13 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 of this article produced in 2015:
|Name||Pos||Positional ADP Rank||GP||Actual Finish||Diff|
|Steve L Smith||WR||44||7||52||-8|
All in all, it wasn’t a very good year for my featured old-timers, though the group was not without a couple of major success stories. Danny Woodhead (#3 RB in PPR formats) and Larry Fitzgerald (#9 WR) were season-changing picks, while Frank Gore finished higher than his draft position despite the loss of Andrew Luck and the corresponding drop in offensive production in Indianapolis. I’ll also count Steve L Smith, since I doubt too many owners regretted drafting him after the seven-game, 118-PPR-point scoring spree that he went on prior to tearing his Achilles. He was the #10 WR prior to his injury, so I'm sure he helped to win more than a few games before he went down.
There were various reasons for disappointing production from some of the other featured old-timers. Andre Johnson looked like a great fit on paper, but he didn’t thrive with the Colts and things only got worse when Luck went down. (It’s another cautionary tale about free agent receivers who aren’t getting a promotion.) Roddy White’s role in Atlanta was greatly diminished upon the arrival of OC Kyle Shanahan, who has a history of ignoring his WR2.
Injuries do come with age, and that certainly contributed to the disappointing seasons from Justin Forsett, Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson and Reggie Bush. Forsett was the #12 RB through the first 10 weeks, so his owners probably weren’t too put out by that pick, especially if they had some depth at the position.
Note: Old-timers from the 2014 season fared much better.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (age 33, WR28)
Fitzgerald finished as the #9 PPR receiver last year, but was #16 from Week 4 to Week 17, when Michael Floyd (hand injury) started to see his usual share of snaps. The grizzled vet is being drafted as a WR3, but has high-end WR2 upside in PPR formats.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (age 33, WR53)
Jackson struggled with a knee injury in 2015, but produced as a fringe fantasy WR2 (3.9-66-0.38) in the eight games that he was able to finish. Given the 33-year-old’s 10th/11th-round ADP, owners are already writing him off in early drafts. If his knee looks healthy this offseason then he'll be a nice value later on in the draft.
Steve L Smith, Ravens (age 37, WR49)
As I mentioned earlier, through eight weeks, Smith was the #10 WR in PPR formats before tearing his Achilles. He’s 37, and doesn’t plan to play in the preseason, though he expects to be ready for Week 1. He’s still the best receiver on the team when healthy, but that’s a big caveat at this point in his career.
Pierre Garcon, Redskins (age 30, WR69)
Garcon finished as the #31 WR in PPR formats and should continue to play starter's snaps for the Redskins. Rookie Josh Doctson is a threat to his targets and playing time, which is why Garcon is the 71st receiver off the board in early MFL10s. He appears to be a great value at that point in the draft, especially in PPR formats.
Stevie Johnson, Chargers (age 30, WR92)
In six games with Keenan Allen, Johnson played at a 64-755-5.3 pace, which equates to WR4 numbers in PPR formats. In three games without Allen, he played at a 112-1141-5.3 pace, so it looks like he still “has it.” Travis Benjamin joins the team, so it will be interesting to see who wins the starting job opposite Allen. Early drafters assume that it will be Benjamin, which is why Stevie is going so late. One thing’s for sure – if Allen goes down again, fantasy owners should have Johnson on speed dial.
Mike Wallace, Ravens (age 30, WR65)
Look, I’d be lying if I said I had a good handle on what’s going to happen in the Baltimore receiving corps. Smith, Sr. is coming off of an Achilles injury, Breshad Perriman has already had a knee scare, while Kamar Aiken continues to fly under the radar. Wallace finished #74 in PPR formats last season as it turned out that he wasn’t a good fit with Teddy Bridgewater’s deep ball inaccuracy. Joe Flacco can wing it, so his arm would seem to be a good match for Wallace’s deep speed. Prior to last year, Wallace had five straight top-25 finishes, though his age and his production in 2015 has scared most owners away. This is a camp battle to monitor this summer – if Wallace wins a starting job, then he’ll be firmly on the fantasy radar.
