Sunday, August 11, 2013

We are 30, going on 65 (looking at NFL players who have received their unofficial AARP card, and how they may fare next season)

Today I found myself singing along to the classic "16 Going on 17" from "The Sound of Music" (please continue reading before judging, but truth be told, Julie Andrews is a bad-ass, and so is this musical).  Why you ask?  My daughter, who will be 4 in one month, has often been described as a kid who is '3 going on 13,' or something akin to that comparison.  She is one mature cookie for her age, and acts/talks/behaves at times like she is already a teenager.  I can always count on her to ask a question during a movie that is far beyond what my 4 -year old brain would have ever comprehended.  My favorite:  While watching "Tangled," she asked whether or not Rapunzel had ever gone to school.  Reason being: If she has truly been locked away in this tower for so long, who taught her how to read, as well as make candles, play guitar, paint, etc.?  Her reasoning then concluded that Mother Gothel (SPOILER ALERT:  She's not her real mother, and don't be mad, this movie has been out for awhile and they tell you that within 5 minutes of watching), despite being the villain of the movie, couldn't be all that bad since she must have done some nice things for Rapunzel.  When I was 4 and watching movies, such as my absolute favorite of the time, "GI Joe: The Movie," the questions I had running through my mind weren't so transcendent, but very literal:  Who is actually in charge of COBRA anyways?  Is it Cobra Commander (as his name would imply)?  Destro, who must have had to invest a fortune in feeding tubes due to the fact that the dude wore a complete head-helmet covered in metal (and as a result, probably had serious 'hanger' issues: Hanger of course being the love-child of hunger and anger).  Was it Serpentor?  The guy is literally dressed like a cobra, which shows some supreme loyalty to the mission and vision statement of Cobra Enterprises.  Or, as the movie would go on to show us, Cobra had actually made allies with a subterranean alien-like race of people, who ran an organization named Cobra-La, which was run by none other than Golobulus, a giant Centaur-like guy who was actually not a Centaur, but more like a Snake-taur, and was THE best G.I. Joe action figure of all time (seriously, check this bad boy out HERE!)  (In case you are wondering, that purple fella on the bottom of the 3-pack is the Nemesis Enforcer, ultimate 80's villain equipped with bat wings, spikes coming out of his elbows, supreme strength, and a complete disregard for basic fashion (who pairs red and purple?  Come on N.E.  The third guy in the pack is lame, so who cares).

Anyhow, if you would like further analysis of the greatest movie of my childhood, or would like to rank this movie against other childhood favorites such as the original animated "Transformers: The Movie" (how the hell did they get Orson Welles to say 5 words for this movie????) or the classic "GoBots: War of the Rock Lords," which happens to be the first movie I ever saw in the theaters, and was actually on tv last year for some un-Godly reason, and featured the vocal talents of both Telly Savalas and Margot Kidder, both of whom probably fired their agents within 10 minutes of the film's release), feel free to send me a message.

If you haven't already seen how all of this relates to fantasy football, then I guess I will spend some time explaining to you.  As many people know, the career of an athlete is not as long as that of us regular working folk (as detailed in this commercial which sadly reminded me back in the day that I would be working for a long time compared to these people), and the average duration of an NFL player's career is anywhere from 3-13 years (I decline to say the oft-cited '3.5 year' career length because of this little nugget I read).  Regardless, that's not very long.  And for anyone who has played fantasy football for awhile, the age of 30 is often considered the Doomsday Clock for many players (particularly running backs).  So as I turned 30 this past year, I found myself pondering several thoughts: Wow, if I were an NFL running back, I would be considered past my prime.  Wow, all these other athletes are way younger than me, so does cheering for them and keeping track of their performance make me even lamer than I may already be?  Wow, I must officially be old, I watched the 2012 VMA's awhile back and literally did not know who anybody was on camera for a solid 5 minutes.

So, who is on the fast track to fantasy anonymity?  Who is aging gracefully like a fine wine (honestly, who really has the patience for wine to age gracefully?  I am not very good at buying food-type products, only to look at them.  My wife has literally had to buy back-up snacks before we host a party for fear that I will inevitably eat all the snacks in the days leading up to the party).

Without further adieu (and tangential thoughts), let's do a run down position by position, starting with...

Quarterbacks-This is actually the one position of all offensive positions (aside from kicker) where you can have several productive years post-30.  Do you really think you won't draft Drew Brees (34 yrs old), Peyton Manning (37), Tom Brady (35) if given the opportunity?  And don't even go there with Brady having lost all of his targets from last year.  The dude is Tom Brady.  He helped Deion Branch win a Super Bowl MVP (yes, that Deion Branch, the one you may have seen playing sub-par professional football every year since he left the Patriots the first time).  He made David Givens, David Patten, Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell look better than they were.  If you seriously think he won't be that good because he lost Welker, or Gronk is a question mark, you are crazy.  Brady made Welker who he is right now, not vice versa.  Before his arrival in New England, Wes Welker was a modestly-known WR in Miami who had a decent number of receptions, and was perhaps more well known in fantasy leagues in which return yards are counted (as in the leagues I have done). 

Tony Romo (33), everyone's favorite whipping-boy for all that is wrong in the world, is high on my list of QBs for next season (and low on many others', which could make him a steal).  I think he is better than people realize, as I have explained in my previous post about QBs.

Eli Manning (32) is another decent option, and by the way, is a decent rapper as well.  Caution: This video may make you want to draft Eli higher than you should.  Be mindful and try not to fall in fantasy-love.

