Welcome to Week 11 of the 2021 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discusses Atlanta's offensive quandary, Odell Beckham Jr's December outlook, Baker Mayfield's future, potential stretch-run darlings, recent risers-fallers, and defending and destroying a pair of fantasy analysts cliches.
WEek 11 Grab BAG
Matt Waldman: Answer one of the questions below.
- With Cordarrelle Patterson and Calvin Ridley both gone from the Falcons' lineup, will this hurt Kyle Pitts' production down the stretch?
- Will Odell Beckham Jr deliver starter production in 3 WR fantasy leagues in December?
- If the Browns don't re-sign Baker Mayfield, which quarterback do you think could be a realistic addition to Cleveland via free agency?
Give us the low-down.
Troy King: Beckham will provide starter production in December. On Monday night, it was apparent that even with minimal practice, they wanted to get Beckham involved early. Without Woods in the lineup, they need another asset to step up outside of Kupp and Beckham is the second most talented option on the offense. Even though 2 receptions for 18 yards is a small sample size, Beckham was being used all over the field. He should be an interesting asset going forward.
Chris Allen: Before Monday night, the Rams used three-wide formations on 87% of their plays (the league’s highest rate). Their offensive philosophy didn’t change as Bennett Skowronek and Odell Beckham Jr combined for 44 routes run to match Stafford’s 44 dropbacks. No other tight-end outside of Tyler Higbee saw a bump in usage, and Sony Michel continued his role as Darrell Henderson’s backup.
Also, Los Angeles’ pass rate over expectation was higher than their previous four-game sample (9.0% vs. 5.0%). Beckham just needs time to get integrated into the offense. His early involvement was a positive sign, but he needs to get in rhythm with Matthew Stafford. Timing and synchronicity defined his early-season success with Cooper Kupp. They’ll need to use the bye week for Beckham to start producing and get the Rams’ offense back on track.
Scott Bischoff: Pitts will be productive to finish the 2021 season, but it might be a volatile ride. I expect him to put up very good numbers the rest of the way, but we need to look at the reality of the Falcons offense and adjust our expectations, or we will be disappointed. I see him as a player capable of producing TE1 numbers weekly, with an understanding that the range of outcomes is bigger for Pitts than it is for other elite tight ends. He is in a great situation as he should be force-fed, but he will also draw better coverage with Ridley and others missing from the Falcons offense. In a perfect world, he would be a fantastic best-ball option at the tight end position, and that's how I am approaching him the rest of the season.
Waldman: I will be shocked if Pitts is a top-five tight end while Patterson and Ridley are out. Bill Belichick is going to triple-team Pitts the way he nullified Travis Kelce and Tony Gonzalez in similar situations. If other teams don't follow Belichick's lead, they are daft. I would rather Atlanta be forced to win with Hayden Hurst, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Justin Gage in the intermediate and deep passing game. It's less likely Atlanta can make it happen. You better hope Patterson returns soon and is legitimately healthy, the teams on Atlanta's schedule after New England are truly daft, or you have a good second tight end.
I recommend adding Hurst if you don't.
Jordan McNamara: Mayfield's potential new deal is the most fascinating contract question in the NFL. The decision to draft a quarterback who then performs well enough to consider a second contract but not well enough to convincingly deserve a new extension is a fascinating place for the Browns to be. For all the problems in Chicago, they were willing to walk away from Mitchell Trubisky, which was probably an easier decision than the Browns' face with Mayfield. The Washington Football Team similarly let Kirk Cousins leave in free agency after being unwilling to extend him long-term. Their team situation has been a struggle ever since, ranking 27th in winning percentage in the post-Cousins era.
I suspect if the Browns let Mayfield walk it will not be until he has played out his 5th-year option in 2022 and maybe a franchise tag in 2023. The team has plenty of options in the draft, similar to the way the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts behind Carson Wentz, to potentially find an answer. In free agency, I think they are more likely to go retread type than land a high-priced starter at the end of their career, while they tread water until drafting a rookie quarterback.
