A Dozen 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.
First, let’s look at how the players featured in last year’s edition fared in 2014:
|Name||Pos||Positional ADP Rank||GP||Actual Finish||Diff|
|Steve L Smith||WR||53||16||18||35|
The Positional ADP Rank is what spot each player was drafted in 2014. For example, Steve L Smith was the 53rd receiver taken in 12-team PPR drafts, per MyFantasyLeague’s ADP. He finished as the #18 WR, so he was the biggest Old Timers success story last season.
Malcom Floyd, Anquan Boldin and Fred Jackson drastically outplayed their respective ADPs last season. In fact, seven of the 11 featured players proved to be good values in 2014, and three more finished within seven spots of their ADP.
I included Games Played (GP) to illustrate where injuries impacted performance of these aging stars. Roddy White and Pierre Thomas would have outplayed their ADP had they stayed healthy, but durability is certainly more of a concern when players are on the wrong side of 30.
Below are twelve players who are past their respective primes and going later than they should in early drafts. You will see some of the same names as last season.
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, ADP and positional rank in parenthesis.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (age 32, 8th round ADP, WR41)
With a healthy Carson Palmer, Fitzgerald has averaged 5.2 catches for 65 yards and 0.55 TD over the past two seasons. That equates to high-end WR2 numbers in PPR formats. He was a bit better when we look at 2014-only: 5.3 catches for 81 yards and 0.33 TD. Even though he’s being drafted as a WR4, I’d love to have him as my WR3.
Roddy White, Falcons (age 33, 7th round ADP, WR32)
White finished as the #21 receiver in PPR formats, but is currently the 32nd receiver off the board in the 7th round. After eight straight 16-game seasons, White has been nicked up the last couple of seasons, but it didn’t affect his production too much in 2014. With Harry Douglas gone and no real weapons at the tight end position, White should continue to be targeted heavily by Matt Ryan.
Andre Johnson, Colts (age 34, 5th round ADP, WR23)
Johnson will start opposite T.Y. Hilton. It’s a big upgrade from a quality-of-quarterback standpoint, as he has never played with one as good as Andrew Luck. His targets are likely to take a hit, however. He averaged 9.7 T/G in 2014, while Hilton and Reggie Wayne led the Colts with 8.7 and 7.7 T/G, respectively. So this looks like a case of the targets dropping but the quality of those targets increasing. After finishing in the top 10 (in PPR) in five of his previous six seasons, Johnson finished #28 in 2014. He’s turning 34 this offseason, so it may be foolhardy to expect a huge bounce back season, but low-end WR2 numbers in PPR formats seem reasonable given the quality of the Colts’ offense.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers (age 34, 9th round ADP, WR43)
Welcome to my annual ritual of writing about how Boldin is shaping up to be a good draft day value. In 2012, he was drafted as the 39th receiver off the board and he finished 30th. In 2013, he was drafted 34th and finished 15th. Last year, he was drafted 45th and finished 19th. This year he’s going 43rd, and one of these seasons the naysayers will be right, but I’m going to keep betting on him until he fails me. Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson are both gone (158 total targets) and were replaced by Torrey Smith, who is not a high-volume receiver. Boldin should continue to serve as Colin Kaepernick’s safety blanket on the intermediate and underneath routes.
Steve L Smith, Ravens (age 36, 9th round ADP, WR44)
Last year, Smith was the #20 WR in standard formats and #18 in PPR, but he did most of his damage in the first six weeks of the season when he was #3 and #4, respectively. He was a fantasy WR4 the rest of the way, though he did have his moments. The Ravens can’t afford to put Smith out to pasture because they let Torrey Smith walk in free agency and the team’s receiver corps is severely lacking experience. Even though he’s very old for a wideout, Smith has upside due to the arrival of pass-happy OC Marc Trestman, who should ensure that his best receiver sees plenty of targets.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (age 32, 7th round ADP, WR31)
Jackson finished as the #33 receiver in PPR formats, so as the 31st receiver off the board, fantasy owners are not expecting much of a bounce back season despite the upgrade at quarterback (to Jameis Winston) and at offensive coordinator (Dirk Koetter). Jackson should still have some gas left in the tank.
