Year three of this series and I am sporting a very high hit rate so far so let’s keep swinging for the fences.
We get older each day; it’s just a fact of life. However, the aging process is accelerated in the NFL, and we need to be prepared to usher players off our squad before their value begins to decline. Or even worse declines any further. In typical redraft leagues, age doesn’t play as big a factor (in most cases it should) in the draft process because drafters don’t care about the future. Larry Fitzgerald and Frank Gore are still contributors in the redraft world when in dynasty they are dinosaurs, and you are likely stuck with them on your roster because they carry little to no trade value.
In this article, I will be targeting players who are approaching or currently standing on the edge of the value cliff that you should consider unloading before their inevitable fall.
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 ago 30 as the universal line of demarcation across all skill positions discussed to identify my AARP players.
Peak Performance = 23 to 25-year-old seasons
Cliff Diver Criteria = 27-year-old season
AARP RBs: I am going to spare you the details and extensive rationale behind the following players but know that the tread is running dangerously thin on these guys (all over 2,000 career carries) or they’ve already blown a tire and are parked on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to drag them away.
LeSean McCoy (31-year-old season) – McCoy’s best days are clearly behind him, but it appears Buffalo is going to try to squeeze one more season out of Shady in 2019. Behind him on the depth chart are fellow lifers Frank Gore (35-year-old season) and Chris Ivory (31-year-old season). I can easily see Gore getting another 150+ carries like he did in Miami and Ivory should see another 50 (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ivory was released on March 26th). Remove 200 RB carries from Buffalo’s 2018 total and McCoy is left with less than 200 for himself. It’s going to be an old, ugly timeshare in Upstate NY and I would be actively shopping McCoy to any and all owners (a late second gets the deal done for me).
Adrian Peterson (34-year-old season) – AP continues to hang around and produce for fantasy. Peterson saw 251 carries last year in Washington which was a product of necessity given the Guice injury and Perine’s continued ineffectiveness. A wise owner unloaded Peterson amid his Indian summer 2018 season. He recently resigned with Washington, but reports have Guice on track to return from his ACL injury in time for the 2019 campaign. Peterson will shift back to the complementary role that all but saw him vanish from the fantasy landscape during his short stint in New Orleans.
Cliff Divers: The following running backs are speeding toward the finish line (irrelevancy) at an increasingly fast rate. I used a combination of volume, age, and situation to determine the following players. You need to dump these assets while you still can (if you still can).
Carlos Hyde (29-year-old season) – only 827 career carries (one 16 game campaign on his resume)
Spotrac – Hyde signed a one year, $2,800,000 contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, including an $800,000 signing bonus, $1,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $2,800,000.
Kansas City will be Hyde’s fourth team in the last three seasons but because of landing spot the fantasy community is by and large buying into Hyde once again. The facts of the case are that Hyde is a career 4.0 YPC back who has turned 119 receptions into an otherworldly 667 yards (5.6 YPR). Now try to contain yourself for a second – pause for sarcasm – while I note that 59 of those receptions and 350 of those yards were achieved during his lone Kyle Shanahan 88 target season in San Francisco.
Hyde is a two-down thumper who brings nothing to the passing game, and I’m supposed to believe that he’s a threat to Damien Williams in KC. I am beating up inboxes with mid 2nd round trade offers for Los Hyde!
Latavius Murray (30-year-old season) – 899 career carries
Spotrac – Murray signed a four year, $14,400,000 contract with the New Orleans Saints, including a $3,400,000 signing bonus, $7,200,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $3,600,000. (glorified two-year deal)
Interestingly enough, Murray is Top 15 in carries for all active running backs and has hung around the RB2/Flex space for the majority of his NFL career. He recently signed with the Saints as the Mark Ingram replacement and that role has been responsible for roughly 15 PPR points/game over the last three seasons. While Murray is a competent pass catcher, I don’t believe that he’s even on the same level as Ingram was in New Orleans. To that point, Ingram has had more success as a pass catcher over the last three NFL seasons then Murray has had in his entire five year NFL career.
Mark Ingram (2016-2018) Receiving Totals – 3 seasons
Latavius Murray (2014-2018) Receiving Totals – 5 seasons
One can argue that it was a product of scheme and I agree that the Saints Offense > Raiders Offense in every way imaginable. I have seen enough of Murray to believe otherwise. The reality is that a good amount of what made Ingram a viable RB2 was the added pass-catching value and I don’t see Murray yielding similar totals in New Orleans. Murray will throw in a couple of multi-touchdown games in 2019, but he will also lay some 40 rushing yard 0 TD duds so good luck figuring out when they will occur. Much like Hyde I am happily moving Murray but would be looking for a high 2nd round pick in return.