Chad Parsons: Jameis Winston is my vote for the Browns in a post-Baker Mayfield world. Winston offers downfield shot plays and would function best when attached to a quality run game and the depth at tight end would be a perk. A darkhorse candidate is Taysom Hill. Imagine the Browns' running backs when paired with Hill to freeze the backside of a play.
Waldman: While the idea of Cleveland encouraging the "out" that Atlanta has for Matt Ryan's contract would be my dream pick as a Browns' fan, I might live with Winston if Cleveland doesn't keep Mayfield another year or longer. I'm not a huge fan of what I've seen from this quarterback class, although I have a lot of games left to watch and I'm about halfway through my studies so perhaps one of them will present themselves as a strong fit but it's a rough year for Cleveland to have to make this decision when the rest of the team is talented enough to contend.
Jason Wood: I completely agree that the Browns shouldn't re-sign Mayfield unless he and his agent are willing to take a contract with a fraction of the guaranteed money other full-time starters have commanded in recent years; which is unlikely. Too many NFL franchises feel the pressure to commit financially to middling quarterbacks, for fear of getting a worse alternative to build around. But we've seen time and again the value of elite quarterbacking, particularly when it's under the cushy confines of a rookie contract.
Unfortunately, as Chad and Matt alluded to, the potential free agents are an uninspiring bunch. Teddy Bridgewater is the most accomplished (if we're removing Ben Roethlisberger from the list), and he's not a clear elevation in skill to Mayfield. However, he makes sense if the Browns do draft a quarterback and want a savvy, experienced veteran to step in for a while and not rock the boat when he's benched. Bridgewater is perfect in that regard.
If the Browns don't love this rookie quarterback class and want to take a risk, I'll throw Mitch Trubisky into the ether. Trubisky will have spent a year learning behind Josh Allen at the tutorage of Brian Daboll. He'll come cheaply, and is still young and has lottery ticket upside. Let's not forget Josh Allen was a 50% passer as a rookie and looked like a bust, but is now one of the league's cornerstones. Do I think Trubisky has that path ahead? No, but I'd rather let Kevin Stefanski and his staff try that out for a year while the Browns amass a plan to acquire their rookie franchise quarterback in 2023 if 2022 is not a target-rich draft class.
Rest of the Year
Waldman: Pick one player from each position group as the best option among the list for the rest of the year.
- Kadarius Toney
- Donovan Peoples-Jones
- Odell Beckham Jr, Jr.
- Julio Jones/Marcus Johnson (You can treat them as an individual based on Jones' injury)
Who is your trio?
Allen: Toney has already shown WR1 upside, and he’s been a part-time player due to health or New York’s coaching staff. He’s run a diverse route tree, been efficient with his targets (3.86 yards per route run, highest on the team), and has the athletic profile to create on his own. Also, he fits what Daniel Jones needs in a pass-catcher. Defenses have pressured him on a third of his dropbacks, and his offensive line is bottom-five in pass-block win rate. Saquon Barkley and Toney should be the focal points moving forward, allowing the offense to open up for the other playmakers.
Stevenson showed what can happen if you give a single Patriots’ ball carrier the majority of the work. I can’t remember the last time any New England running back got 69.0% of the running back carries along with a 21.7% target share. Their offensive line played well with Trent Brown back, but Stevenson also did his part. He properly read his blocks while showcasing some of his burst to keep drives going. We’ve got a long history of Bill Belichick ruining our fantasy hopes, and Damien Harris will return, but Stevenson’s secured a legitimate role in the offense.
Cincinnati has a strong haymaker punch in Ja'Marr Chase. The “Burrow-Chase” connection accounted for 40.3% of the team’s passing production from Week 3 until the wheels started to fall off after Week 7. But they need a good jab in addition to Chase. It’s likely Tyler Boyd, but Burrow’s established. Uzomah is a fixture in the offense. It started in Week 1 when Burrow hit Uzomah on fourth down using a Leak Concept against Minnesota. But since then, it’s been all or nothing in terms of opportunity and utilization. The Bengals’ offensive philosophy needs to shift to extend drives similar to what we saw from the Chiefs on Monday night. If Cincinnati has properly game-planned, Uzomah should be more consistently featured moving forward.
