Don’t practice age discrimination with these guys in Fantasy Football
Fantasy Football can resemble the 1976 Sci-Fi classic “Logan’s Run,” in which there was no such thing as someone celebrating a 31st birthday (Kids, Logan’s Run was a pretty good movie. I’d suggest finding the original before Hollywood finds a way to completely jack up a remake). Youth prevails when it comes to our drafting mindset, yet there’s always an exception to the rule.
There’s little reason to ignore the following players, each of whom would have been just another memory if this was the year 2274, where “young residents enjoy an idyllic, hedonistic lifestyle.” These men of a certain age still have a productive season or two left. Come Draft Day, rebel against the dystopic ageist future society that Logan and his gal pal defied and watch them continue to deliver quality Fantasy production.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Lions (31 years old in Week 1): His numbers fell off from 2016, as Blount rushed for just 766 yards and scored only three times after crossing the goal line 18 times the previous year. I’ll counter with the fact Blount improved his yards per carry and that the Eagles’ running back by committee reduced his workload by 42 percent. Signed by the Lions, Blount will again be in a timeshare, this time with rookie Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick, but watch Detroit improve on its 56.5 percent success rate in the red zone by hitting defenses with a heaping helping of Blount Force Trauma.
No longer an RB1, Blount’s best value will come in non-PPR leagues, especially if Johnson struggles out of the gate. The Lions didn’t sign Blount to play wet nurse, so at the very least, I can see him with 600-650 yards and 6-8 TDs. Not pretty, but he’s still a good play at the back end of most drafts.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (40): If they did a remake, they’d call it “Brady’s Run.” Seriously, did you think Tommy Football was going to hang it up after coming oh so close to hoisting another Lombardi Trophy? Having started all but four games (Thanks, Roger….) since 2009, TB12 has thrown for at least 30 touchdowns in three of the last four seasons and at least 4,000 yards in seven of his past nine campaigns.
Sure, there are questions about whether Father Time will finally get the best of Brady this season, and there’s the issue of not having security blanket Julian Edelman the first four games of the season. Critics can also point to a sluggish December when Brady threw five interceptions and was sacked 11 times, but let’s remember who we’re talking about when it comes to silencing the hell out of critics. Regression? Ha! Pay it no mind when selecting Brady, who should be one of the first 3-4 QBs off the board, mostly likely in the fifth or sixth round.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (35): Remember how everyone began throwing dirt on Fitzgerald’s career after he recorded 63 receptions for 784 yards and two touchdowns in 2014? Since then, Fitz has been in straight Eff You mode, putting up three straight 1,000-yard seasons and finishing among the Top 20 receivers in Fantasy each year while catching a combined 325 passes in that span. More impressive is that he’s catching passes at a better than 70 percent rate since 2015. Old? What is old are the tired takes of the “experts” who keep waiting for him to finally decline.
Fitzgerald will help breathe life into the progress of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who will get the honor to target Fitzgerald 145-150 times while helping the future Hall of Famer rack up a sixth season (and fourth straight) of at least 100 catches. His value dips a bit in non-PPR formats, but you best believe Fitzgerald belongs among the upper crust of wideouts, which means taking him off the board in the fourth round of PPR formats.
Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers (32): There’s nothing good about the phrase “non-displaced neck fracture,” which cost Garcon the final eight games of last season. He’s healthy and has Jimmy Garoppolo under center, and word is that the two have been able to build the foundation of what could be a budding connection. Even in pre-Garoppolo days, Garcon was on pace for 114 targets last season, and there’s little reason to think he can’t exceed that in San Fran’s offensive attack.
Marquise Goodwin comes into the season with the momentum of a strong second half and a fresh new contract. However, keep in mind that Garcon had six seasons of at least 100 targets in his last seven before 2017 and has caught passes at a 61 percent rate throughout his career. He’s a strong bet for at least 75 catches and 900 receiving yards with 6-8 touchdowns, which should translate well as a solid WR3/Flex option.
Frank Gore, RB, Dolphins (35): To paraphrase a line from L.L. Cool J’s 1987 hit, “I’m Bad,” when Gore retires, he’ll be worshipped like an old battleship. For now, the USS Gore has at least one more campaign to fight, as he seeks to part the waves in a backfield that includes Kenyan Drake and rookie Kalen Ballage. Don’t expect him to see anywhere near the 290 touches he had with the Colts last season, but also don’t expect him to go quietly in the night.
Drake must prove he can handle a bigger workload, and if he falters, Gore is going to step up and emerge as a potential late round sleeper who can pick up the load. Father Time remains undefeated but might have another fall and winter attempting to finally contain Gore.
Greg Olson, TE, Panthers (33): After five straight seasons of averaging at least four catches per game, Olsen dropped to 2.4 in a shortened 2017 season that saw him play in just seven games. His broken foot is OK now, but Olsen must compete for catches in a Carolina passing game that will favor young wideouts Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel along with Christian McCaffrey. Still, it’s hard to envision Cam Newton neglecting his longtime go-to target who had averaged 124.3 targets per season between 2014-16.
Olsen had just one touchdown last season, but his return gives the Panthers a dangerous element in the red zone. He’s no longer a Top 3 player at tight end, but if your TE position is empty in the middle of the sixth round, the charter member of the 7th Floor Crew (TRUST ME, YOU DON’T WANT TO PLAY THAT SONG AT WORK) still has at least one more Pro Bowl-caliber season in him.
Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers (36): One of the most unappreciated passers of all-time, Rivers comes into 2018 having thrown at least 26 touchdown passes in 10 straight seasons while also crossing the 4,000-yard barrier in nine of those campaigns. Although losing tight end Hunter Henry to a season-ending knee injury this spring is a damper, the presence of a healthy Mike Williams to go along with Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams gives Rivers ample firepower to light up scoreboards this fall in what will be a wild, wild AFC West.
The true mark of Rivers’ Fantasy consistency lies in the fact he has finished among the Top 10 in Fantasy rankings in all but one season (2012) since 2006. An improved offensive line and another solid season from running back Melvin Gordon will translate into about 4,400 yards and 27-30 TD passes for Rivers, who is firmly in the second tier of quarterbacks. He’s capable of carrying your Fantasy team on a weekly basis.
Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (34): He’s never going to repeat his 2015 numbers of 94 catches, 1,088 yards and six touchdowns, but Walker also is not ready to hit his decline phase. His 74 receptions in 2017 marked the fifth straight season Walker had at least 60 catches, and with the Tennessee receiving corps still in developmental phase, a sixth is a strong possibility. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is one of the best young minds in the game and will also enhance Walker’s value.
Look for about 65 catches and 800 yards for Walker, who should also improve upon last season’s total of three touchdowns. If Marcus Mariota hits his stride in LaFleur’s up-tempo offense, Walker will at least double that number with the prospects of even more.
LeGarrette Blount Featured Image: (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)