SWA 2022: Chiefs Both Young and Dominant


NFL Offseason – Youth was served in the NFL of 2022.

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs ended up 31st with a total snap-weighted age (SWA) of just 25.4. The only team younger than them? The playoff-contending Detroit Lions at 25.3. Four of the eight teams with SWA below 26.0 made the playoffs, including not just the Chiefs but also the New York Giants (25.5), Cincinnati Bengals (25.7) and Dallas Cowboys (25.9)?

And on the other side of the table? The oldest team in the league, shockingly, was not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 45-year-old Tom Brady at quarterback. They finished third overall, although first on offense. The oldest team in the league also wasn’t the Green Bay Packers with 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. They finished eighth. Instead, the oldest team in the league was the New Orleans Saints, who led the NFL with a snap-weighted age of 27.6, 0.27 ahead of the second-place Patriots. The Saints and Patriots were boosted in age by having the oldest and second-oldest defenses in the NFL, respectively. None of the six oldest teams in the league last season had a winning record, although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did make the playoffs at 8-9 and there were playoff teams in the SWA top 10 and close to it. (Buffalo was seventh, San Francisco ninth, Minnesota 10th, and Philadelphia 11th).

Usually, there is some correlation where the better teams come out with a higher SWA. For the last five years, the correlation of SWA and total DVOA was 0.26. However, for just 2022, the correlation of SWA and DVOA was negative at -0.15. For just offense, the correlation was -0.27.

2022 Snap-Weighted Age: By Unit

The following table shows SWA for the overall team (TOT), along with the unit breakdown for offense, defense, and special teams. Units are ranked from oldest to youngest.

The youngest teams in 2022 were very young, historically young in fact. The overall SWA for the entire league has dropped gradually over a decade before stabalizing at 26.4 during the last four years. But one result of the league as a whole getting younger is that the youngest teams in SWA are all recent. The Lions were the fourth-youngest team since 2006 and the Chiefs ranked seventh.

Lowest Total SWA, 2006-2022
Team Year SWA
CLE   2017   24.63
DAL   2018   25.25
CLE   2018   25.26
DET   2022   25.28
DET   2021   25.33
JAX   2020   25.39
KC   2022   25.39
JAX   2014   25.41
STL   2013   25.43
CAR   2010   25.44

The Pittsurgh Steelers offense (24.8 SWA) was also close to the youngest we’ve tracked. The 2014 Jaguars were the only offense any younger at 24.7, and the only other offenses below 25.0 were the 2017 Browns and 2021 Lions. The Steelers were at least a year younger than the NFL average at every offensive position, although they weren’t the youngest at any specific position.

If you’ve been following these snap-weighted age articles each year, you may remember that year-to-year correlation in SWA dropped dramatically in 2020 due in large part to COVID shuffling rosters (as well as veteran quarterbacks Tom Brady and Philip Rivers changing teams). Correlation for defense and special teams rebounded significantly in 2021, but not offense. Well, offensive SWA had a much stronger correlation from 2021 to 2022, with a lot less change for most teams. Here’s a look at the year-to-year correlation for each part of snap-weighted age, both last year and over the past five years:

Year-to-Year Correlation of SWA, 2018-2022
2021-2022 0.65 0.60 0.67 0.66
2018-2022 0.54 0.48 0.56 0.71

The Saints were the only team that saw their SWA go up by 1.0 from the year before. They ended up with Andy Dalton starting 14 games at quarterback, and he was 35. Left tackle was supposed to get younger with rookie Trevor Penning, but he got hurt so 31-year-old James Hurst was the starter. The rest of the offense was pretty much the same players as the year before, only a year older. On defense, Bradley Roby (30) replaced C.J. Gardner-Johnson (24 in 2021) as the nickelback. Safety got both younger and older with Marcus Maye (29) and Tyrann Mathieu (30) replacing Malcolm Jenkins (34) and Marcus Williams (25). In the front seven, as on offense, the Saints mostly ran the same players out there as the year before except they were a year older. The rookies who played a lot mostly replaced other young players. Wide reciever Chris Olave (22) played instead of Deonte Harty (25) and cornerback Alontae Taylor (24) played instead of Marshon Lattimore (26). The Saints had only drafted five players and those are the only two who really played.

