2012 Fantasy Football: 35-Plus Year Old Players Who Are Worth Owning
When targeting players to draft in fantasy football leagues, narrowing down the options sometimes comes down to age. It is well documented for example, with some exceptions, that running backs begin to decline at age 30. Other age milestones are more vague at other positions, but choosing a player who is firmly in his prime over an aging player is often the best choice.
That said, there are players out there who defy the odds of their age and continue to perform close to their prior level for many years after their peak.
Here are five players who will be 35 years old or older at the start of the 2012 season that I feel are worth the attention of fantasy football owners.
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady won’t turn 35 until August 3, so he barely qualifies here. But his production can not be argued at this stage with at least 3,900 passing yards over his last four full seasons (taking out his less than one game in 2008) and no more than 14 interceptions in any of his 10 seasons as a starter. The Patriots did add wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in free agency to upgrade that area, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is back with the team as well after a few years away. There is some risk the Patriots could attempt to establish the run more this season, but Brady is a close to a sure bet as it gets at any position for fantasy owners.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
The risk is clear here since Manning missed all of the 2011 season after undergoing multiple neck surgeries, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen the first time he takes a hit from an opponent in a game. Still, Manning is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and is unlikely to have lost all the skills that have put him on that level even at age 36 and after a year off. Health is the key factor here, so any fantasy owner that drafts Manning should be sure to secure a solid backup quarterback as well. The upside is clear with the talent that will be around him in Denver, but Manning is definitely one of the biggest risk/reward players for fantasy owners in 2012.
3. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Gonzalez has said 2012 will be his 16th and final NFL season, and his track record speaks for itself as he has had 59 or more catches in a season in every season since 1998. Even at this stage of his career, due in part to how shallow the tight end position can be in fantasy football, Gonzalez still has the makings of a top-10 fantasy tight end as part of a good Falcons’ offense. Durability is not a question, as Gonzalez has only missed two games in his career and is in excellent physical shape. He did show some signs of decline late in 2011 with just seven receptions for 63 yards over the final three games, but otherwise there is very little risk in drafting Gonzalez.
4. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee Titans
“The Bald Bomber” enjoyed a solid resurgence in his first season with the Titans in 2011, with other 3,500 passing yards along with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, which was fairly impressive considering his best wide receiver (Kenny Britt) missed most of the season. 2011 first round pick Jake Locker performed well when given the opportunity as a rookie, and the two signal callers will compete for the starting job during training camp. Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak has hinted that the Titans’ tough early season schedule may have a role in who opens the season as the starter, which would assuredly favor the veteran Hasselbeck if that is the case. As long as Hasselbeck is healthy and productive, which is not guaranteed since he will turn 37 in late September, he has a chance to keep Locker on the bench all season if the Titans are a playoff contender. All in all, fantasy owners can do worse than Hasselbeck for a QB2 if he opens the season as a starter.
5. Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay Packers
The venerable Driver has recently re-signed with the Packers and is coming off a win on Dancing With The Stars, but those two things are of little consequence to fantasy owners. His production has dropped over the last couple seasons, with just 88 catches and 1,010 yards in 2010 and 2011 combined, and a big resurgence in 2012 is unlikely at age 37 and with the abundance of pass targets in Green Bay. That said, the Packers are rumored to be willing to trade wide receiver James Jones and that could open up some opportunities for Driver to earn a more significant role. Driver is likely to go undrafted in a lot of leagues at this point, but he could be worth taking a late-round flier on in very deep leagues with some added potential value in PPR formats.
Brad has contributed to many sports-related websites for the last eight years, covering predominantly fantasy sports (football and baseball), the NFL and MLB. Some of the websites where his work has been or is currently featured include KFFL.com, Rotowire.com, Bruno Boys Fantasy Football and Tree.com. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.