Mark Ingram (30-year-old season) – 1,321 career carries
Spotrac – Ingram signed a 3 year, $15,000,000 contract with the Baltimore Ravens, including a $4,000,000 signing bonus, $6,500,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $5,000,000. (glorified two-year deal)
Mark Ingram had a very successful run during his time in New Orleans (a Sean Payton offense will do that for you). What most people don’t realize is that Ingram only reached the 230 carry mark once in his eight-year NFL career and that’s due in part to the fact that he has only started and finished three of his eight (~38%) NFL seasons whether due to injury or suspension. I cannot envision Ingram seeing the passing game volume that he did in New Orleans, but he should be slotted to see upwards of 300 carries in a Lamar Jackson led offense.
I believe that, outside of returning to New Orleans, Ingram landed in the best possible spot for dynasty owners and I would still be selling him. Ingram has over 1,600 career touches on his resume and will be staring down the barrel of the 2,000 touch threshold early next season barring injury. I’m of the mindset that a year too early is better than a year too late and am actively shopping Ingram to a contender for their 2020 first round pick and hoping they bite.
Lamar Miller (28-year-old season) – 1,354 career carries
Spotrac – Potential Out: 2019, $100,000 dead cap
This season all but spells the end of Miller Time for the Texans as he will be an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2020 and that’s if he doesn’t find himself a cap casualty post-NFL draft ($1M Dead Cap). All Miller has done during his time in Houston is churn out three consecutive PPR RB2 seasons.
Oddly enough he was PPR RB5 overall during his ten touchdowns 2015 campaign with the Miami Dolphins. We can thank Bill O’Brien for hard capping Miller at six touchdowns each of the last three seasons.
One of three things is going to happen in 2019:
a.) Alfred Blue (again)
b.) D’Onta Foreman finally becomes a thing
c.) They spend a Day Three pick on a running back
Regardless of the reason, it’s your last chance to get a decent return for him in dynasty. I would be somewhat aggressive in trying to move Miller as the NFL Draft could have as much of an impact on his fantasy value as any other player in the league.
Miller is a chip I would be trying to cash for an upside player and a pick. Jaylen Samuels and a late 2nd early / 3rd gets it done for me.
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 and Julian Edelman remain productive into their mid 30’s. I deem this to be largely based on the somewhat 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 viable later in their career.
Larry Fitzgerald (36-year-old season) – Fitz has been on this list each of the last three years (there’s something to be said for consistency). If you had moved Fitz back in 2016, the return would have (obviously) been much greater than it would be today, but you also would have traded away multiple WR1 seasons.
Larry Fitzgerald’s PRR Finishes the last four years:
You can point to the Steve Wilks / Josh Rosen debacle as the rationale for the steep decline in 2018, but we’re also talking about his 15 NFL season. Kliff Kingsbury should bring an offensive focus back to the desert, but he’s not going to be Bruce Arians day one. Fitz has become a sunset player at this point so enjoy the ride!
Other Notable AARP Qualifiers – Desean Jackson (33-year-old season), Emmanuel Sanders (33-year-old season) and Julian Edelman (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.
Golden Tate (31-year-old season)
Spotrac – Tate signed a 4 year, $37,500,000 contract with the New York Giants, including a $10,000,000 signing bonus, $22,950,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $9,375,000.
Golden Tate has long been a reliable PPR asset in dynasty. The self-proclaimed YAC King has proven durable (one missed game since his rookie season) and productive (four straight 90+ catch seasons before last year) for fantasy. He now finds himself on a New York Giants team that is actively attempting to change their identity in a single offseason.
Tate will have to battle Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard for the short to intermediate area targets from Eli Manning (for now). There is just not enough volume to go around for Tate to achieve another 90 catch season and he is a player that thrives on volume (only 20% of his 10 NFL seasons have resulted in touchdown totals > 5). The contract and the available targets vacated by the Odell Beckham trade should appeal to at least one other owner in your league. You may be able to secure a late first round pick in a deeper (12+) team league.
Alshon Jeffery (30-year-old season)
Spotrac – $6.95M Dead cap in 2020. UFA in 2022.
