Ever the Ageist (2018 Edition): Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Last season I decided to tackle this same topic in an attempt to forewarn the casual dynasty owner of aging or workload impacted players before it was too late. So let’s recap the players I reviewed last year and their 2017 fantasy finish per FantasyPros (PPR):

AARP Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald WR4


Brandon Marshall (IR) & Victor Cruz were listed as qualifiers (just saying)

Cliff Diver Wide Receivers

Mike Wallace WR38

Julian Edelman (IR)

Jordy Nelson WR46

Pierre Garcon (IR), DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker & Emmanuel Sanders (injured) were listed as qualifiers

AARP Tight Ends

Antonio Gates TE28

Jason Witten (retired) TE9

Vernon Davis & Zach Miller (IR) listed as qualifiers

Cliff Diver Tight Ends

Delanie Walker TE4

Greg Olsen (injured), Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett (retired?) were listed as qualifiers

The above list is littered with injury and fantasy disappointment, save for a select few ( Fitzgerald and Walker). I ended last years article with the following statement:

You have been warned. Father Time is undefeated in the NFL and the Fantasy Grim Reaper will claim some souls this season. Best be prepared!”

Let’s try this again

I will be targeting wide receiver and tight ends who are approaching or currently standing on the edge of the value cliff that you should consider unloading before the inevitable fall. In case you missed it I took a look at running backs yesterday. We need to treat our dynasty team as a business devoid of emotion and make decisions in the best interest of our fantasy franchises and move forward.

I used Pro Football Reference to determine the peak performance window for each position with a slight tweak on their designation of “old” using 30 years old as the universal line of demarcation across all skill positions discussed to identify my AARP players.

Wide Receivers

Peak Performance = 24 to 26-year-old seasons

Cliff Diver criteria = 29-year-old season

AARP WRs – A NFL wide receiver’s peak age is very similar to the running back position but with one notable difference: The decline is typically more gradual which can push viable fantasy WR production well past a player’s age 30 season. We have watched players like Larry Fitzgerald remain productive well into their mid 30’s. I attribute this to the less physical nature of the WR position when compared to the RB position, and the nuances of route running that allow a technician to become a reliable chain mover later in their career.

Jordy Nelson (33-year-old season)

Jordy Nelson quickly graduated from Cliff Diver to AARP recipient in 2018. We saw Nelson’s body begin to break down on him last year and the Packers wisely moved on from a depreciating asset. You know who likes acquiring aging assets? The Raiders, and I don’t suggest that you follow their roster construction model for dynasty purposes. I strongly suggested selling Nelson last year and now you’re likely stuck with him. If by some chance he comes out of the gate hot in Oaktown S-E-L-L!

Pierre Garcon (32-year-old-season)

An injury restricted Garcon to 8 games last season but he was still on pace for 1,000 yards, albeit with zero touchdowns to his credit. The caveat is that all of that production came before the 49ers swindled the Patriots in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, which will forever be known as THE HEIST. I can envision a 75/900/5 season from Garcon in 2018 but that is his absolute ceiling in this offense. Spotrac POTENTIAL OUT: 2019, 2 YR, $22,750,000; $7,200,000 DEAD CAP

Other AARP Qualifiers – Danny Amendola (33-year-old season), DeSean Jackson (32-year-old-season) and Ted Ginn (33-year-old-season)

Cliff Divers – As stated above, the decline is typically more gradual for the WR position so identifying the players reaching their precipice is slightly more difficult. The WR position continues to get deeper every season with the league adopting a pass-happy approach.

Michael Crabtree (31-year-old season)

Spotracsigned a 3 year, $21,000,000 contract with the Baltimore Ravens, including a $7,000,000 signing bonus, $13,000,000 guaranteed in 2018. POTENTIAL OUT: 2019, 1 YR, $8,000,000; $4,666,668 DEAD CAP

Crabtree evolved into a reliable touchdown producer during his time in Oakland (25 in 3 yrs in OAK vs 26 in 6 yrs in SF). Did Derek Carr follow him to Baltimore this offseason? Didn’t think so.  Crabtree has Average Joe Flacco throwing him the ball (for now) now. Yes, that’s a clear downgrade. Throw in John Brown, Willie Snead, Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews as new pass catchers in Baltimore and I don’t want any part of the Ravens offense this year. Best case Crabtree is a low end WR2 in 2018. Be a savvy dynasty owner and SELL Crabtree on past value.

Emmanuel Sanders (31-year-old season)

Spotrac POTENTIAL OUT: 2019, 3 YR, $28,350,000; $2,687,500 DEAD CAP

Manny Sanders was a key Free Agent signing for the Broncos back in 2014. He strung together three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons before an injury and poor QB play derailed him in 2017. His yardage and touchdowns have decreased across each of his four years in Denver. I think the writing is on the wall for Sanders in what will likely be his last season in the Mile High city. Best Case (pun intended): The Broncos offense and Sanders get off to a hot start and you can flip him for a 2019 draft pick or comparable ascending talent. Worst Case (again intended): 2018 season is groundhog day for Sanders and he finds himself on the NFL and dynasty scrap heap in 2019.  NOTE: I recently moved him for pick 28 overall and intend to target Antonio Callaway or DaeSean Hamilton with that pick.

