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Analyzing Joe Douglas’ consideration of age in NFL draft prospects

We’ve recently dug deep into New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ drafting tendencies when it comes to athleticism. Today we’ll analyze how much Douglas values another key factor in a draft prospect’s profile: age.

A prospect’s age is certainly something that teams take into account. If two prospects are similar in all areas except for the fact that Player A is 23 years old and Player B is 21 years old, the younger player is likely to garner more interest.

Player B owns the better long-term outlook, as he’s already equal to Player A in present-day talent even though he has two fewer years of experience. If Player B is just as talented as Player A today, imagine how good he could be in two years when he catches up to Player B’s current experience level.

Meanwhile, Player A failed to significantly out-shine Player B despite having a much bigger advantage over his collegiate competition, so questions will arise regarding whether he has the potential to reach a high ceiling in the NFL.

That’s a very broad example of why a draft prospect’s age is important to consider. Generally speaking, younger players tend to have more room for long-term growth.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Joe Douglas and the Jets valued age in their draft picks from 2020 to 2021.

Here is a look at the average age of each NFL team’s draft selections over the past two drafts (based on the player’s age on September 1 of his draft year):

TeamAvg Age
CLE21.47
DET21.88
LAC21.93
DEN21.95
KAN22.00
JAX22.05
ATL22.07
CAR22.11
BAL22.11
WAS22.11
CIN22.12
BUF22.13
NYJ22.16
DAL22.17
ARI22.23
NWE22.28
SFO22.31
PIT22.33
MIN22.35
TEN22.36
NYG22.38
LAR22.39
MIA22.39
HOU22.40
TAM22.43
IND22.44
GNB22.44
SEA22.45
LVR22.50
CHI22.50
PHI22.53
NOR22.70

The Jets’ draft picks under Douglas have combined for an average age of 22.16, ranking 13th-youngest out of 32 teams. It’s a mark that lies just a smidgen beneath the NFL average of 22.23.

It appears that Douglas has struck a steady balance when it comes to age. He doesn’t heavily favor either side of the spectrum.

Let’s break things down even further by analyzing the distribution of each team’s picks based on age. Here is a look at the percentage of each team’s draft picks that were spent on players of each age:

TeamAvg AgeAge 20Age 21Age 22Age 23Age 24Age 25
CLE21.470%60%33%7%0%0%
DET21.886%31%31%31%0%0%
LAC21.930%13%80%7%0%0%
DEN21.950%40%40%5%15%0%
KAN22.000%17%67%17%0%0%
JAX22.050%33%33%29%5%0%
ATL22.077%20%33%40%0%0%
CAR22.110%22%56%11%11%0%
BAL22.220%22%44%33%0%0%
WAS22.110%22%44%33%0%0%
CIN22.120%35%24%35%6%0%
BUF22.130%33%20%47%0%0%
NYJ22.160%16%53%32%0%0%
DAL22.176%22%22%50%0%0%
NFL Avg22.231%21%31%32%7%0%
ARI22.230%23%46%15%15%0%
NWE22.280%28%28%33%11%0%
SFO22.310%23%38%23%15%0%
PIT22.330%13%47%33%7%0%
MIN22.350%12%46%38%4%0%
TEN22.360%7%50%43%0%0%
NYG22.380%19%31%44%6%0%
LAR22.390%28%28%22%22%0%
MIA22.396%11%28%50%6%0%
HOU22.400%20%40%20%20%0%
TAM22.430%7%50%36%7%0%
IND22.440%13%50%19%19%0%
GNB22.440%17%28%50%6%0%
SEA22.450%18%27%45%9%0%
LVR22.500%14%36%36%14%0%
CHI22.500%14%43%29%7%7%
PHI22.530%5%47%37%11%0%
NOR22.700%10%20%60%10%0%

The most notable takeaway for the Jets is their tendency to draft 22-year-old players. Of Douglas’ 19 draft picks, 10 of them were 22 years old come September. That’s a 53% portion, ranking fourth-highest in the NFL behind the Chargers, Chiefs, and Panthers.

Douglas spent only three picks on 21-year-old players, a 16% portion, ranking 21st and falling below the league average of 21%. He spent six picks on 23-year-old prospects, making up 32% of his selections, which ranked 19th and equaled the league average.

We have yet to see Douglas select a prospect who lands on an extreme end of the age spectrum. The Jets are one of seven teams that did not draft a player aged 20, 24, or 25 over the past two years.

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New York has tended to focus on youth with its early picks while waiting for the later stages of the draft to begin considering older players.

