The Carolina Panthers were able to win their second consecutive NFC South division title last year in large part to their rookie class. The Panthers had five of their six draft picks play significant snaps, a group including Kelvin Benjamin, Kony Ealy, Trai Turner, Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere. Undrafted rookies Andrew Norwell, Philly Brown and Adraius Glanton were key contributors down the stretch.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that according to Spotrac, with the help of Ourlads’ depth charts, the Carolina Panthers have the third youngest starting lineup in the NFL with an average age of 25.8 years old. The Panthers are only .7 years behind the youngest team, the St. Louis Rams at an average age of 25.1 years old.
It certainly isn’t a guarantee that Cotchery and Harper will be in the starting lineup and could have tough competition this offseason for their starting spots. Rookie Devin Funchess or Jarrett Boykin could challenge Cotchery at wide receiver while Kurt Coleman or Robert Lester could replace Harper.
If either of these changes happen, their average age would drop and the Panthers could have the youngest starting lineup in the NFL at the start of the season.
The Panthers have not been big spenders in free agency the past few season and the big reason for this is because they have been extremely successful in the draft and signing undrafted free agents. General manager Dave Gettleman has done a good job of finding players who can contribute right away, and this current group of rookies has that same kind of potential.
Of the five picks made last month at the NFL Draft, four of them should start or compete for a starting spot in 2015. Outside linebacker Shaq Thompson, wide receiver Devin Funchess and offensive tackle Daryl Williams all have good shots at winning starting jobs while Cameron Artis-Payne is expected to be a key contributor backing up Jonathan Stewart.