The Old Men and the Fantasy Football
August 8, 2017 | Stefan Arnold
What if you played in a fantasy football league that didn’t allow you to use players in their first three seasons? Today’s drafts would be missing several top players, including Cardinals’ RB David Johnson, Cowboys’ RB Ezekiel Elliott and Chargers’ RB Melvin Gordon. Second-rounders that would be absent include Bears’ RB Jordan Howard, Saints’ WR Michael Thomas and Jags rookie RB Leonard Fournette.
Now go to the other extreme. If older players were eliminated from your drafts, you’d miss out on top quarterbacks such as the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Saints’ Drew Brees. If you take positional age into account, you’d discount the Saints’ Adrian Peterson at running back and the Chargers’ Antonio Gates at tight end.
Rookies and young stars are certainly exciting to draft but neglecting veterans just because of their age may give you a team that has potential but possibilities of broken promises. This year, what if you select the Saints’ Thomas and he struggles as the No. 1 receiver? If you draft Bengals’ RB Joe Mixon or Vikings’ runner Dalvin Cook later, you have two high draft picks who are uncertain to produce at ultra high levels.
Remember, the ages of the following players are already baked into their average draft positions. Decide on their value before the draft but make sure you don’t double-penalize them and miss out on their proven productivity.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Tom Terrific, Leader of the House of Brady and King of the Northeast, is the poster boy for older players who will have huge impacts on fantasy football this season. He just turned 40 years old but should be the second quarterback taken in your drafts after Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. With the addition of former Saints WR Brandin Cooks, Brady again will be surrounded by premier receiving threats. Coach Bill Belichick will use the game plan to put Brady in the best spots to succeed even if this season becomes more of a grind for the quarterback than in his younger days. Draft Value: As a third-round pick, you are paying a premium for the quarterback position. If you draft Brady, have WRs or RBs in mind who you think are undervalued and who you can target later in your draft. Age Risk (Injury, role, surrounding players): Low.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Often chosen as the third quarterback off the board, Brees is almost as safe as Brady to have a top-5 season. While the Saints sent top wide receiver Cooks to New England, Brees, 38, is surrounded by a very good offense. If Michael Thomas can take over as a true No. 1 receiver and Willie Snead continues to progress, Brees should come close to last season’s numbers of 5,208 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. ESPN’s Mike Clay projects Brees at 4,884 yards and 34 touchdowns. Draft Value: A fourth-round choice is better value than Brady for a superstar. I might choose Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Oakland’s David Carr, Seattle’s Russell Wilson or Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger a few rounds later. Age Risk: Low.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals: Palmer, 37, is the one older quarterback for which a third- or fourth-round draft pick is not necessary. Palmer is currently being selected in the 13th and 14th rounds. A fringe fantasy starter among others such as the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz, Palmer should have receiver John Brown back from illness and superstar running back Johnson dominating on the ground. Palmer is unique among Brees and Brady in that he will have another veteran that could impact Palmer’s own season by how well he plays: 33-year-old WR Larry Fitzgerald. Draft Value: Best draftable as a streaming quarterback, Palmer opens on the road against the Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts. After those two weeks, keep Palmer or go with another streamer. Age Risk: Medium
Frank Gore, RB, Colts: Gore is the elder statesman of the best running backs in the league. At 34, he has another season to prove critics wrong that his best days are behind him. But … the best days are behind him, as are most days for players his age. In 2016, Gore rushed for 1,025 yards and had four rushing touchdowns. In the past three seasons, Gore has totaled 14 rushing touchdowns, versus 25 the three years before that. Other complications may drive down Gore’s productivity, including the possibility that QB Andrew Luck may miss the start of the season. Rookie back Marlon Mack may take some carries from Gore but Gore’s biggest challenger for touchdowns may be Robert Turbin, who performed better at the goal line last season. Draft Value: As a seventh-round selection, I think Gore is overvalued. He is OK if he is your No. 3 or No. 4 running back, but I’d prefer Seattle’s Thomas Rawls or Detroit’s Theo Riddick a few rounds later. Age Risk: High
Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints: After missing virtually the entire 2016 season with a knee injury, Peterson was let go by the Vikings. Peterson, 32, will likely cede the workload to Mark Ingram, especially as the season goes on. Although he might approach double-digit carries in games, Peterson also will have little role in the passing game, where Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara should flourish. While Peterson may have an occasional big game, and even a good portion of the goalline carries, the high-scoring games will be difficult to predict. Draft Value: A high fifth-round choice at his current ADP from Fantasy Football Calculator, Peterson’s name recognition is driving his price. I think Ingram, currently a sixth-round choice, is the better pick. I’d select San Francisco 49ers’ Carlos Hyde a round before Peterson and Ingram or Seattle’s Eddie Lacy a round later. Age Risk: Medium
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland: After retiring from the Seahawks, Beastmode is back to play for his hometown team at 31 years old. Lynch was one of the best backs in the league during his best years but played in only seven games and averaged 3.8 yards a carry in 2015. The Raiders have two second-year backs in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard who are both promising. Lynch will neither be a workhorse or the passing-down back. ESPN’s Mike Clay projects Lynch for 221 carries but that’s only if Lynch can stay healthy. After a year off, will Lynch’s body be ready for more punishment? Lynch may start off hot with games against the New York Jets and Washington Redskins after opening with the Tennessee Titans, but as the season progresses, Lynch’s role and health may turn for the worse. Draft Value: A second-round value is OK if Lynch takes over the Raiders’ backfield for the entire year, but choosing third-rounders Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland) and Ty Montgomery (Green Bay) allows you to select from elite receivers in the second round. Age Risk: Medium
Jamaal Charles, RB, Denver: Charles moved on from Kansas City after playing in only eight games the past two season due to multiple ACL injuries. The Broncos brought him into camp to compete with C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker, who had four fumbles last season but showed promise. A game-changer when healthy, Charles, 30, must avoid the swelling in his knee that has brought his career nearly to the end. If Charles is healthy, his most-likely outcome is sharing carries in a muddied backfield. Charles will play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, so see how his knee responds after that. Draft Value: A late ninth-round pick, Charles is a boom-or-bust selection. Choose him in the round where you are comfortable with the risk of losing him for the season. Age Risk: High
Next week: Tight Ends and Wide Receivers