Player Points - Vincent Jackson
By Chase Stuart
June 29th, 2010

As of early July, Vincent Jackson is threatening to hold out of Chargers training camp; he's also facing a likely suspension for the first 1-3 games of the season following a guilty plea to a DUI in February. But I'm not going to look at either of those issues. Today I want to look at wide receivers and how they age.

Vincent Jackson will be a 27-year-old wide receiver in 2010. As it turns out, that's the peak age for the average player at his position. How did I figure that out?

First, I looked at all wide receivers who had at least 150 points of career VBD. I only included players who entered the league in 1978 or later and who were retired as of the 2009 season. This left 75 wide receivers. I then checked to see how many fantasy points per game each of those 75 receivers had at age 21, 22, 23... all the way up to age 40.

As it turns out, age 27 was the peak season for that group. The five year period from age 25 to age 29 stood out as the most productive years for most receivers; after age 29, production begins to drop off pretty heavily, at a rate of 10-15% per season. Before age 25, there's a steep ascension as a player continues to not only improve physically but understand the intricacies of the pro game. The full list, below:

Age
FP/G
%ofPeak
21
0.2
2%
22
3.0
30%
23
5.6
56%
24
8.3
84%
25
9.1
92%
26
9.8
98%
27
10.0
100%
28
9.9
99%
29
9.3
93%
30
7.8
78%
31
6.9
69%
32
5.5
55%
33
3.9
40%
34
3.1
31%
35
1.9
19%
36
1.4
14%
37
0.5
5%
38
0.3
3%
39
0.2
2%
40
0.2
2%

There are obviously many caveats that go along with trying to use such analysis. Every player has his own aging curve; some players take care of their bodies well, while others have less than stellar training regimens or genetics. Certain players have the fortune of playing with a great quarterback early in their career, while others get that luck later on, or not at all. But I think the data here, an average of 75 different players, seems pretty reasonable to digest. A player in the age 25-to-29 range is probably at his best. Other factors can make him have a career year at 23 or at 32.

The other thing I've noticed is that these sorts of curves are flatter for the most elite players and more dramatic for weaker players. A player who tops out as the #2 wide receiver on a bad passing offense is likely to still have his prime years at around 25 to 29, but he might not produce much in the years outside of that zone. On the other hand, an elite, superstar wide receiver isn't going to tail off much at all once he hits 30 years old; his production curve will be pretty flat. But on average, don't give up on a player before he turns 25 years old, and don't always bounce on that bounce back season for a wide receiver who is 32 or older.

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