Fact or Fiction: No Country For Old Men
A prevailing theory in the NFL is that a 30-year-old running back is on the downside of his career. Thus leading to many fantasy football players looking to avoid aging ball carriers come draft time. But it’s not just running backs who fall victim to Father Time when they hit their thirties. Although often overlooked, the same rule also should be applied to the wide receiver position.
A wide receiver’s fantasy football window appears to be just about closed come their 30th birthday. Just like the running back position, the wide receivers bodies start to slow as well as their fantasy production when the players enter their thirties. A quick look at the 2015 season seems to support this theory.
At the completion of the 2015 season, 83 of the top 100 fantasy scoring wide receivers were born after 1986, making them younger than 30. Of the 17 pass catchers that were at least 30 years of age in 2015, just five of them finished the season ranked inside the top 40 at the wide receiver position.
For example, in Calvin Johnson’s case, despite finishing as the 9th best fantasy wide receiver in 2015, his production dropped off in his first year as a thirty something. In 2014, when the pass catcher was 29, he averaged 11.98 fantasy points per game played in standard scoring leagues. After his 30th birthday, Johnson averaged just 10.83 fantasy points per game played in 2015. While that doesn’t seem like a huge drop in production, it is a nine percent fall off from the year before. If Johnson was able to just maintain his average fantasy points per game from 2014, he would have finished as the 7th best scoring fantasy wide receiver last year instead of the 9th.
|30 Year Old Wide Receivers in 2015|
The 30-year-old wide receiver theory also applies to more than just the 2015 season. If you take the top 12 fantasy scoring wide receivers from last season and average their fantasy scoring numbers, the top 12 wide outs in 2015 averaged 99 catches, 1,378 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Using these numbers as the base line, there are just 20 such single season performances in the history of the NFL that match this criteria.
At this age range of 26-28, the players have had a chance to go through the three-year growth that is standard for wide receivers in the NFL. A great example of this maturation process for pass catchers would be the Texans DeAndre Hopkins. Entering the 2015 season the pass catcher was the 13th wide receiver being taken in fantasy drafts yet he finished 2015 as the 6th best scoring wide out as his game showed major growth in his third year in the league.
All the while the 26-28 year old wide receivers bodies have not yet gotten beaten up to the point that their physical attributes start to wear. So for the 2016 season guys like Antonio Brown (28 years old) and Julio Jones (27 years old) will look to be able to hold on to their top fantasy wide receiver spots, while it is tough to imagine guys like Eric Decker (29) and Larry Fitzgerald (33) being able to produce at the level in which they did in 2015.[the_ad id=”61410″]For dynasty or MFL players the 30-year-old wide receiver theory is especially important. While Antonio Brown likely will be the top fantasy player in 2016, he is at the later part of his ability to stay atop of the mountain and likely will see a decline in his play in the very near future. So instead of selecting Brown in these types of leagues, you would want to target younger wide receivers that still have a longer window of opportunity to play in their primes, a guy like the Giants Odell Beckham for example.
Regardless of the type of fantasy league that you participate in be very aware of the 30-year-old wide receiver rule. When it is your turn to select a player look to target pass catcher in the 26-28 year old period of time to get the most of their prime in 2016.