The Arizona Cardinals in just a couple of years went from one of the league's oldest teams to a team with a lot of young players expected to make contributions. There are many veterans, especially on defense (like Darnell Dockett, Paris Lenon, Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes), but the team is getting younger. On the offensive side, especially so. The skill players outside of Larry Fitzgerald are younger players for the most part.
ESPN ranked the teams in the league looking only at the talent of the players each team has that are 25 years old or younger. This Insider article used the following criteria to make their rankings:
- The number of games in 2011 started by players under the age of 25
- Whether or not a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
- The number of 25-or-younger first-team All-Pros a team has on its roster
- The extent to which a team's 25-and-under talent plays impact positions in the passing game
- Whether or not a team has a talented, young quarterback
- The amount of value a team added in the 2012 draft
The Cardinals find themselves right in the middle of the league in terms of young talent, according to this list, ranking 17th in the league of the 32 teams.
In the NFC West, Arizona ranked third of the four teams. The Seattle Seahawks were 12th, the San Francisco 49ers 15th and the St. Louis Rams 24th. Arizona finds itself between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns.
What did the article have to say about the Cards?
This all starts with CB Patrick Peterson. It's not often you find a player with the talent to both cover No. 1 receivers and return punts at a high level, and we nudged Arizona up accordingly. With LBs Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield having another year of NFL experience under their belt, odds are the Cardinals will generate a better pass rush than they did last season. Dan Williams had a down year, but he's still one of the more physically gifted nose tackles in the game. The offense isn't as settled, but what's impressive is the sheer number of NFL-caliber players they can throw at you: QB John Skelton, WR Andre Roberts, WR Michael Floyd, TE Rob Housler and RBs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. We have to reward that quantity, even if most of that group hasn't made a huge impact yet.
Considering the lack of production/experience for many of the team's younger players, combined with the fact that the team was mediocre a season ago, it would seem that the ranking of 17 seems reasonable.
The team has a lot of young players, but many of them still are unproven. Give the team another year and Arizona could find themselves higher. But for now? 17 looks about right.
Would you put their young talent any higher or not?
Keep up with Cardinals news and opinions when you are not on the site. Follow Revenge of the Birds on Twitter at @revengeofbirds and "like" us on Facebook. You can follow me individually at @senorjessroot.