The Detroit Lions are not afraid of young players. In fact, since the moment general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell took over the team last year, it was clear they were prioritizing getting younger. They shed the roster of some of its most veteran players, and we kept hearing the coaching staff utter phrases like, “You can’t be afraid to play young players.”
Getting moldable players who can fit the culture and have their promising entire careers ahead of them is a smart way to rebuild a roster, and now in Year 2 of the regime, the Lions are leading the charge in that effort. According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice, the Lions have the second-youngest roster in NFL with an average age of just 25.1 years old. They’re just behind the Cleveland Browns at 25.0 years old. Believe it or not, Kempski has the Lions as a bit younger than they were last year (25.2), and significantly younger than they were during the Matt Patricia era (26.1, 26.2, and 26.6 in 2020, 2019, and 2018, respectively). It’s worth noting, that Spotrac actually has the Lions as the youngest roster in the NFL.
It’s also worth noting that these findings were based on the team’s original 53-man roster. The Lions have already gotten a little older after cutting David Blough (27) and replacing him with Nate Sudfeld (28). They also cut Jermar Jefferson (22) from the roster and replaced him with Benito Jones (24).
Still, the overall point stands. The Lions are chock-full of youth. Of course, there are plenty of drawbacks to that, too. With fewer veterans, you’re likely to get more inconsistent play. Young players make more mental mistakes. Younger players also may never reach their full potential, either. And with so many players still just acclimating to the NFL level of play, it’s certainly possible they get overwhelmed by it all.
But this is the Lions banking on their coaching staff to get these players in NFL shape and reach the ceiling of potential.
We can already see the young nucleus of the team start to form. Whether it be the likes of Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill on the defensive front, Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez at the linebacker level, or Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams as the electric offensive weapons.
With all of those young players still on inexpensive rookie contracts, Detroit should be in a comfortable place financially for the next couple of years to make aggressive moves in free agency and complement these young players with talented veterans—when the time is right.