They say “age before beauty”, and “another year older, another year wiser”. All I know is that this year, I got booted off my parents’ medical insurance when I gained more of that wisdom.
I know 26 is by no means “old” in any sense of the word. I still have to have my ID checked when ordering adult beverages, I just barely am able to rent a car by myself, and if I’m teaching on a day I’ve shaved my facial hair, I’m asked for my hall pass. It still dawned on me, though, that reaching one’s late 20’s is sort of the end of an era: you’re an adult (shudder).
The late 20’s — and more so the dreaded 30’s — also signal the downturn of an NFL player’s career. One study at SoCalledFantasyExperts.com found that the peak performance of defensive players falls on average between ages 25 and 28, depending on position. After that, it’s all downhill.
There are plenty of examples of aging players falling off the tables on our IDP fantasy teams because we didn’t get out early enough on them. Fortunately, if you’re a rebuilding team with aging veterans on your roster, Week 13 (before the fantasy playoffs, and most leagues’ trade deadlines) is the perfect point to sell those players.
Which veteran defensive linemen should you trade before Father Time catches up to them?
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For the purpose of this piece, we’re only going to look at players turning age-28 or older who you can turn around into prospects or draft picks for your rebuilding team. This article can also be used for contending teams: if you’re fielding an offer to help push you over the top, these may provide some red flags to consider when weighing the future impact of these players.
Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, DEs SEA
The dynamic duo of defensive ends on the Seattle Seahawks are reaching National Football League AARP status, but neither has slowed too much yet in their fantasy prowess.
Per FantasyData.com, Avril has a 3.22% quarterback hit rate and 1.61% sack rate this year, the latter of which is his best rate in the last five seasons, and the former of which is one of two back-to-back years north of 3.0%. Avril’s tackle rate has actually even risen slightly on average over the last five years.
Bennett has certainly been more inconsistent in his year-to-year production, but this year especially has seen his tackle rate take off to an unreal 9.88%. His quarterback hit rate has slumped to just 2.02%, however, which could forecast the beginning of a major decline period for him.
Still, if Avril and Bennett are still producing over 0.15 fantasy points per snap each, why am I recommending you trade them? At 30 and 31, respectively, both of their best days in fantasy are well behind them. These are players at the peak of their near-term value at thin fantasy positions. In addition, the Seahawks have made no bones about drafting young future replacements like Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh fairly highly, working them into the rotation more and more each year.
Calais Campbell, DE ARZ
This one is as clear as day. Especially for a defensive end, the Arizona Cardinals’ Calais Campbell has been the steadiest of fantasy Eddies for quite a few years. From 2012 to 2015, Campbell produced over 0.14 fantasy points per snap each year, but the age-30 end has dropped to just under 0.12 fantasy points per snap this season.
Much of this is due to Campbell’s tackle rate falling from around 7.50% to 6.28% this season, but his sack rate is down to a meager 0.50% and his quarterback hit rate is below 2.00%. Campbell is just not getting the pass-rush push he used to, and it’s showing in his fantasy statistics. He’s still a steady weekly starter due to his playing time, but he’s better off on someone else’s roster than yours in a rebuild.
Rookie Robert Nkemdiche may be having work ethic issues and personality clashes with the staff, but his first-round selection indicates that the Cardinals’ front office believes Campbell will be moving on sooner rather than later.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE NYG
I’ve been down on New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for a while, even before his Independence Day incident cost him part of his hand. Pierre-Paul — while he has explosive (pun intended) upside — can be fairly boom-or-bust on a week-to-week basis. A down 2015 campaign saw many dynasty owners give up on the pass-rusher, who had all of the vintage low floor but none of his usual high upside. Alas, things are never as simple as they seem.
This season, JPP has put up 0.14 fantasy points per snap in balanced formats, nearly doubling last season’s 0.08 rate. The question here, though, is how much of his down season we can attribute to getting accustomed to working around his injury: over the last five years, Pierre-Paul’s sack rates have ranged from 0.20% to 1.30%, alternating peaks and valleys each year. 2016 is an up year, and while some peripheral stats indicate this is sustainable — like a stuff rate over 1.00% for the fourth time in five years — others suggest it’s a bit fluky — such as a quarterback hit rate more than double his five-year average.
It’s worth seeing if you can cash in on JPP’s potential peak, given the fact that the Giants have a near-clone of him in Owa Odighizuwa waiting in the wings. It’s only a matter of time before the former third-round pick is bookending Olivier Vernon in the Meadowlands and the 28-year old Pierre-Paul is on the outside looking in.
Cameron Wake, DE MIA
It should probably be enough for me to say that a player going on age 35 in January, coming off a torn Achilles’ from 2015, and playing under 50 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in each of the last two seasons justifies Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake’s placement here. Still, I like to dig deep, so let’s find out even more why Wake is a great trade option for rebuilders.
Interestingly, reducing Wake’s snaps to heavily part-time seems to have really benefited the veteran’s efficiency: the last two years have seen Wake with sack rates above 2.00%, quarterback hit rates above 2.75%, and even his tackle rate has surged to north of 5.00% this year. This has cause Wake’s fantasy points per snap rate to peak above 0.17 each of the last two years too.
Why trade Wake at the height of his powers? This is the rare win-win deal that could get you a youthful replenishment in exchange for an IDP player who may retire next season and give your leaguemate a truly impactful option for the next few games. Pierre-Paul has a similar kind of impact but even more potential dynasty shelf life, so negotiate accordingly.
- The IDP Impact of Steve Wilks to the Cleveland Browns - March 2, 2019
- The IDP Impact of Gregg Williams to the New York Jets - February 8, 2019
- The IDP Impact of Vic Fangio to the Denver Broncos - January 29, 2019