Marques Colston, Saints (age 32, 11th round ADP, WR51)
With Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills gone, someone has to catch the ball in New Orleans, and Colston is likely to finish second or third in targets on the team after Brandin Cooks and possibly C.J. Spiller. Health is the biggest concern here, but as an 11th round pick, Colston isn’t going to cost you much on draft day.
Dwayne Bowe, Browns (age 30, 14th round ADP, WR60)
Bowe finished as the #57 WR in PPR formats in 2014, and is the 60th receiver off the board in early 2015 fantasy drafts. I’m not hugely optimistic about his chances of being a fantasy starter, but he should be relevant given the likelihood that he sees 100-plus targets.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers (age 33, 17th round ADP, WR70)
Stevie Johnson’s arrival may put a dent in Floyd’s targets (92 in 2014), but Johnson was brought in mainly to replace the departed Eddie Royal (91 targets), so Floyd should continue to post solid numbers. He was the 72nd receiver drafted last season and finished the season in the #40 spot. Don’t be surprised if he repeats those numbers, though due to his somewhat spotty big play tendencies, I’d rather use him in best ball formats than in standard leagues.
Justin Forsett (age 29, 3rd round ADP, RB12)
Forsett should see his PPR upside increase due to new OC Marc Trestman's tendency to use his running backs in the passing game. Under Trestman, Matt Forte caught 176 passes in the last two seasons, including 102 catches in 2014. Forsett caught 44 passes last season, and could potentially see that number double if he remains the RB1 for the Ravens in 2015. However, the loss of OC Gary Kubiak is likely to hurt the Ravens’ running game, though the team has said that it plans to keep many of Kubiak’s run concepts in place.
Frank Gore, Colts (age 32, 3rd round ADP, RB16)
Gore should be able to shore up the Colts’ running game, even at his advanced age. Dan Herron and Vick Ballard are in the mix, but Gore is better than advertised in the passing game. Gore averaged 51.0 receptions from 2006-2010, but as soon as Greg Roman took over as offensive coordinator in 2011, his targets dropped precipitously. Gore averaged just 28.3 targets over the past four seasons, while the Colts' running backs accounted for 113 targets last season, so look for Gore's value to jump significantly in PPR formats. Due to his age, Gore typically goes later than he should in fantasy drafts, but he hasn't missed a game in three seasons and should be reinvigorated by a change of scenery.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers (age 30, 12th round ADP, RB49)
Woodhead is signed through the 2016 season, so assuming he's fully healed, he should resume his role as the Chargers' passing down specialist. In 21 games with the Chargers (including the playoffs), Woodhead has averaged 11.0 touches (4.1 catches) for 58 yards and 0.43 touchdowns, which equate to #13 RB numbers in PPR formats (#21 in standard). He’s not likely to post those numbers with Melvin Gordon coming aboard, but he should continue to see a significant amount of touches as the team’s primary third-down and no-huddle back, making him an excellent value late in drafts.
Reggie Bush, 49ers (age 30, 11th round ADP, RB47)
Bush is expected to fill a third-down role since it looks like Carlos Hyde is ready to carry most of the rushing load, though Jim Tomsula's comments (about Bush being “a runner...not a gadget guy”) indicate that Bush's presence should be a concern for Hyde owners who were initially excited about the young back's opportunity with Frank Gore gone. The 49ers don't typically use their running backs in the passing game, though longtime OC Greg Roman is gone and new OC Geep Chryst may have a different plan in mind.
Fred Jackson, Bills (age 34, 16th round ADP, RB62)
Running backs coach Anthony Lynn said he’d like to cut Jackson’s snaps/workload in half, so barring an injury to LeSean McCoy, don’t expect F-Jax to rack up 14-plus touches per game like he did in 2014. However, even if we slice his PPG in half (to 6.7 per game in PPR formats) and extrapolate over a full, 16-game season, we end up with RB4-type numbers. He has upside from there if anything happens to LeSean McCoy.