Why Patriots Rank Near Bottom Of ESPN’s NFL ‘Under-25 Talent’ List (Again)

Here are some understandable reasons

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It’s not that the New England Patriots roster doesn’t contain young players. It’s more of an issue of New England declining to field them.

Football Outsiders on behalf of ESPN ranked the Patriots 30th out of 32 NFL teams by their under-age-25 talent Friday. Why the Patriots rank so low is understandable. Firstly, they have just two players in this age cohort whom Football Outsiders considers to be “blue-chip” caliber: rookie quarterback Mac Jones and second-year offensive lineman Michael Onwenu.

“Mac Jones is the future of the Patriots and he’s just 22 years old; he’s clearly their most important young asset,” Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz wrote. “After Jones, the best young asset here is one of last year’s big surprises: 23-year-old offensive lineman Michael Onwenu. The sixth-round rookie played all across the line. Ranked at right tackle, his most common position, he comes out sixth in snaps per blown block. He’ll replace Joe Thuney at left guard this year.”

Secondly, “notable” players who have graduated out of the U-25 class since last season include budding stars Byron Cowart, Kyle Dugger, J.C. Jackson and Isaiah Wynn. That leaves just three established New England players Football Outsiders chose to highlight.

“Running back Damien Harris (age 24) is our No. 1 under-the-radar prospect this year,” Schatz continued. “… Jakobi Meyers (age 24) was the only qualified Patriots wide receiver to finish with above-average DVOA last season, and he could be their No. 1 receiver again this season despite the additions of players such as Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Jake Bailey, a 24-year-old punter, made the All-Pro team last season and was No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ punting metrics.”

The Patriots ranked 32nd on ESPN’s U-25-talent list in 2020 and 31st in 2019. Schatz acknowledges one central reason why the Patriots annually sit near the bottom of this list.

“The Patriots rank lower in under-25 talent in part because they tend to redshirt rookies, which means there are a lot of players floating around here who haven’t done much yet but still have potential,” Schatz concluded. “That includes past second-round picks such as 23-year-old cornerback Joejuan Williams and 22-year-old linebacker Josh Uche. This year’s second-round pick, 22-year-old defensive tackle Christian Barmore, could see the field more as a rookie. He projects as a strong inside pass-rushing force, although we’ve only seen it for one year as a starter at Alabama.”

Is the Patriots’ low rank a product of their system, the price of years of success or some combination of the two?

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