Fantasy Football: Ages of Decline for WRs, TEs
After a 2011 season in which he participated in only seven games and tied his career-low for touchdowns, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson exploded for 112 receptions and 1,598 yards in 2012. The breakout wasn’t really too surprising for one of the game’s elite receivers; Johnson had three prior 100-catch seasons and two years with at least 1,500 yards. We know that Johnson won’t be able to continue his dominance forever, but when will his decline strike?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve examined the age of decline for running backs andquarterbacks. I found that running backs enter the NFL at near peak efficiency, and it’s usually a gradual decline from there. Meanwhile, quarterbacks can play at a high level well into their 30s. Looking at the numbers, the career outlook for wide receivers falls somewhere between that for running backs and quarterbacks.
Like quarterbacks, wide receivers take some time to develop. As you might recall from earlier articles, there have been only six rookie wide receivers since 2000 to finish in the top 24 at their position. That’s pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that three of them – A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Torrey Smith – came in a single year.
On tight ends:
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to break down fantasy output for each position based on age. I think there are a lot of practical uses for age breakdowns, particularly in dynasty or keeper leagues. It’s much easier to understand a player’s three-year outlook if you know how similar players at the same age have performed in the past.
Today, it’s the tight ends’ turn. Below, I charted tight end production over the past decade-plus, sorted by age.
If that graph were a mountain, it would be difficult to climb on both ends. That’s because tight ends have historically had a smaller range of peak years than quarterbacks, receivers and even running backs. Tight ends take a long time to develop – the probability of a rookie tight end posting respectable fantasy numbers is almost zero – and they see a steep decline in their early-30s.
Historically, the typical tight end has produced only four seasons with at least 90 percent of his peak production. In that way, they’re very comparable to wide receivers, who also record only a few elite years. The difference is that wide receivers sustain a decent level of play for a much longer time than tight ends.
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