Scott Kacsmar recently calculated the Snap-Weighted Age of the NFL’s 2017 rosters (SWA) over at Football Outsiders. It’s simple enough - what were the ages of the players that actually took snaps for a team last season and what do they look like compared to everyone else?
Before we look at where Tampa ranked, what does SWA mean, if anything? Kacsmar writes:
Of course, the “age-old question” is where should a team rank in SWA? In 2016, the seven oldest teams all failed to make the playoffs. In 2017, five of the top seven oldest teams made the playoffs, including both Super Bowl teams. It was the third year in a row where both Super Bowl teams were in the top 10 in SWA. In the previous nine seasons, only one matchup (2011 Giants-Patriots rematch) featured two teams in the top 10 for SWA.
There is consistently non-zero correlation between SWA and DVOA, but last year it was just 0.20 -- down from 0.38 in 2016 and 0.27 in 2015. Last season was a bit unique for big-name injuries that drastically changed a team’s performance. Things like the Packers getting younger at quarterback because Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, or the Cardinals getting older at running back because David Johnson was lost in Week 1, did not help those teams play better. In fact, the correlation between offensive DVOA and offensive SWA was down to 0.17, while defense was at -0.27. Those numbers are in line with the past two seasons, though still a departure from the period before that when the offensive number was usually around 0.30.
All that to mean the NFL is getting younger and younger, and while the correlation between SWA and how good you are is small, it’s still there. So, where does Tampa fall?
The Bucs’ total SWA was 26.5, good for 15th, or right about average, but the units are a tale of opposites. The defense’s SWA was 27.0 years old, which was good for 7th oldest. This is likely influenced heavily by Gerald McCoy and Brent Grimes. The offense’s SWA was 26.2, which ranked 27th! The Browns were the youngest team in the league on both offense and defense, averaging about 24.5. No wonder they went 0-16.
In fact, Football Outsiders breaks it down even further:
Tampa’s DBs - 8th oldest
DL - 3rd oldest
LB - 29th oldest
QB - 21st oldest
RB - 11th oldest
TE - 28th oldest
WR - 26th oldest
OL - 16th oldest
ST - 10th oldest
Some immediate takeaways - Can see why Jason Licht added a ton of talent to both the defensive lines and to the secondary this offseason. Jameis Winston going down for several games gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a lot of snaps, and Fitzpatrick turned 35 last season and will be 36 in November. Running back should get a lot younger in 2018, and the Bucs are looking at another year of a super-young group of skill talent on offense, even with Desean Jackson turning 31 last season and looking at 32. The offensive line was about average and added Ryan Jensen, who turns 26 today, on May 27th. Jensen is three years younger than Joe Hawley, who retired and adopted a rescue dog. Special teams could also use some youth. The Bucs look like they will once again be one of the NFL’s youngest offenses in 2018.