Bischoff: Beckham is still a very talented receiver capable of getting open through quickness and speed. From his time in Cleveland, we can see that he needs to develop chemistry with a quarterback, and that might take a touch of time. Rams quarterback Matt Stafford has never been unwilling to give a receiver a chance to make a play down the field, and I would expect Beckham to get more opportunity, specifically down the field. Patience is required on this one, but it could pay off in a huge way.
Dillon is a prodigious running back capable of running through contact and making defenders miss in the backfield. He will generate positive yards consistently, and he will gash defenses with a big run when given a crease. He is a load to bring down, and if he gets to the second level up to speed, he will rip off big runs. I expect him to be very productive as a starter with Aaron Jones out with a knee injury.
Knox was having a solid season before he broke his hand a few weeks ago, and the Bills' offense missed him. He was playing at a very high level before the injury, scoring five touchdowns in the first six weeks of the season. Knox will continue to be a red-zone threat and a player that can generate yards after the catch, and he should produce good numbers the rest of the season.
Wood: Can I choose none of the above? I don't think any of them will be Top 20 options down the stretch. But if I had a few FAAB dollars left to spend and all four players were available, I'd choose Beckham. Not only have we seen him play at an All-Pro level already, but he's the only one guaranteed to catch passes from an MVP-caliber quarterback.
If Aaron Jones doesn't return quickly, Dillon is the easy choice from this cohort. Dillon has the skill set to be an every-down back in any NFL scheme, and we've already seen glimpses in the limited duty of how versatile he can be in LaFleur's offense. Knox is the choice here at tight end. He missed a few weeks but is healthy and so I'm not sure why the Bills would retrench from utilizing him in the way they did in September. He's become a solid route runner and one of the team's legitimate red-zone threats.
Parsons: The wide receiver choices are dicey. I 'trust' (using that word liberally) Beckham the most to produce given the Rams offense and Robert Woods out for the rest of the season. Week 10 was not a strong showing at the outset, but this is a make-or-break half-season sample size for Beckham for future opportunities as a potential WR1/2 on a depth chart.
Dillon is my running back choice. Dillon should get two streaming and clarified starts before their Week 13 bye and still be an injury-away (at worst) if Aaron Jones does not miss additional time. Dillon was built for late-season games in compromised weather for a playoff-bound Packers team.
Knox's athleticism when placed into a Bills offense where 2-3-4 other passing game options are higher priorities for defenses is an exploitable matchup. Knox should ramp up to form over the next week or two after his debut returning from injury in Week 10.
McNamara: I was skeptical of Toney entering the NFL, but he has been an exciting player so far in his rookie season. If he is a valuable fantasy asset over the course of the rest of the season, his value in offseason dynasty drafts will be fascinating. If Mitchell is healthy, I think he is the clear answer. He is the starter in Kyle Shanahan's offense, which puts him ahead of Stevenson and Dillon, and he has a higher upside than Jacobs.
Higbee is playing north of 90% snaps and running more than 90% of routes in an offense that just lost Robert Woods. Odell Beckham Jr Jr. is a valuable addition, but Higbee has plenty of opportunities to be a stable option — second or third priority — in the Rams' receiving game.
King: Toney is so explosive and is used in a variety of ways all over the field. He is also averaging over 10 yards per target over the last four weeks. He is the definition of a player with tremendous upside who doesn’t necessarily need a lot of targets in order to be productive. Stevenson just had a huge game with Harris out of the lineup, rushing 20 times for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, and saw 5 targets. His future workload is encouraging as the Patriots are ranked 10th in rushing attempts. He should earn more playing time and a larger role in the offense in the future, especially near the goal line.
Freiermuth has averaged seven targets since Week 6. He has also scored three touchdowns within the last three weeks and is TE3 in that span. Freiermuth has become a focal point in the offense especially in the red zone. I foresee his usage continuing at a high level for the foreseeable future.
