How Age Affects Player Production
By Staff Writer John Belaska
The body is the most important asset a football player owns. It is what teams are willing to pay them money for. Over the years, a player’s body will take a lot of abuse in the NFL. This comes from years of get hit and run ragged in practices. A player’s age can tell you a lot about what to expect from them during the course of the season. Therefore, it is very important for fantasy football owners to understand how a player’s age will affect how many fantasy points they will put up throughout a season.
When evaluating age, one must first take into consideration what type of fantasy league they play in. If one plays in a regular redraft style league format, then a player’s current age is really all that matters to them. However, if your league is a keeper league or dynasty league, age means everything. Keeper leagues are leagues that have an annual player draft and teams are allowed to keep a certain number of players from the prior year’s roster. Dynasty leagues are a bit different. In a dynasty league, a team retains its entire roster from year to year. These leagues have an annual draft in which only rookies are available to be picked up.
In keeper and dynasty leagues, owners typically will want most of their players to be young. This way they are able to keep them throughout their prime and trade them once they feel they have gotten too old. The reason you trade your older player in these leagues is because you want to get as much value for the player before they retire. Once the player retires he is of no use to anyone.
However, one must pay attention to the age of players in redraft leagues as well. This is because the age of the player can very much determine how they will produce in that year. There are three major stages of a player’s career: youth, prime, and twilight.
The youth stage is the most important for owners in keeper and dynasty leagues. These youthful players are player who are in their rookie season or not too far removed from it. These players have the most potential to be good over the longest period of time.
For fantasy owners in redraft leagues, rookies can be a very tempting option come draft day. This is because we have heard so much about them and their potential to contribute to their teams right away. Remember this is mostly hype. No one knows if a rookie is going to be able to contribute right away. There are some things that you should understand before selecting a rookie in a redraft league.
Rookie running backs are the most likely to be able to contribute to a team right away. This is because it does not take as long for a running back to learn the intricacies of the NFL play book. If a rookie running back has a great chance of becoming the starter in his first season, he is definitely worth taking a chance on in the draft. More than likely, he will not be a huge contributor early in the season. As time goes on and they get more comfortable with the speed of the game, they will be able to produce nicely after a while.
Tight ends are also worth picking up as rookies. This is because most of the tight ends coming in the league today are the prototypical basketball player style of tight ends. These are the tight ends fantasy owners crave. Fantasy owners light big tight ends with great hands. Most of the older tight ends in the league are more accustomed to blocking. Therefore, rookies have a great opportunity to contribute in the passing game.
Rookie quarterbacks and wide receivers should never be taken in redraft leagues. It takes way too long for them to learn the playbook and adjust to the speed of the game. It is best just to stay away from them. If a rookie wide receiver appears to be breaking out, you can probably pick him up on the waiver wire.
In keeper and dynasty leagues, drafting rookie wide receivers is the best option. This is, of course, if the top young running backs have already been selected. Do not waste your pick on a sixth round back. If a running back was not drafted in the first two rounds, more than likely he will never reach the field. Wide receivers, on the other hand, are always in high demand on NFL rosters.
Always keep in mind the NFL is a fast paced environment. Things do not change over long periods of time; they happen within instants. A player’s career is no different. One second they will be relatively unknown and the next day they are a superstar. When this happens it is known as a break out. Break out are what fantasy owners are looking for. They are the player that get drafted in the later rounds and end up producing huge numbers of points. This is why we draft sleepers. We are looking for players that have potential to have a breakout season.
Running backs typically will break out sooner than quarterbacks or wide receivers. If a running back is going to have a break out year, it will normally happen in his rookie year. As was mentioned earlier, it will not happen right away. However, by the latter half of the season, they will begin to play at a high level. Wide receiver and quarterbacks take time to develop. This is why drafting rookie wide receivers and quarterbacks is only suggested in keeper and dynasty league.
There is a specific year when wide receivers break out. This is the thee-year mark. Third year wide receivers are highly coveted by fantasy football owners. This is because there is a long track record of players having their break out year in their third year. They have had enough time to develop and learn the playbook. For one reason or another, it just seems like the third year in a wide receivers career is when they really turn it on.
Following a breakout season, the player begins the prime of his NFL career. This is where they are going to make most of their money. These players are your studs. They are normally between the ages of 25 and 29. These are the guys you want to target early because they have a proven track record of success and their bodies have not been worn down by years of physical abuse.
Then at some point in the life of an NFL player, it seems like they become a shadow of their former selves. The years and the hits start tallying up and they care no longer the player they once were. These are the players that should only be targeted in redraft leagues. Once this happens, it is time to start looking to trade them in keeper and dynasty formats.
This normally happens at age 30. At this time, a player has been around long enough to really endure so wear. Injuries will start to rack up over time. This is a natural part of the human body. An older person cannot do all the things they were able to when they were young. You will see throughout the course of the season; that players over the age of 30 will wear down later in the season.
They will start the season strong. Older players can be very helpful, especially in redraft leagues. If they have no record as an injury prone player, then there is absolutely no reason to avoid players in the twilight of their career. They will start the season stronger than the younger players because they have the best understanding of the playbook and the speed of the game. However, as the games pass their production will usually start to slip a bit. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. By the latter half of the season, younger players begin to emerge on the waiver wire and can be used to replace the older guys. If you started your season out strong and have a great shot at making it to the playoffs, then your guys who are past their prime have done their job and you can afford to take some chances.
A player’s age is just one of the many things to be aware of going into the season. By knowing their age and how it affects players at the same position you make a better estimate on how they will perform throughout the season. The affects of a player’s age is completely dependent on what type of league format you play in and how you structure your lineup. Remember, balance is everything in fantasy football. You definitely want the bulk of your players to be in the primes of their career, but eventually you will be forced to make a decision as to whether you want something new or something old. This decision should be made based on how your roster looks. If you believe you can fare very well at the beginning of the season, you make consider taking a young player and hope they breakout. However, if you do not believe you will start so strong, you have find yourself being forced to gamble on an older player and hoping they can fend off father time for just one more year.