In this year's playoffs, the Denver Broncos were knocked out of the playoffs by the Indianapolis Colts and the Colts were then knocked out of the playoffs by the New England Patriots. Both teams have work to do this offseason and in fact the Colts likely have more to do than Denver does, but the feeling in Indianapolis is different than the feeling in Denver. Sure, Colts fans were and are still upset about the embarrassing AFC Championship game loss, but the reason for the differences lies in the ages of two of the league's best quarterbacks.
The Broncos' Peyton Manning is 38-years old and it's uncertain whether he'll be returning for another season. The Colts' Andrew Luck? He's only 25-years old and the sky is the limit for him. The Broncos are left wondering whether they'll even get one Super Bowl ring with Manning under center while the Colts are still very confident they can get multiple with Luck under center. So yes, the Colts have work to do, but this illustrates a key part of the National Football League - the age of the talent the teams have. And for the Colts, they're one of the best young teams in the league.
ESPN's Matt Williamson recently released a ranking of the 32 NFL teams based on their talent 25-years old or younger (it's an Insider piece). Number one? The Indianapolis Colts. Let's take a look at what they had to say for several of the key young Colts that they highlighted. Williamson's comments are in the block quotes and then a short comment from me will follow.
Andrew Luck, QB (25): While J.J. Watt is the best football player in the league, there isn't a more valuable player on this list (or in the NFL) than Luck when you factor in positional value and his age. If you are starting a team from scratch today and have the first overall pick, you take Luck.
Yeah, Andrew Luck is awesome. We've already established that. The best young quarterback in the game and already establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the game period.
T.Y. Hilton, WR (25): He benefits from playing with Luck and won't ever be a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver due to his size, but he is a difference-maker with big-play ability. He's one of the league's best receivers at creating separation and is especially potent out of the slot.
Hilton has really emerged in the last season and a half, and he doesn't really need to be the "prototypical number one receiver" - I mean, Marvin Harrison wasn't either when considering size. But Hilton has been fantastic and has become Luck's favorite target.
Dwayne Allen, TE (24): Allen is young but is already a complete player. He can line up in the backfield as a lead blocker, help as a pass-blocker from the "Inline Y" position or flex away from the formation and be a threat in the passing game. He is a powerful runner after the catch and is especially effective near the goal line.
Allen had a bit of an up and down year in 2014 but he's a complete player who can help the Colts as both a receiving target and a blocking tight end. His versatility is his biggest strength and a big addition to the Colts' offense.
Jack Mewhort, G (23): A tackle in college, Mewhort did a very good job at guard for the Colts during his rookie season. The interior of this offensive line was a mess last season, but Mewhort has helped shore things up for the long term.
Jack Mewhort started at left guard this year and impressed. He still had some rookie struggles but overall looked to be a very solid piece along the line and likely one that will be a starter providing solid protection for Luck for a while.
Bjoern Werner, DE (24): Even without Robert Mathis on the field to draw away the offense's attention, Werner was able to provide consistent pressure off the edge. But he needs to develop more of an all-around game.
I only remember Werner being able to "provide consistent pressure off the edge" for a three game span this year, because other than that he was very disappointing. He was better in run defense than he was at pass rush, but it's clear he has to get better in a number of areas.
If we're just noting those players, that's fine. But guys like Trent Richardson and some of the others mentioned aren't players who resulted in the Colts being ranked number one on this list, I'm sure of that. Donte Moncrief, however? He has a lot of talent, and he's just 21-years old. There's a lot to like about him.
What should you make of all of this? It should give you hope. Because as we enter an offseason that will undoubtedly involve changes and a number of moves attempting to fill the holes the Colts roster has, you can look at the core of the team outlined in the ESPN piece (namely, Andrew Luck) and realize that the young talent on the team is great. According to ESPN, it's the best in the league.