Sean Settle: This offense has been a mess all season. Between injuries, ineffective play, and poor coaching decisions they have fallen out of contention. The signing of Kenny Golladay has not worked out so far and Toney has shown an ability to put up WR1 numbers when given the chance. Toney is running good routes and should be a focal point in this offense going forward. The offensive line has been bad, and Daniel Jones has been pressured a lot. This should bring more short passes and opportunities for Toney to make plays with his legs. Look for a big jump down the stretch as this team gets healthy and starts playing better.
It has been hard to trust Jacobs due to injuries and Kenyan Drake carving out a bigger role in the offense. Jacobs has seen the field a lot more than Drake the entire season with nearly double the average offensive snap percentage. Jacobs is getting the ball at the goal line and has found the end zone five times already. The Raiders are going to play some softer defensive fronts the rest of the way and after losing Henry Ruggs III they are going to rely on running the ball more. Look for Jacobs’ usage to increase down the stretch and for him to put up solid numbers if he can stay healthy.
Knox was in the middle of a true breakout season before suffering an injury. He had already set career highs in touchdowns, yards, and receptions. This offense is too good for that sort of production to not return down the stretch. With little to no running game, it is going to be Knox and Stefon Diggs leading the way the rest of the season. Look for Knox to finish as a top 10 TE this season.
Waldman: A) Pick one player's rise/slide is most likely to continue and B) Pick one that is most likely to end.
- Mike Williams: WR3 in weeks 1-5, WR81 in weeks 6-10
- Rondale Moore: WR36 in weeks 1-5, WR75 in weeks 6-10
- Tom Brady: QB1 in Weeks 1-5, QB7 in weeks 6-10
- Mac Jones: QB12 in Weeks 6-10, QB27 in Weeks 1-5
- Michael Carter II RB6 in Weeks 6-10, RB39 in Weeks 1-5
- Damien Harris RB12 in Weeks 6-10, RB34 in Weeks 1-5
This is for PPR formats.
Wood: Williams is the most likely to reverse course. I've been vexed by the Chargers' falloff after a blistering start. Justin Herbert looks downright average lately, and it's flowing through to all of his skill players. I have never considered Mike Williams a top-level NFL player. I wrote a Player Spotlight before last season highlighting my issues with him as a consistent contributor. But, he has improved and I don't see why the playmaker we saw early in the year was a fluke. In years past, Williams only had value because of an unsustainable touchdown rate. But early this year he was running every route with precision, handling high volume, and making plays in all downs and distances. Unless he's hurt (again), I think he -- and the Chargers offense generally -- will move back up the ranks.
Jones is most likely to continue. There's no reason this won't continue apace. Jones -- who Matt and I both loved relative to others -- is making us look smart. I'm so fascinated by the way we analysts twist ourselves in knots to support our own biases. We say we care about results and process over potential and metrics and then mock the 49ers alleged interest in Jones because he has a dad bod and isn't a freak athlete, while we project Hall of Fame greatness in Trey Lance because he's an elite athlete albeit inexperienced and having competed against inferior competition. Jones was setting NCAA records shredding NFL-caliber defensive backs, dodging NFL-caliber pass rushers, and playing in an NFL-ready system. The fact Jones is playing so well with a relatively uninspired supporting cast has me salivating for what's to come.
McNamara: Brady has the best set of weapons of any quarterback in the league. After a couple of weeks of hiccups, I expect him to return to an elite range of the position. With Antonio Brown hopeful to return in the coming weeks and Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup, Brady can return to his elite ceiling when it matters in the fantasy playoffs.
King: Moore’s slide will continue. Moore is only averaging 49% of snaps and 4 targets a game this season. Even with Hopkins being out of the lineup, Moore’s target share and usage haven’t changed. Unfortunately, the inconsistent usage is the reason the slide will continue.
Harris' rise will end. With the emergence of Rhamondre Stevenson, Harris may lose touches and goal-line work. Also, the Patriots may continue to utilize their RBBC in order to keep their backs as healthy as possible. Harris also scored a touchdown in each game from Weeks 5-9, which will be difficult to sustain going forward.