As an Eagles fan, it hurts to write this, but Alshon Jeffery is a sell for me in dynasty. Jeffery hasn’t hit the 1,000 yards receiving or 10 touchdown mark in a single season since 2014. He has also only logged a single 16 game season since 2014 (14 games missed the last four years). What makes things worse is that Jeffery wins with physicality and mounting injuries are only going to further sap that power from him in the coming years.
There’s also the notion that Jeffery had his best games in Philadelphia with Nick Foles under center (Foles was a more willing deep ball thrower over the last two seasons). Foles took more shots downfield to Jeffery than Wentz over the last two seasons, and he’s had more success. Of his 56 pass attempts to the receiver, 16 have been on deep throws (28.6 percent), and Jeffery has caught six (37.5 percent) for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Of Wentz’s 160 attempts to Jeffery, 26 have been on deep balls (16.3 percent.), and the receiver has caught six (23.1 percent) for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeffery still carries WR2 name cache and could be in for a bounce-back season assuming the health of both he and Carson Wentz, but I’m still looking to move him. Any 2019-1 gets it done for me – Imagine potentially turning Alshon into DK!
T.Y. Hilton (30-year-old season)
Spotrac – $0 Dead cap in 2020. UFA in 2021.
The diminutive speedster from Florida International turned 3rd round pick has already exceeded expectations and had quite a career in Indianapolis. The veteran wide receiver has appeared in at least 14 regular season games in each of his seven NFL seasons. Seven is also a telling number for Hilton’s career as he has never exceeded seven touchdowns in a single season.
What is also consistent for Hilton are targets (no less than 109 since his rookie season) and YPR (he’s a career 16.0 YPR). Generously listed at 5’10”, 183 pounds, Hilton has become the trusted target for Andrew Luck and being tied to one of today’s top passers goes a long way toward sustained dynasty value. Conversely, he is a receiver who relies more on speed then nuance and rarely does that continue into a players 30’s (save me the DeSean Jackson comps).
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 in many of today’s offenses. These players were once thought of as oversized wide receivers who couldn’t 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 matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. But enough about them let’s talk about some old war horses.
Delanie Walker (35-year-old season) – A Week 1 broken ankle accompanied by significant ligament damage resulted in a lost season for the veteran Tight End. Once an afterthought in San Francisco, Walker had strung together five straight TE1 fantasy campaigns before 2018. His was a late-career renaissance unlike any I can recall for fantasy. I want to root for Walker, but it’s hard to envision a 35-year-old Tight End coming back from a significant ankle injury ascending to fantasy glory once again. If he does early in the season, I strongly suggest that you SELL.
Jimmy Graham (33-year-old season) – Did anyone realize that Graham was the TE12 last year in PPR scoring? Nope. Me either. Do you think that he does it again? Nope. Agreed.
Graham still has 10 touchdown upside given his ability to box out defenders in the end zone, but he also has the two touchdown floor that we witnessed last year in Green Bay. I was an advocate of the buy Jimmy Graham movement before the 2018 season. Graham was more efficient on a per target basis then his previous season in Seattle, but the lack of touchdown production made that bad call.
I don’t usually cite Spotrac for AARP players but the end is near for Graham – Potential Out: 2020, 2 yr, $22,250,000; $3,666,668 dead cap.
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.
Kyle Rudolph (30-year-old season)
Spotrac – 2019: $7.65M CAP HIT; $0 DEAD CAP. 2020 / UFA
The Good: Kyle Rudolph was the TE7 in PPR leagues in 2018. The Bad: If you remove his outlier Week 15 (33.2 pt) performance, Rudolph produced the following per game averages across his other 15 games:
Fantasy PPG: 7.86
The Ugly: Rudolph is in the last year of his current deal with Minnesota, and The Star Tribune reports that they haven’t approached Rudolph or his agent regarding a new contract. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Rudolph is eventually asked to take a pay cut or is outright released should they land a Tight End in the upcoming NFL Draft (sleeper alert: 2018 5th Round pick Tyler Conklin should be on your dynasty radar).
Rudolph’s two best fantasy seasons were volume driven.
Year – Targets
2012 – 93
2016 – 132
He hasn’t exceeded 82 targets in the last two seasons, and that’s with the likes of Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball. Both quarterbacks have been known to have an affinity for the Tight End. I would strongly advocate putting Rudy On The Block to see what comes back. Don’t give him away though because Tight End is largely unpredictable and volatile outside the top tier. One year’s trash is another year’s treasure.
You have been warned. Father Time is undefeated in the NFL (save for Frank Gore who’s Immortal), and the Fantasy Reaper will claim some more souls this season. Best be prepared!
Follow me on Twitter @DFF_Walk.