Demaryius Thomas (31-year-old season)

SpotracPOTENTIAL OUT: 2019, 4 YR, $56,000,000; $2,200,000 DEAD CAP

Long gone are the consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns (2012-14). 2017 saw Thomas fail to crack the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in 6 seasons. Bad QB play or player decline? Does it have to be one or the other because arguments can be made that it was a bit of both. Denver commited a good portion of their early draft capital the last two years to the wide receiver position (Carlos Henderson, Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton).

We could see a WR purge come 2019 with both Thomas and the aforementioned Sanders being shown the door. From a cap perspective, it’s actually easier to cut Thomas then Sanders. I believe that Thomas can still win in the short to intermediate game which should allow him to hold value for a few more seasons. I would be extremely interested in taking the temperature of my league mates before he reaches said cliff.

Other Cliff Dive Qualifiers – Dez Bryant (30-year-old-season), Doug Baldwin (30-year-old-season) and Golden Tate (30-year-old-season)

Tight Ends

Peak Performance = 25 to 28-year-old seasons

Cliff Diver criteria > 29-year-old season

AARP TEs – The tight end position has experienced quite a revolution over the last decade with the advent of the move tight end role. These players were once thought of as oversized wide receivers who couldn’t really live on the boundary due to a general lack of burst and explosion compared to the defensive backs responsible for covering them. Common sense prevailed, and these players were moved inside the hashes so linebackers and safeties would have to deal with them. This has led to the emergence of the Zach Ertz and Evan Engram’s of the world who do not profile as complete tight ends but present as matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. But enough about them let’s talk about some old war horses.

Delanie Walker (34-year-old season)

SpotracPOTENTIAL OUT: 2018, 2 YR, $11,484,375; $1,333,334 DEAD CAP; UFA 2019

Walker was a Cliff Diver for me last year and while he continued to produce TE1 totals for fantasy it was largely on the strength of target volume and positional scarcity. I foresee a bit of a TE renaissance in the NFL with a number of young guns poised to take the next step in 2018. It’s all but certain that 2018 will be Walker’s last year in Tennessee so if you didn’t move him last year it’s probably best to stay aboard the Walker Wagon for one more (likely) TE1 season. Jonnu Smith is coming though!

Greg Olsen (33-year-old season)

SpotracSigned a 2 year, $17.1 million contract extension with Carolina in 2018.

A Cliff Dive qualifier last year Olsen was befell by injury in 2017 and failed to suit up for all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season back in 2007.  The Panthers did dynasty owners a huge favor and gave him a nice fat extension after he flirted with the broadcast booth like fellow longtime TE Jason Witten. I say that you use this extension as an opportunity to flip Olsen to another TE needy team under the guise of he’s still got a few years left to be Cam’s #1 target. I would beg to differ. Another year of Christian McCaffrey and the inclusion 2018 first round pick D.J. Moore provides Cam with better weapons than he’s had at any point in the Newton-Olsen era. Olsen owners need to get them some Ian Thomas insurance!

Other AARP Qualifiers – Ben Watson (38-year-old-season) & Vernon Davis (34-year-old-season)

Cliff Divers – Much like the WR position, the peak age and likely cliff for the tight end position is difficult to predict. These players typically take slightly longer to reach their peak due to their blocking and pass catching responsible within the framework of an NFL offense.

Jimmy Graham (32-year-old-season)

SpotracPOTENTIAL OUT: 2020, 2 YR, $22,250,000; $3,666,668 DEAD CAP

  • *Graham will be a Packer for at least the next two years barring injury.
  • *Graham will be catching passes from Aaron Rodgers for the next two seasons barring injury.  
  • *Tight ends don’t produce in the Mike McCarthy – Aaron Rodgers offense.
  • *Jimmy Graham is the best tight end that Rodgers has ever had.

Feel free to buy whatever Jimmy Graham narrative you want but Graham will be Lambeau Leaping quite often in 2018!  My advice? Hold onto him for what I expect to be a 10 TD upside TE1 season in 2018 then flip him in the offseason to the highest bidder.

Other Cliff Dive Qualifiers – Jared Cook (31-year-old-season), Rob Gronkowski (29-year-old-season) & Kyle Rudolph (29-year-old-season)

You have been warned. Father Time is undefeated in the NFL and the Dynasty Grim Reaper will claim more souls this season. Better to be a season too early than a season too late!

Follow me on Twitter @DFF_Walk.


Diehard Eagles fan, World's Okayest Dad and Dynasty / IDP Writer for the Dynasty Football Factory.

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