Parsons: Moore was one of my favorite prospects in the 2021 class. I love the player. The usage and competition for targets for this season, however, is tough to be a fantasy starter. The depth chart will clarity in 2022, but outside the top-60 for Moore is appropriate considering his low depth of target and sagging snaps.
I am bullish on Brady getting back to the elite fantasy option from earlier in the season. Chris Godwin has been dinged up and Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski have missed chunks of the season. The sole goal for Tampa Bay (besides making the playoffs) is to ramp up by the end of the season. Health on offense (and defense) is a significant factor here. Patience is the watchword until Brady's weapons are closer to full strength.
Allen: Williams’ slide will likely continue as not only has his role changed, but the passing game has also taken a step back. Williams had a 24.6% target share with a 12.0 aDOT through Week 5. Since Week 6, his target share has been down to 14.4%. Meanwhile, his aDOT has skyrocketed to 14.6. He earned ten air yards on Sunday, and that’s not a typo. His only saving grace is that he’s received six red-zone targets over the last two weeks and got tackled at the one-yard line on Sunday, giving us some hope. He’s, at best, a flex play, and his usage trend doesn’t indicate any change in his future production.
Jones’ rise will end, but it won’t be a tragic one. He has Atlanta, Tennessee, and Indianapolis over the next five weeks, keeping his value afloat. However, his offensive line has been the source of his production. Cleveland pressured him on just 20.0% of his dropbacks on Sunday, which is impressive on its own. The lack of pressure has allowed him to remain an efficient passer. He plays Buffalo twice over the next six weeks (Weeks 13 and 16), likely dropping his fantasy totals. Otherwise, he’s a solid streaming option given his matchups.
Settle: Williams' slide is likely to end going down the stretch. Williams may not reach WR3 levels again, but he should easily finish in the top 20 or better. This offense is too good and teams will look to take away Keenan Allen in the slot more after shifting coverage to Williams on the outside. Look for things to balance out in the coming weeks and for Williams to get back on track with this entire offense.
Harris' ride is going to come to an end. With Rhamondre Stevenson having a big game last week, Brandon Bolden back to handling pass-catching duties, and the inability for New England to stick with a single running back his fall is going to continue. Harris will come back and assume a role in this offense, but the splitting time is going to make him a touchdown-dependent option and not someone to trust going forward.
Bischoff: I agree with Troy that Moore's slide will continue. He was a very intriguing addition to the Cardinals' offense coming into the 2021 season, but he is not getting enough volume to jump back up to previous levels at this point. The Cardinals are not prioritizing getting him the ball, even with starting wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins out due to an injury. It is tough to see Moore doing much over the back half of the season with his current usage.
I also agree with Chris that Jones' rise will end. Jones is currently playing extremely well for a rookie playing the quarterback position. However, it is incredibly challenging for a rookie quarterback to be consistently productive weekly, and that is what he would need to do to stay where he has been the past five weeks. The Patriots prioritize running the football, and that will limit Jones' ceiling going forward.
Fantasy Analyst Cliches
Waldman: Here are two common statements that reflect ideas I hear or read about annually and are often repeated back by readers of fantasy content when they have concerns about specific players.
- [Running back] has too many carries to remain a viable fantasy option.
- [Non-quarterback] is approaching an age where you should expect a decline.
Pick one of the above to either defend or destroy.
Settle: It seems like with every other position you would argue that more opportunities lead to better results for that position, except with running backs. The idea that the more times they touch the ball the more likely they could get hurt may be true, but it should not have a bearing on fantasy viability.
The current NFL is leaning towards more of a split with running back carries. They have a guy for the goal line, they have strictly pass catchers, and they have guys to run through the tackles. Carries are being split more than ever before and that is the true detriment to fantasy viability.
