NFL Network released their annual "All Under-25 Team" and the New England Patriots were shut out- and that okay. Over the past four years, only two players on the Patriots have ever made the team- tight end Rob Gronkowski and edge defender Chandler Jones- and the Patriots still went on to make the AFC Conference Championship game in each of those seasons.
There might be some concern over the Patriots not having a player on the list. It would imply that the team doesn't have elite young talent at the start of their careers. It would mean that the end of the Patriots era is coming to a close.
But that's not true. The Patriots are still an incredibly young team- they're just entering their prime.
Immediately after the season ended, I noted that the Patriots had the youngest snap-weighted roster of all the AFC playoff teams, including the second youngest defense in the entire conference. When you remove quarterbacks from the equation, the Patriots have the 9th youngest offense in the league- a good sign for the supporting cast.
When we look at the Patriots roster, it's immediately clear that there are no players under the age of 25 that would be considered at the top of the league. Rising sophomore and 22-year-old Malcom Brown has a chance to leave a major mark on the league next season, but there are few other players at that age with NFL experience.
Linemen Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Tre Jackson left a lot to be desired, although all three are 23 or younger and could make the list next season if they have good years. Outside of those three, running back James White probably has the most playing experience- which is not much at all.
But if we look at just the players that are currently under the age of 27 years old, who aren't eligible for the Under-25 team, we see the heart of the Patriots roster. Running back Dion Lewis. Offensive linemen Bryan Stork, Josh Kline, and Jonathan Cooper. Defensive backs Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and Malcolm Butler. Linebackers Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Shea McClellin, and Jonathan Freeny. Tight end Rob Gronkowski just turned 27.
That's a lot of talent for players just entering their prime.
Outside of quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski- two positions that are ageless- the Patriots don't rely heavily on players over the age of 30. Defensive linemen Alan Branch, Chris Long, and Rob Ninkovich are all 31 or older. Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is, too. The Patriots have invested in the youth at all of these positions and have contingency plans in place.
So when the Patriots are left off the All Under-25 Team, don't fret. The Patriots are still young and they're in their prime.