Matt Forte, Jets (age 30, RB13)
Forte may lose some touches to Bilal Powell and/or Khiry Robinson, though he expects to play an every-down role. If he's utilized regularly in the slot, he should be able to catch at least 50 passes, maybe more. Jets running backs caught a total of 90 balls last season under OC Chan Gailey, and Forte’s skillset fits the bill. In eight seasons, Forte has never finished outside the top 12 in PPR formats.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers (age 31, RB21)
Woodhead finished #12 in standard formats and #3 in PPR in 2015. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, who returns to the Chargers after coordinating the offense back in 2013. In that season, Woodhead averaged 9.3 FP (standard) and 13.8 FP (PPR) in 18 games, including the postseason. Those are solid RB2 (standard) and RB1 (PPR) numbers, respectively. Worries about the potential emergence of Melvin Gordon and his age have depressed Woodhead’s ADP, which is currently residing in the 5th round of early PPR drafts. But I’ll happily take him there as my RB2. He’s a fantastic target for owners who want to wait on value at the running back position. For more on Woodhead, click here.
Frank Gore, Colts (age 33, RB29)
Gore finished last season as the #11 RB in standard formats and #14 in PPR, yet he’s the 29th running back off the board. The Colts are going to get Andrew Luck back, so the entire offense should improve, giving Gore more goal line opportunities. Pairing Gore in the 6th/7th with intriguing rookie Josh Ferguson in the final rounds looks like a good strategy.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (age 29, RB28)
Stewart still has some soreness in his foot from the Super Bowl, so his ADP is lingering in the late 6th round. He had a stretch of eight-straight games with 20-plus carries, so he’s the team’s bell cow when healthy. Like Gore, Stewart has an intriguing backup in Cameron Artis-Payne who is basically free on draft day, so this is another good duo to target. With only 16 receptions, Stewart’s value is diminished in PPR leagues, but he’s still a good RB3 target in that format.
Rashad Jennings, Giants (age 31, RB41)
You wouldn’t know it by his ADP, but Jennings finished the season as the #22 RB in PPR formats. Then-OC Ben McAdoo abandoned his ponderous four-headed RB committee in the final month of the season and instead fed the ball to Jennings, who responded with 521 total yards and two touchdowns in the the final four games. It’s not often that a clear starting running back is available in the 8th round or later, and Jennings is going in the 10th. Shane Vereen will be limited to a passing down role, so Jennings’ only competition for carries should be rookie Paul Perkins.
Justin Forsett, Ravens (age 30, RB39)
Forsett's YPC (4.25) was better than Javorius Allen's (3.75), but the rookie showed good receiving chops, hauling in 45 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns. Allen was the #6 RB in standard formats (#3 in PPR) from Week 11 to Week 17, while Forsett was sidelined with a wrist injury. Forsett was #17 in standard and #12 in PPR through the first 10 weeks. According to HC John Harbaugh, the two will compete for touches in 2016, though the beat writers have been referring to Forsett as the “presumed starter”. Kenneth Dixon is a talented rookie who serves as the dark horse in this race. If Forsett wins the job, then RB2 numbers should follow.
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots (age 29, RB46)
Blount will probably be the "2" in a 1-2 punch with Dion Lewis. In the six games in which they both played, Lewis averaged 11.0 touches (5.3 rec) for 84 yards and 0.66 TD, which extrapolates to high-end RB1 numbers both PPR and standard formats. Meanwhile, Blount averaged 16.3 touches for 80 yards (4.74 YPC) and 1.0 TD in the six games that Lewis also played. Blount slipped down the stretch, averaging 13.4 carries for 51 yards (3.61 YPC) and 0.20 TD in his final five games with Lewis sidelined.