Carson Palmer (33) is an enigma, albeit one with more upside than other 30+ enigmas (Philip Rivers - What the hell happened last season?  Is he really this bad, or can he return to his old form?  Do you really want to take that gamble with him as your starter?  Matt Schaub - Way too inconsistent, too many TDs yielded to the Texans' ground game.  Michael Vick - Is he even the starter?  Ben Roethlisberger - usually decent and consistent, but won't wow you or win you games with his numbers, better as a bye-week replacement).  Carson Palmer quietly put up 4000+ yards passing with a pretty horrendous Oakland offense last season.  He now has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, which is always a plus.  Why else do I consider him above the others?  Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator for the Colts last season, and the Steelers before that, has a knack for offense and for working with quarterbacks.  I think Palmer will be decent next year, but more importantly, I think the bang-for-your-buck you get with him, based on where he is being drafted, is quite lucrative.

Jay Cutler turned 30 this year, and hosted an awesome birthday party in Chicago.  If you were seriously going to draft Jay Cutler as your starter, you should look into playing in leagues with very low entrance fees.

Running Backs
-Don't draft a running back who is over 30 years old anywhere before the 3rd/4th round.  Seriously, don't.  I tried to find one worth that early of a pick, and Steven Jackson (who I thought was 42) is only 29, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush are all 28, and that's about as old as I would go.

The only 30+ RBs that I would even WANT on my team, but would be drafted later on, include Frank Gore (yes, he has stayed relatively healthy and has been productive, but the 49ers have a bajillion RBs on roster to either split carries and keep Gore healthy and/or take his place should he get injured).  Gore is a good RB2/3.  Darren Sproles is also 30, and how can you not love his potential in a PPR league?  However, he also has Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas to share carries/catches with (if your league does return yards, Sproles is a solid RB2).  DeAngelo Williams is also 30, and I have been burned by him and Jonathan Stewart so many times, I can't fathom how you could confidently draft him.  He will definitely split carries, but not so much with J. Stewart but with Cam Newton.  Aside from that one year when Williams scored like 57 touchdowns, when else has he been consistent for fantasy play? 

Wide Receivers
-Andre Johnson is 31, and still very good.  However, he only averages 12 games per season, which can be frustrating when trying to fill the WR vacancy he leaves if/when he gets injured.  I would surely draft him if I have the choice, but there are better/younger options available.

Vincent Jackson is 30, but since he sat out practically an entire season in 2010, let's pretend he's 29.  Go draft him!

Roddy White is 31 and one of the most consistent WRs, even with Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez splitting targets.  Don't worry about drafting him.

Marques Colston (30) -  (same story as Andre Johnson and Roddy White).  Consistency, despite injuries (Colston has four straight seasons with at least 70 receptions/1000 yards/7 TDs).  Still a solid play every week.

Wes Welker (32) echoes my sentiments about Tom Brady above (minus the whole part about Brady helping him breakout).  He now has Peyton Manning to throw to him, which is a nice QB-transition, and I don' care how many other WRs are on this team, the guy is going to get balls thrown his way.

Reggie Wayne (34) is the most worrisome of the 30+ WRs I have mentioned so far.  Bruce Arians is gone, the new offensive scheme seems to be more West Coast in style (limiting deep plays for Wayne potentially), I'm not very high on the Colts either.  I think Wayne will still do well, but not at the numbers he had last season (I would say perhaps the average of his 2011 and 2012 numbers). 

Steve Smith (Carolina version) is 33.  I am very bullish on the Panthers this season, and Smith remains their main go-to WR (with Greg Olsen beginning to close that gap a bit).  Smith hasn't been scoring many TDs lately (averaging 4 over the past three years) but seems to catch 70-ish passes and put up 1000+ yards consistently.  Fun fact:  Steve Smith amassed 138 targets last season despite Carolina being such a run-heavy team.  I would rank Smith slightly higher than Wayne heading into next season.  Although Smith doesn't have the same average number of receptions over the past three years as Wayne (66 compared to 97), I think his team will be better.

Anquan Boldin (32) benefits from the loss of Michael Crabtree, but like Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne, his average touchdowns the past 3 seasons hovers around 4-5.  He also hasn't had more than 1000 yards receiving since 2009.  However, similar to Wayne and Smith, he is solidly putting up about 60+ receptions, near 1000 yards, but has the benefit of playing for the best of the three teams (Colts, Panthers, 49ers).  He is always a player who fights for tough yardage and someone you can enjoy rooting for, and his consistency is nice to have in a WR2.

Tight Ends
-Although former Bears tight end James Thornton was nicknamed RoboCop (for reasons I still do not know), I would have to make a case for that title to be transferred to Tony Gonzalez (37 years old!).  His average receptions/yards/TDs the past three seasons:  81/820/7.  Barring injury, I would not be surprised to see him put up similar numbers.

Surprisingly (at least to me) Jason Witten is 31.  Jason Witten also boasts rec/yds/Td 3-year averages of 94/994/5.  And he has never missed a game in his NFL career.  EVER.  He's solid.

Owen Daniels (30) has yet to ever fully live up to his potential.  It shines through in glimpses, but unfortunately, he is not consistent enough to draft as your starter (great bye-week fill-in or bench player though).  Positives:  Had 103 targets last season.  Negatives: Only caught 3 passes in the red-zone last year.  Yikes.

Antonio Gates is 33.  In case you cared.  But seriously, this guy used to be such a beast, and still has some value in the TD department.  He has averaged 8 TDs the past three seasons, but only 54 receptions and 700 yards.  I'm not as gonzo about TDs as a statistic to use when making draft decisions, thus why I am steering clear of Mr. Gates.

- This nicely sums up my thoughts on kickers.