Douglas’ three first-rounders combined for an average age of 21.67: Mekhi Becton (21), Zach Wilson (22), and Alijah Vera-Tucker (22).

In round two, Douglas has taken 21-year-old Elijah Moore and 22-year-old Denzel Mims (although Mims turned 23 in October).

Douglas has begun to lean toward older prospects beginning in the third round. His selections in rounds three through seven have had an average age of 22.36 compared to 21.60 for his picks in rounds one through two.

This is a normal trend around the NFL. The average age for Round 1-2 picks over the last two years was 21.71 while the average age of Round 3-7 picks was 22.40. So, Douglas still remained right around league average in both portions of the draft.

Of the Jets’ 14 post-round-two selections, just one was 21 years old (Jamien Sherwood). Seven were 22 years old and six were 23 years old. Both of their third-round picks in 2020 were 23 (Ashtyn Davis and Jabari Zuniga).

Now that we’ve got an idea of Joe Douglas’ drafting tendencies in regards to age, here is a look at the ages (on September 1, 2022) of some of the prospects who are most commonly linked to the Jets in the 2022 NFL draft:

  • NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu*: 20 (born 10-31-01)
  • USC WR Drake London: 21 (born 7-24-01)
  • LSU CB Derek Stingley: 21 (born 6-20-01)
  • Florida CB Kaiir Elam: 21 (born 5-5-01)
  • Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis: 21 (born 4-3-01)
  • Alabama WR Jameson Williams: 21 (born 3-26-01)
  • Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton: 21 (born 3-16-01)
  • Georgia WR George Pickens: 21 (born 3-4-01)
  • Washington CB Trent McDuffie: 21 (born 2-28-01)
  • Georgia EDGE Travon Walker: 21 (born 12-18-00)
  • Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux: 21 (born 12-15-00)
  • Georgia LB Nakobe Dean: 21 (born 12-13-00)
  • Michigan S Daxton Hill: 21 (born 9-29-00)
  • Clemson CB Andrew Booth: 21 (born 9-28-00)
  • Alabama OT Evan Neal: 21 (born 9-19-00)
  • Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore: 21 (born 9-10-00)
  • Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner: 22 (born 8-31-00)
  • Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson: 22 (born 8-9-00)
  • Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson: 22 (born 7-22-00)
  • Ohio State WR Chris Olave: 22 (born 6-27-00)
  • Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum: 22 (born 4-7-00)
  • Arkansas WR Treylon Burks: 22 (born 3-23-00)
  • Penn State WR Jahan Dotson: 22 (born 3-22-00)
  • Auburn CB Roger McCreary: 22 (born 2-10-00)
  • Georgia DT Jordan Davis: 22 (born 1-12-00)
  • Washington CB Kyler Gordon: 22 (born 12-17-99)
  • Wyoming LB Chad Muma: 23 (born 8-18-99)
  • Baylor CB Jalen Pitre: 23 (born 6-3-99)
  • North Dakota State WR Christian Watson: 23 (5-12-99)
  • Penn State S Jaquan Brisker: 23 (born 4-20-99)
  • Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson: 23 (born 1-7-99)
  • Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt: 24 (born 3-31-98)

*- Ekwonu’s birth year has not been officially confirmed. This is an estimation based on his number of years in college (3).

If Joe Douglas sticks to the tendencies we saw from him in the last two drafts, expect him to focus on 21 and 22-year-old prospects during the first two rounds before shifting his focus to 22 and 23-year-old prospects from the third round onward.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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Psi
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Psi

At these young ages (chronologically speaking), is it more about experience and snaps pre-NFL (particularly in college) than actual age? The kid that did not play as much during his college career but blossomed later likely has more room to grow despite his age. IOW, clearly more variables to consider than just basic age.

Jonathan Richter
Member
Jonathan Richter

I’m not sure the number of pre-pubescent years of experience is that important. People’s bodies change radically during puberty. Karlaftis starting football at 13 is not a big deal, compared to Fant who was almost an adult when he started.

I’d also be curious to see the breakdown between JDs 2 drafts. Things changed radically from 2020 to 2021, I’m wondering if draft age is included in that change?

JetOrange
Member
JetOrange

The question is, how far does a player drop in the draft because of their age evaluations ? Jermaine Johnson Fan, could he drop to ten ? I’m on board with Wyatt, Watson , Pitre, Brisker at 35. I guess I like old guys

hh11212
Member
hh11212

Great outlook. I hope he sticks to this board because most of the prospects I am most high on are the 21 and 22 year olds in this draft.