NFL Age Rankings For Week 1 Starters

Warren Little

A team-by-team look at the average age of the 22 starters on kickoff weekend 2013, with splits by offense and defense as well as extra data on rookie starters and draft pedigree by team.

On Friday, the NFL released the average age of the 53-man roster of every NFL team on kickoff weekend 2013. The NFL did not provide any breakdown beyond that one figure for all 53 players.

As we reviewed the data, it quickly became apparent that while the 53-man figure was interesting, it did not provide a great deal of insight into the individual rosters beyond a very general statement on how one team looked to be younger or older than the other.

To remedy that, at least partly, I went through the Week 1 rosters and calculated the average ages for starters, as well as some other breakdowns you'll find further below. But before we go there, it's important to understand that the data is based on the 22 starters per team who took the first snap on opening weekend. The data does not account for projected starters or odd starting formations. Some cases in point:

  • It's widely expected that 36-year-old Brian Waters will become the starting guard for the Dallas Cowboys at some point in the coming weeks. But since Waters didn't start on opening weekend against the Giants, Mackenzie Bernadeau (age 27) was used for the calculation.
  • The New York Giants defense, after Eli Manning threw a pick on the first play of the game, started in a nickel formation with five defensive backs on its own 15-yard line. As a result, slot corner Terrell Thomas (28) got the start in place of MLB Dan Connor (27).
  • Denver's 35-year-old Champ Bailey, the presumptive starter at cornerback, sat out Week 1 with a foot injury (and may miss more games). Tony Carter (27) got the start in Bailey's place.

These are by no means the only examples of where the presumptive starter didn't start, and you'll probably find a situation similar to one of those described above on almost all teams. The point here is that players widely considered as starters don't always start.

With that out of the way, the chart below shows the age rankings for starters in Week 1, based on the player age (in years) as listed on Pro-Football-Reference.com. In addition to the average age of the 22 starters, the table lists

- the average age of the starting offenses and defenses
- the average NFL experience (in years since joining the league) of the 22 starters on a team
- the number of rookie starters
- the number of starters aged 30 or over
- the number of "own picks", i.e. the number of starters on the team that were originally drafted by that team
- the number of starters who entered the league (with any team) as an undrafted free agent
- the number of starters that were first-round picks (with this or any other team)
- the number of starters that were second-round picks (with this or any other team)

NFL Age Rankings For Week 1 Starters (click on column headers to sort)

Team Average Age
Avg. NFL experience in years
Rookie Starters
No. of Players >= 30 years Draft status
All Starters
Offense Defense Own Draft Pick UDFA 1st Rd pick 2nd rd Pick
TB 25.9 26.8 24.9 3.2 2 3 13 3 8 3
SEA 26.0 26.4 25.6 3.6 1 1 15 1 3 5
BUF 26.0 26.1 26.0 3.4 3 2 16 1 7 4
CLE 26.2 26.5 25.8 2.9 - -
2 14 3 6 6
STL 26.2 26.7 25.6 3.6 2 3 13 2 7 5
NYJ 26.5 26.5 26.5 3.6 3 4 13 4 8 4
CIN 26.7 25.6 27.7 3.9 1 4 16 4 8 3
GB 26.7 25.9 27.5 4.1 2 4 16 5 6 3
JAC 26.7 26.6 26.7 4.1 3 2 10 4 5 6
MIA 26.7 25.5 27.8 3.5 1 6 14 5 3 2
MIN 26.8 26.5 27.0 4.0 1 5 16 1 6 5
DEN 26.9 28.0 25.7 4.1 - -
4 11 5 6 4
TEN 26.9 27.6 26.1 4.1 1 3 14 4 6 5
DAL 27.0 26.5 27.4 4.4 2 5 12 4 5 3
KC 27.0 26.7 27.2 4.3 1 2 14 3 9 6
DET 27.0 27.5 26.5 4.3 3 3 12 3 7 8
WAS 27.2 27.0 27.4 4.7 2 4 9 4 5 5
HOU 27.3 28.4 26.2 4.4 1 6 15 1 8 2
NYG 27.5 27.0 28.0 4.6 1 8 13 4 7 5
SD 27.5 28.5 26.5 4.9 1 7 12 3 5 4
CAR 27.6 28.1 27.1 5.2 1 6 14 4 8 2
ATL 27.7 27.9 27.5 4.8 1 6 18 - -
9 5
PIT 27.7 25.7 29.6 5.0 - -
6 18 4 6 4
NE 27.7 27.8 27.6 4.7 1 6 11 8 7 2
OAK 27.7 26.9 28.5 5.0 - -
6 6 8 3 5
PHI 27.7 28.4 27.1 5.0 1 7 12 2 3 7
IND 27.8 26.9 28.7 4.9 - -
4 7 1 7 1
BAL 27.9 27.0 28.7 5.2 1 7 12 4 7 4
NO 28.1 29.0 27.2 5.0 1 8 10 5 7 4
CHI 28.1 27.5 28.7 5.5 2 8 10 1 4 6
SF 28.2 28.1 28.3 5.7 1 6 14 1 11 2
ARI 28.5 28.7 28.3 5.4 - -
8 11 3 7 3

Topline observations:

  • The Cardinals have the oldest starters in the league, closely followed by the 49ers. On average, every one of their starters is two full years older than each starter for Tampa Bay and Seattle, the youngest teams in the league.
  • Pittsburgh's greybeard defensive starters, with an average age of 29.5, are almost a year older than the next oldest defense, and almost five years older than the league's youngest defense in Tampa Bay.
  • Four teams had three rookies each starting on opening weekend, while six teams didn't start any rookies at all.
  • Age only really becomes an issue when it starts catching up with an athlete's body. For most positions in the NFL, that happens around the age of 30. Four teams, the Giants, Bears, Saints, and Cardinals have a staggering eight players 30 years or older. By contrast, the Seahawks have only one starter, left guard Paul McQuistan, who is 30.
  • Atlanta and Pittsburgh both have 18 starters on their roster that they drafted themselves, the highest value in the league and an endorsement of their drafting acumen. At the bottom of the table, only six of the Raiders' 22 starters were drafted by the Raiders themselves.
  • You always hope that you can find a Tony Romo or a Miles Austin among the ranks of players who entered the league as undrafted free agents. Sometimes you're successful, often you're not. The Raiders and Patriots both have eight UDFAs among their 22 starters. And as much as you like an underdog story, those numbers are probably a little too high for comfort. Even the Cowboys have only four UDFA starters: In addition to Romo and Austin, safety Barry Church and guard Ronald Leary joined the team as UDFAs. The Falcons do not have single starter who was a UDFA.
  • The 49ers lead the league in terms of former first-round picks with 11. But not all of them were drafted by the 49ers. S Donte Whitner (28), DE Justin Smith (34), CB Nnamdi Asomugha (32) and CB Carlos Rogers (32) were all drafted by other teams before eventually making their way to San Francisco. Four teams only have three former first-round picks among their starters, among them the Eagles, who need former Falcons first-round pick Michael Vick to make it to three.

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