Someone like Derrick Henry or Adrian Peterson in the past carrying the ball 200 or more times a season is what you want from a fantasy starter. You know he is going to be on the field to start a drive, at the goal line, and in clear passing downs. The more that player is on the field the more they have a chance to score points. Injuries happen whether you are on the field 1 time or 100. Take the guy that is going to have the ball in his hands more than anyone else
Bischoff: This is an interesting question. Age is undoubtedly something to think about when it comes to looking at players, but each player should be evaluated individually. It is different in dynasty formats, but if we are talking about redraft leagues, I'm coming from a place where age is part of a giant puzzle. Other factors involve workload, the strength of the offense, and maybe most importantly, the amount of risk one is willing to take on.
Allen: Generally, age should be something we monitor, but we’ve seen multiple examples this year alone where usage has been a greater factor. Derrick Henry’s injury emphasizes what can happen for running backs with obscene workloads. Meanwhile, Devonta Freeman has looked somewhat spry on his comeback tour with Baltimore. We have similar stories with wide receivers.
The Bengals looked like they were right in putting A.J. Green out to pasture, but he’s earned a critical role in the Cardinals’ passing attack when he’s not letting touchdown passes go over his shoulder to the defender. But Julio Jones, who came from the same class, has been healthy for maybe three games and is currently on IR. Overall, age can be a starting point when discussing a player’s outlook. However, contextualizing their prior usage, injury history, and projected role moving forward can help us find situations to buy into rather than avoid them altogether.
King: The “age” factor has also been an overrated concern for fantasy players. Talent, opportunity, and situation should be more heavily weighted than age. Examples of “older” assets that have been productive this season are Travis Kelce (TE1 in points per game), Antonio Brown ( WR 4 in points per game), Derrick Henry (RB1 in points per game), and the list goes on. For dynasty purposes obviously, younger assets have their appeal, but jumping ship or fading a player due to age can be short-sighted.
Parsons: The running back workload argument is an old and tired one. It has also been largely debunked in studies where receiving strong workload points to a quality workload in the future. Sporadically committee or light workload running back prospects turn into NFL starters, but generally, at least one season (and many times multiple years) of a quality workload is attached to stronger NFL prospects at the position, especially the successful ones. Also, instead of predicting doom at a set age or workload for a running back, assess as they go for signs of erosion, independent of carries the previous season or in their career.
McNamara: Running backs able to handle the role of a heavy workload is a good thing, not a bad thing. Also, in season-long leagues, I am less worried about long-term wear and tear than I am worried about it in dynasty leagues. Even in dynasty leagues, players begin to get cheaper when they reach the point in their career where GMs think they've had too many carries, and the reward begins to outweigh the risk of decline.
Wood: Age matters. We can debate how important a variable it is in the ultra-complex equation that is an NFL player's career arc, but to suggest it has no merit belies even a basic understanding of biology. I remember Eric Dickerson discussing age years ago in an ESPN Radio interview. I'm paraphrasing, but he made the point that he still had the same vision, instincts, and talent at 30 that he did at 22, but the difference was his ability to come back from minor injuries, or regain his full strength, or recuperate cardiovascularly, diminished. Again, if you're the elite athletes many NFL players are, a slight reduction in recovery time or speed or strength may not keep you from being an important contributor. But at some point, the loss of peak aptitude is enough to derail your former greatness.
Waldman: I think Wood's point is good common sense. At the same time, it's also important to remember that the outliers who played after 30 and even into their mid-to-late 30's at a high level like Jerry Rice and even Derrick Mason, may have diminished physical skills but they are smarter about how to prepare and treat their bodies. And if that means you're getting 90 percent of peak Rice, you're still getting a player who is outperforming 75 percent of the starting receivers. So I think it's not "either/or" in terms of whether old equates to used up and useless.
Harstad: Depending on how finely-tuned your expectations are, this statement is true of 100% of players in the NFL right now.
David Boston was a first-team AP All-Pro at 23 before falling off a production cliff at age 24. Braylon Edwards scored 16 touchdowns at age 24 and 15 touchdowns for the entire rest of his career. Dez Bryant averaged 91/1312/14 per 16 games from ages 24-26 and just 63/857/7 per 16 games from ages 27-29. Sterling Sharpe never played a snap of football after his 30th birthday.
