals had the fourth-oldest roster in the NFC, with an average age of 26.62. They also had the most rookies and first-year players, with 12.
On the other end of the spectrum, they featured 13 players aged 30 or older, which was the second-most in all of football behind the 16 on the roster of the Chicago Bears.
One ingredient in remaining competitive in the NFL is identifying and developing young talent. According to ESPN, the Cardinals are doing an average job in this area.
Matt Williamson wrote an ESPN Insider piece which ranks the “farm systems” — or 25-and-under talent — of each of the 32 NFL teams. The Cardinals rank 18th on the list.
Williamson ranked the teams according to the attractiveness of the young talent in the organization.
Here’s how we looked at it: If you were to take over one team in the NFL to run for the next 10 years based on the young players in its organization, which would you pick? We took into account positional value, durability and contract status. Also, the rankings were a bit of a balancing act, because we don’t want to punish the Packers too much for not having a franchise quarterback who is 25 years old when they have the league’s best QB who is in the prime of his career.
The writer then chose the five most important players who met the age criteria and ranked the teams accordingly.
Williamson chose CB Patrick Peterson (24), RB Andre Ellington (25), WR Michael Floyd (25), CB Tyrann Mathieu (22) and WR John Brown (24) as the Cardinals’ battery, while also listing Jaron Brown, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Cooper, Justin Bethel, Kevin Minter, Kerwynn Williams, Logan Thomas, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon and Troy Niklas as young players of note.
About Peterson, Williamson wrote:
The most physically gifted cornerback we’ve seen in the league for quite some time, Peterson plays a ton of man coverage against the opponent’s top wide receiver. The results are not always perfect, but Peterson’s ability to cover one-on-one makes the Cardinals’ defense so much better overall. Peterson is just scratching the surface of what he could become.
In case you’re wondering what teams top the list, Williamson has the Indianapolis Colts at number-one, followed by the New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans.
If you want to see the rest of the list, you’ve got to become an ESPN Insider.