Here’s a look at the units with the biggest change in SWA from 2021 to 2022:

Biggest Changes in SWA by Unit, 2022
Team 2021 SWA Rk 2022 SWA Rk Diff
LV OFF 25.5 30 27.0 10 +1.6
TEN OFF 28.4 2 27.0 11 -1.4
DEN OFF 26.1 23 27.4 6 +1.3
PHI OFF 25.4 31 26.6 15 +1.2
NYJ DEF 25.3 32 26.5 13 +1.2
ATL DEF 26.8 11 25.6 28 -1.2

The Raiders got much older in a few places on offense. At wide receiver, you had Davante Adams (30) and Mack Hollins (29) as the outside starters instead of Zay Jones (26) and Bryan Edwards (23), plus Hunter Renfrow was a year older. Right tackle Alex Leatherwood (22) washed out quickly and was replaced by veteran Jermaine Eluemunor (28).

The youth movement for the Titans came primarily on the offensive line, although it wasn’t all on purpose. Taylor Lewan (30) was injured while Rodger Saffold (33) and David Quessenberry (31) were gone. They were replaced by Dennis Daley (26), Aaron Brewer (25), and Nicholas Petit-Frere (23).

Denver’s offense got older not only because of the arrival of 34-year-old Russell Wilson at quarterback but because of the snaps given to older running backs (including Latavius Murray, 32 and Melvin Gordon, 29) and older tight ends (Eric Saubert, 28 and Eric Tomlinson, 30).

Philadelphia’s big changes included the return of guard Isaac Seumalo (29) playing instead of Jack Driscoll (24) as well as the small change of going from Jalen Reagor (22) to A.J. Brown (25). Most of the rest of the offense just stuck around and got a year older.

The New York Jets weren’t particularly old on defense in 2022, they just were no longer extremely young as they had been in 2021. They got a full year from safety Lamarcus Joyner (32) and more snaps from players such as Sheldon Rankins (29). Free agent addition D.J. Reed wasn’t very old at 26, but he was older than all the youngsters the Jets were putting at cornerback the year before.

For Atlanta, there was a lot of defensive turnover that led to a much younger unit in 2022. Safeties Erik Harris (31) and Duron Harmon (30) were replaced by Richie Grant (25) and Jaylinn Hawkins (25). On the defensive line, Tyeler Davison (29 in 2021) was out for the year and replaced by Abdullah Anderson (26). Linebacker got slightly younger by going from Deion Jones (27) and Foye Oluokun (26) to Rashaan Evans (27) and Mykal Walker (25).

Finally, a note about the New England Patriots. The Patriots had the biggest drop in special teams age from 2021 to 2022, going from 28.7 to 27.5. And yet, the Patriots still led the league in snap-weighted age on special teams for the fifth straight season! I would say this reliance on veterans is working out for them, except it isn’t, as the Patriots fell to dead last in special teams DVOA last year. Things should be different in 2023, as the Patriots became the first team to draft both a rookie kicker and a rookie punter in the same year since the 2000 Oakland Raiders.

2022 Snap-Weighted Age by Position

Not all teams are old in the same ways. Because offensive SWA is so affected by the offensive line, and defensive SWA tends to give teams with young secondaries an advantage, it can be useful to see where teams are young or old in particular.

The following table lists every team’s SWA in each positional group and is fully sortable. The colors trend from red (older) to blue (younger). Snaps listed are only offense or defense for all positions except special teams. The special teams number here differs from the special teams number above because on this table it only includes specialists (kicker, punter, and long snapper) instead of all special teams snaps by all players.

#SWA #Chiefs #Young #Dominant