1. New England Patriots
Truth be told, our statistical analysis last year said the Patriots had the best 25-and-under talent in 2011, but we went with our gut instead. Lesson learned. New England had 15 significant contributors last season who qualify this season as well, but we really need only to discuss the three who helped produce the No. 3 offensive DVOA in the league. If you can believe it, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are still only 23 years old. Whether we look at standard or advanced stats, Gronkowski had a record-setting season: He was the first tight end ever to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns, and also had the best receiving DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) for any tight end since 1991. To put the latter in perspective, the second-through-fourth-best tight end seasons were clustered at 357 or 358 DYAR; Gronkowski beat that by about 100 (459).
Of course, lest we forget Hernandez in New England's double-shot of matchup nightmares; he led all tight ends by breaking 21 tackles and he actually carried the ball 11 times in the team's final five games. Nate Solder (24) helped make huge tight end seasons possible by giving up only 2.5 blown-block sacks in his rookie year. With the retirement of Matt Light, Solder will switch from right tackle to left tackle, further increasing his value.
Finally, the Patriots added LB Dont'a Hightower (22) and DE Chandler Jones (22) in the draft, both of whom should contribute this season and in the future.
Times are good in New England.
Pretty much what was noticed in the updated depth chart thread.