Todd Gurley's last pro bowl came at age 24. Le'Veon Bell's came at 25. Maurice Jones-Drew's was at 26 and Clinton Portis' was at 27. The first three were first-team AP All-Pros as well. Collectively they averaged 1865 scrimmage yards in those years. None of them ever rushed for even 900 yards again.
At pretty much every position and at every age, you can find examples of players who we thought were good who suddenly and unexpectedly were a shadow of their former selves. That's just how NFL careers go. Players are typically great up until one day when they're suddenly not.
The older you get, the greater the chances become that this year is the one that lays you low. But, as much as fantasy fans might wish otherwise, there's never a "magic number" where suddenly players are past their sell-by date. A 29-year-old is more likely to decline than a 28-year-old but less likely than a 30-year-old. A 31-year-old is more likely still. It's just a smooth progression of increasing risk.
We tend to have a mental picture of what player aging patterns look like. Players enter the league, they improve over their first few seasons, they reach a predictable peak around their respective position's "prime ages" (say 26-30 for a wide receiver, or 24-27 for a running back), and then they slowly decline from there.
This mental picture matches startlingly few actual careers. For the most part, improvements and declines are not gradual. They are sharp, sudden, and— most importantly— unpredictable.
Waldman: While well-presented, let's consider the frame of reference here. If you're advising an audience as a fantasy analyst, which everyone here is, Adam's argument is the clearest and safest one for the subject of age. It examines the odds and it will help the most people by preventing them from screwing up.
And let's face it, a lot of effective management in fantasy football, and in life, is avoiding the massive screw-ups.
However, if you're competing on a stage where everyone is well-prepared, you have to be more open to risk. One of the ways of doing this is examining ways to invest in options that could prove to be the exception to the rule. For instance, Mason.
Mason had a 15-year career with the Titans and Ravens where he earned nearly 950 receptions, over 12,000 yards, and 66 touchdowns as a receiver and over 5,000 yards and 3 additional scores returning kicks and punts. A two-time Pro-Bowl player with a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2000, Mason played well beyond his fourth-round selection in 1997. An eight-time, 1,000-yard receiver, Mason’s career is good by first-round standards.
Mason spent his first three years in Tennessee as a return specialist and reserve receiver who compiled a little more than 600 yards during this span. That’s right, Mason’s starting receiving gig didn’t begin until age 26 and his first 1,000-yard season didn’t happen until age 27. Mason’s last 1,000-yard year? Age 36 where he averaged 14.1 yards per catch and earned 7 scores — one of his best seasons.
The sweet thing about selecting an aging Mason, Rice, or say, Emmanuel Sanders, who I recommended all summer, is that your league won't remotely be overvaluing them. If faced with a late-round choice between a player you know lacks skill but he's athletic and young and might have a role and a player like Sanders, you take a chance on the player who may prove the exception with age.
Why? Because Sanders has already proven something that the young unproven guy hasn't and that's whether you're exceptional enough to be something most NFL players on rosters aren't? A consistent producer in a starting lineup.
If you're recommending fantasy GMs to select players over the age of 30 in the early rounds, that's where the odds and value come into play. Even then, as long as you are selective about how many you recommend it's sound. After all, Adam's argument offers no context behind Boston's decline (steroids, drinking, mental health), Edwards (work ethic), Bryant (injury, change in demands for the position), Gurley (injury), Bell (incorrect valuation of self), etc.
For Adam, I suspect when you run all the numbers together, the human element has no import on your fantasy decision. This is correct if you are trying to play it safe.
For the most competitive environments where you're not dollar-cost-averaging with a zillion lineups to win money but actually competing with one team, you have to pick your spots to take a risk, or else your chances of being exceptional come down to hoping other people make dumb choices that you avoid. That's viable but also likely that 25-30 percent of the other teams are doing the same.
One isn't a better way to go than another once you're at that level, it's about being aware of the positives and negatives of your choices.