Eleven Old-Timers to Consider on Draft Day
In my twenty-plus years of playing this beautiful game, I have noticed that there’s ageism in fantasy football. We tend to fall in love with the bright young thing and forget about the grizzled vets that dependably churn out yardage year after year. But there’s a saying that applies here – a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. Or for TLC fans, don’t go chasing waterfalls; please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. They both mean the same thing (I think).
With that in mind, here are eleven players who are past their respective primes, but they seem to be going later than they should in early drafts. These picks aren’t sexy, but you may be thanking me in early October when you can plug one of these guys in for that high-upside middle round pick who has found a spot on your bench after a slow start. I’ll include their age and ADP in parenthesis.
Roddy White, Falcons (age 32, 5.09)
After five straight top 10 finishes, White battled injuries during the 2013 season to finish #52 in standard scoring formats. He’s over the hill, right? Not so fast. Once he finally gave his ankle some rest, he returned in Week 10 and averaged 6.1-73-0.38 over his final eight games, and 8.6-100-0.40 in his final five. If Julio Jones comes back strong, the defensive focus will turn to him, and White should benefit. But don’t be worried about targets – Matt Ryan will continue to throw Roddy's way with Tony Gonzalez out of the picture.
Marques Colston, Saints (age 31, 8.06)
After four straight top 20 seasons, Colston finished #27 in 2013. He got off to a decent start (#27 WR through the first four weeks) before a midseason swoon where he caught a combined six catches for 44 yards against the Bears, Patriots and Bills. Then, over the final 10 games (including the postseason), he averaged 6.1 catches for 76 yards and 0.50 TD, which equate to fringe WR1-type numbers. The 31 year-old should benefit from the loss of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, who saw a combined 143 targets last season. Health is a concern, but Colston has only missed four games in the last five seasons.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers (age 33, 10.12)
Re-signing Boldin was a smart move for the 49ers. Early in the season, Boldin carried the passing game at times but he actually increased his production upon Michael Crabtree’s return. Boldin averaged 4.7-66-.45 without Crabtree and 5.7-83-.43 with Crabtree, so the potential is there for another top 20 season. Boldin finished #15 in both standard and PPR formats in 2013. Removing Week 1 (his huge game against the Packers), he was still #19 and #20 in standard and PPR formats, respectively.
Greg Jennings, Vikings (age 30, 11.12)
Jennings dealt with some injuries in 2013 but he showed a nice rapport with Matt Cassel, averaging 5.9 catches for 70 yards and 0.57 TD with Cassel under center. Unfortunately Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman dragged the Vikings FP/Att into the bottom seven in the league. Assuming Cassel or promising rookie Teddy Bridgewater can offer better efficiency, Jennings should bounce back as most fantasy eyes are set squarely on Cordarrelle Patterson. For what it’s worth, Cassel’s FP/Att was 0.971, which was very close to the league average. Jennings is going in the 13th round even though he finished as the #39 WR in 2013.
Jerricho Cotchery, Panthers (age 32, 16.01)
Cotchery is entering his 11th season and is no spring chicken at 32 years-old (in June). But he has five top 35 seasons in his resume, including a #31 finish in 2013 as the WR3 for the Steelers. Now he lands in Carolina, and could take over the role vacated my Steve L Smith. Cotchery’s stock is so low that he may not even be drafted. But if he’s starting, he’s likely to be fantasy relevant.
Steve L Smith, Ravens (age 35, 16.01)
Smith will likely see the third- or fourth-most targets behind Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and perhaps Marlon Brown (or even Ray Rice, once he comes off his likely suspension). Gary Kubiak is in as OC, and his WR2s haven’t been all that productive over the years. While Kubiak was in Houston, Kevin Walter was the high-water mark, finishing #36 and #19 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Even though Brown had a solid rookie season, the Ravens did go out and sign Smith, so they’re likely to use him.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers (age 33, 16.01)
From 2010 to 2012, Floyd finished #36, #32 and #36 as the second or third option in San Diego. He returns from a neck injury at the age of 32 (turning 33 in September) and will compete with Vincent Brown to be the team’s WR2 opposite Keenan Allen. Brown flopped in a starting role (scoring just 0.06 FP per snap) last year, so the job is Floyd’s for the taking. If he’s starting and can stay healthy (a rather big “if”), he should be fantasy relevant once again in 2014.
Steven Jackson, Falcons (age 31, 7.12)
Jackson pulled his hamstring last season, which was just one of the many injuries that plagued the Falcons in 2013. However, his FP/touch of 0.607 was not far off his career average of 0.617 prior to arriving in Atlanta. So while he was on the field, Jackson was pretty much himself. He’s no longer a 1st/2nd round pick, but with his ADP down in the 6th/7th round or later, he’s shaping up to be a good value as the clear RB1 for the Falcons.
Pierre Thomas, Saints (age 29, 8.08)
I’m getting kind of tired of writing about how good of a value Thomas is in the middle/late rounds year in and year out. He caught 77 passes last season and Darren Sproles (71 catches) is now in Philadelphia. Thomas is likely to lose some carries to Mark Ingram and/or Khiry Robinson, but his role in the passing game is safe. He has finished in the top 33 in standard formats for three straight seasons and should be a quality RB2/RB3 (PPR/standard) once again in 2014.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Raiders (age 29, 8.10)
If MJD is able to hold off Darren McFadden (which seems likely given DMC’s performance the last couple of seasons), then he could be a good value in the middle rounds. His YPC (3.4) was dreadful in 2013, but it’s not like his backup (Jordan Todman, 3.4 YPC) did any better, so some of the blame can be put on the offensive line. Rashad Jennings backed up Jones-Drew for a few years in Jacksonville, and he averaged 4.5 YPC for the Raiders last year. There’s some upside here if Jones-Drew wins the job.
Fred Jackson, Bills (age 33, 10.01)
Jackson was the #11 RB last year and is currently going in the 8th-10th round in early drafts. Let that sink in for a minute. Is he likely to finish in the top 12 again? No, but as a part-time player in a run-heavy offense (who has four top 21 finishes in his last five seasons, by the way), he should probably be off the board by the end of the 7th round. C.J. Spiller is supposedly healthy again, which limits Jackson’s upside, but he’s been written off before and he has made us regret it.
Are there times when it’s appropriate to roll the dice on a player with breakout potential? Absolutely. But fantasy owners who have four or five high-risk wideouts (or a couple of high-risk running backs) may find themselves in early October staring at their roster only to find that they're without a single dependable starter.