It is still a vexed question for me. I agree with you about Howlett and Stanton, but BJ and Jobe are still essential to keeping us competitive, even last year we relied on older harder players to keep us competitive enough to make us meaningful opposition.
I agree with you in principle, in fact my post above advocates for all out on playing younger players. But it is a question of how deep do we cut and who do we bring in and when, while not slaughtering them as uncompetitive players in an uncompetitive side. Here are some of the options in my opinion:
James Kelly - can we do without him yet? I suppose the time is coming, Kobe Mutch could come in here at some time.
Brendon Goddard - has been immense this year and we are not ready to give him a push yet IMO. Looking forward Ridley might be a go here, but not yet I don't think.
Josh Green - Begley might come in for him next week. Jake Long if we can get him on the senior list before the end of the season.
Tom Bellchambers - Leueny is probably the back up still - Sammy Draper will be ready for at least a taste by next year.
Jobe Watson - this is the most emotional one, still need his strength and possession getting ability, but losing his kicking is a problem and we don't know if it will come back before the end. Myers the only mature / strong replacement. Dylan Clarke maybe in a year or two. Jobe will leave a hole in our side and if we could have got Patrick Cripps in that draft, it would have been a major help, but we didn't.
Travis Colyer - could need a rest. Looking at the heat map on the AFL Ipad App, he looks like he has been playing back pocket and rotating in the mid-field with Bags, with Bags getting more possesion midfield and Trav more in the back pocket (perhaps there is a succession plan going on just quietly or the App is wrong).
Mark Baguley - if not Trav, do we have an adequate replacement yet? Might need to start experimenting if we haven't already. I think Trav is a good idea for nullifying the oppositions outside midfielder, but can he learn to operate in the tough confines of the back pocket?
James Stewart - he is coming along OK but there are good alternatives - Begley, Francis, Brown, Lav.
Michael Hartley - not old but Ambrose comes in when fit, although I like a Brown/Francis forward/back rotating combo too looking to the future.
All these things should be tried, but we can't do it all at once without compromising our competitiveness. So in answer to your question, while keeping Stanton, Howlett and Hocking in retrospect hasn't helped our list and may have taken a several games away from younger players, I don't think it was the end of the world. At worst it may have stopped us from picking up some late picks who may have been a chance, but in truth we could have used our zone picks to get another player or two, but we chose not to. I think we did a pretty decent job getting McGrath, Ridley, Begley, Mutch, Clarke, Draper, Stewart, Green, Dea, Kelly and McNiece into the side and none of them look like a write off yet and, other than bringing in McKenna in earlier, playing Langford in more games and maybe Mutch would have debuted (this is probably the only semi major consequence) ; I don't think any of the returning players have limited the younger players opportunities too much and I think our draft picks wouldn't have been much better, and it would have done harm to dishonour the 10 returning players by not giving them an opportunity.
Myers is a tricky one, especially with his contract extension, but I think we needed mature strong body depth at least for this year (if Jobe goes down for instance), if that was wise going into the future, only time will tell.