When Is It Time To Officially Fade A Wide Receiver In Fantasy?

Whether it is dynasty or redraft understanding when the cliff typically comes for a fantasy asset is key to staying ahead of the game. What we did was review the last 10 seasons of wide receiver production by age to see when the drop off comes for wide receivers. A couple key nuggets that you need to know before we get started.

  1. The years sampled were 2011-2020 for the wide receiver position only.
  2. The analysis benchmark we will be discussing today is 100 targets. Every wide receiver ages 21-37 had to have at least 100 targets to qualify
  3. When conducting the analysis it was important to have a baseline for targets as many wide receivers who don’t make it typically only play 3-4 years in their early 20s. That means if you don’t have a target baseline in the analysis then you’re including a lot of young wide receivers who don’t pan out. This would prevent us from getting a better idea of how age becomes a factor since we want to identify the wide receivers who were able to sustain some level of relevance throughout the years

Like we always promise we will give you the high-level data first and you can take it for what it is worth. The first chart will include the wide receivers (WR) age, the average total fantasy points those wide receivers had at that age and the average points per game those wide receivers (PPG) had at that age.  If you want a deeper dive, we have included more information later in the article.

Reviewing Points and Points Per Game (PPG)

WR Age Points PPG
21 177.7 11.3
22 182.9 12
23 183.5 12
24 174.5 11.3
25 191.3 12.2
26 205.5 13.3
27 185.3 12
28 191 12.6
29 194.1 12.6
30 177.6 11.5
31 182.5 11.6
32 171.4 11.6
33 179.4 11.5
34 183.2 11.6
35 154.4 10.1
36 131.9 8.5
37 144.9 10.4

 

As you can see for the wide receiver position there is no major drop off. What we end up seeing is a lot of stability over the years. Wide receivers age 25-29 peak at age 26 but they remain stable up until their age 30 campaign. Meanwhile once they hit 30 instead of a steep decline, we find a slight drop in fantasy production, but it quickly stabilizes similarly to wide receivers in their late 20s. When you breakdown the production 25-29 vs. 30-34 wide receivers age 30-34 still produce at just over 92% in points and PPG vs. their late 20 counterparts.

Overall, only a few wide receivers make it to age 35 let alone reach 100 targets at that age. However, when they do, we can still see some level of production as they produce at roughly 75% vs. age 25-29.

Finally, the drop off isn’t as steep as we might have thought. This slight dip in production followed by a stability period does show that wide receivers in their early 30s who are still producing at a high level probably have a few more years left in the tank. 

The Details

  1. Wide Receiver (WR) Age – The age of the wide receiver at the beginning of the season
  2. Total Number (#) of Wide Receivers (WRs)– This is the total number of wide receivers that played at that age over the past 10 seasons
  3. Total Number (#) of Wide Receivers (WRs) That Hit 100 Targets – This column represents how many of the total wide receivers who played at that age hit 100 targets in that season
  4. Percentage (%) Who Received 100 Targets – The final column shows what percentage of the wide receivers at that age hit the 100-target benchmark

 

WR Age Total
# of WRs
Total # WRs That Hit 100 Targets
% Who Received
100 Targets
21 40 8 20.00%
22 143 19 13.30%
23 285 35 12.30%
24 310 39 12.60%
25 276 39 14.10%
26 244 38 15.60%
27 191 47 24.60%
28 141 35 24.80%
29 109 21 19.30%
30 84 25 29.80%
31 51 13 25.50%
32 44 8 18.20%
33 24 7 29.20%
34 16 4 25.00%
35 12 3 25.00%
36 6 2 33.30%
37 5 1 20.00%

Quantity vs. Quality

As you can see from the chart above aging wide receivers isn’t all rosy as we do see a steep decline in the quantity. From the data above on average 96.1 wide receivers per year played in the NFL between the ages of 25-29. That number drops to only 21.9 for wide receivers in the 30-34 bracket. This steep drop-off is no surprise, but it does influence the total number of age 30+ wide receivers who hit 100 targets in a season.

However, the fantasy gods are on our side as you can see the % of the wide receivers ages 30-34 who hit the 100 target benchmark actually increases to an average of 25.5%. This is roughly 6% higher than the average of 19.7% who are in their late 20s.

In conclusion it seems that once a wide receiver hits age 30 the narrative is to fade them in drafts. However, the data says otherwise which means many people can find great value in both redraft and dynasty. Below is a list of age 30+ wide receivers and where they finish in PPG in 2020 vs. 2021 ADP for redraft.

 

Player Age** 2020 PPG 2021 ADP
Emmanuel Sanders 33 45 75
Antonio Brown 32 24 46
Cole Beasley 31 36 55
Julio Jones 31 13 15
T.Y. Hilton* 31 53 54
Adam Thielen 30 9 21
John Brown 30 54 65
Marvin Jones, Jr. 30 23 52

*T.Y. Hilton was the Wide Receiver 22 weeks 9-17

** The WR Age in 2020 season

The final question you need to ask yourself is 92% of Julio Jones better than 100% of Amari Cooper in the 4th round of your fantasy draft?

Sources: Razzball.com, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders and FFToday.com

  1. Son

    Son says:
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    Good work, LaMarco!

    • Bobby LaMarco

      Bobby LaMarco says:
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      Thank you sir!

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