The Cleveland Browns entered the 2018 season much like they did the 2017 campaign, as the youngest team in the NFL.
Browns had youngest, Raiders had oldest opening-day rosters:— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) September 13, 2018
1. Browns 25.19
2. Bengals 25.38
3. Vikings 25.47
4. Cowboys 25.51
5. Texans 25.55
5. Jaguars 25.55
1. Raiders 27.55
2. Patriots 26.83
3. Falcons 26.85
4. Cardinals 26.70
5. Panthers 26.72
They will not, however, be starting three 21-year-olds as they were a season ago. DeShone Kizer, David Njoku and Jabrill Peppers were among the youngest players in the league last year, and it showed. Denzel Ward is the only 21-year-old starter, although Antonio Callaway does see some snaps. The youth-infused Browns went winless, which didn’t come as a huge shock despite them having a few chances to win some games.
The Oakland Raiders are the league’s oldest team in 2018, and their team’s average age is more than two years higher than Cleveland’s at 27.55.
No team ranked youngest in the NFL has won the Super Bowl in the last 12 seasons, according to Football Outsiders’ Snap-Weighed Age rankings. But the Seattle Seahawks were the third-youngest team in the league in 2013, and they took home the Lombardi Trophy. They played that season with a roster age average of 25.9 years old. Green Bay’s 2010 championship team—11th youngest in the NFL—was the only other team during that span that won a title and also finished in the bottom half of the age standings.
Cleveland winning the Super Bowl after a winless season would be an all-time great story, but let’s be realistic, it’s probably not happening. These 2018 Browns are not the 2013 Seahawks, and that’s fine. Next season, though, they’ll still be hungry and one of the youngest teams in the league. Next season—as we say every season—or even the season after that, they could have a real shot at becoming a team that defies the norm.
There is no set path to building a championship roster, but it’s clear the younger the team, the steeper the climb to the top. The key to the Browns rebuild will be keeping the young players they have collected together in the coming seasons. As they grow together, their seasoning will make the goal of finally bringing Northeast Ohio a Super Bowl title a little more attainable.