Player Points - Donald Driver
By Chase Stuart
May 11th, 2010

Since exploding as a 4th-year breakout, Driver has been a reliable wide receiver for the Packers. In seven of the past eight seasons, Driver has topped the 1,000 yard mark; from '04 to '06, Driver averaged 13.3 fantasy points per game. At ages 32 and 33, in 2007 and 2008, he slipped to 10.5 FP/G. It seemed reasonable to assume that Driver's career was winding down, but then last year he rebounded with an 11.2 FP/G average and ranked as the 18th best fantasy receiver.

So should we expect more of the same in 2010 for Driver? He's averaged at least 10.5 FP/G every year for the last six seasons. On the other hand, at some point Driver will slow down. Can history guide us in any way?

I looked at all wide receivers since 1970 who ranked between WR12 and WR24 at the age of 33, 34 or 35; there were twenty-seven* of them. In that group, the average WR was 33.6 years old, ranked as WR18 and had 44 points of VBD; Driver was 34 in 2009, ranked as WR18 and had 52 points of VBD. So this seems like a pretty reasonable group of comparables.

Two of the receivers missed most of the year with injury; 23 of the 27 WRs played in at least twelve games. On average, the 27 receivers played in 13.9 games, ranked as WR37, and had 25 points of VBD (because some players ranked above the baseline, and players below the baseline are given a VBD of 0, that's why the average WR could rank below the baseline but have positive VBD). In the previous year, the WRs averaged 10.5 FP/G; the next year they averaged 8.5 FP/G.

But that's not the end of the analysis. By now fantasy football players are well versed in regression to the mean principles. We need to compare Driver to a control group.

I looked at all WRs, ages 26 to 30, who ranked between 12th and 24th in Year N, and then played in at least one game in Year N+1. There were 249 such receivers. On average, in Year N, they averaged 10.3 FP/G, were 27.7 years old, ranked as WR18 and had a VBD score of 43. In other words, they look like younger versions of Donald Driver's comparables. In Year N+1, the group averaged 13.6 games played, ranked as WR 35 and had 29 points of VBD. They averaged 8.7 FP/G. In other words, they looked a lot like younger versions of the old guys who declined in the following season.

Now this doesn't prove anything. It doesn't say that Donald Driver will retain his value next year, nor does it say that Driver will retain his value in the same way someone five years younger would. It certainly doesn't say that Driver will see his FP/G total drop by two points.

So what does it say? Typically, a wide receiver who is a solid WR2 for fantasy purposes will usually see his FP/G drop by about 16%; in a small-but-relevant group of 27 players who were roughly Driver's age and were solid WR2 for fantasy purposes, they saw their FP/G drop by 19%. If I was really worried about Driver's age, this study would convince me be a lot less worried, at least as far as 2010 goes. If I wasn't worried at all about his age, I'd probably find something else to worry about.

*This excludes the 2009 seasons of Driver and Hines Ward (33) and Derrick Mason (35), along with Charley Taylor's 1975 season (next year missed due to injury) and Mark Duper's 1992 season (retired).

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.