Talent and youth are among the priorities an NFL General Manager has when constructing a roster.
Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers have talent but an aging locker room.
The Los Angeles Chargers are plentiful in the youth department but are missing the top-end ability needed to compete for a title.
Then you have the Cleveland Browns, who seem to have struck a near perfect balance.
Taking the Kansas City Chiefs down to the wire on the road in the postseason proved that Cleveland has guys that can play.
As a bonus, courtesy of some marvelous work from Andrew Berry, that should remain the case for years to come.
Heading into 2021, Cleveland is tied with Indianapolis for the 8th youngest roster in the NFL.
According to rosters on all 32 team websites, the #Colts currently are tied for the eighth-youngest roster in the NFL, with an average age of 24.98.
— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) May 15, 2021
Easier Said Than Done
It is no easy task to put together a young roster that is also legitimately competing for a Super Bowl.
Most teams that are littered with guys in their early 20’s are in a rebuilding phase and just trying to find players who stick.
The Jets and Jaguars, both with top-ten youthful rosters, are prime examples.
There are exceptions, however, and the Browns are one of them.
Cleveland, the Los Angeles Rams, and Indianapolis were the only teams who made the playoffs last year while also entering this year with one of the ten youngest rosters.
For Cleveland, this groundwork was established a couple years ago with former GM John Dorsey.
"The totality of all that talent that Dorsey and the front office have in Cleveland, and most of that talent is under the age of 26. I don't think people understand."@criscarter80 lays out the Browns young and talented roster pic.twitter.com/Plp87pu2YK
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) March 18, 2019
Getting young talent is only part of the equation, however, as evident by that woeful 2019 season.
Young guys, even those with superstar-like ability, need to be led in the right direction.
Berry, Kevin Stefanski, and the entire organization are now helping do just that.
Draft Them Young
The best time for teams to build for the future is during the NFL Draft.
GM’s are constantly on the hunt for those franchise changing superstars, but not all of them.
Those who already have those players need complementary pieces.
For the Browns, drafting those on the younger end of the spectrum has been the plan.
Two of the team’s picks from this past draft, Greg Newsome II and Anthony Schwartz, can’t even legally buy their own beer yet being just 20 years old.
Jedrick Wills was also just a 20-year old when he was selected in the 2019 draft.
The youthful approach was evident in free agency as well.
Going into the summer, only seven guys on the team are 30 or older, with the elder statesman being backup quarterback Case Keenum.
There may not be an exact reason for why the Browns have this approach.
Each team has their own reasons for their roster construction, whether that be mutual connects, schematic fit, analytics or something else.
Pro Football Focus pointed this out in a 2019 article, saying the “middle class” of the NFL is a dying breed.
Teams are more attracted to a kid in their early 20’s with some untapped potential as opposed to the older veterans who have already reached their peak.
Of course, those savvy locker room veterans will always serve a purpose in the NFL.
That’s exactly why Keenum is on the roster to begin with.
The Browns have valued youth on their roster, however, and so far the current front office is executing that plan to near perfection.