I still have a set of rookie cards I bought when Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers came into the league. Roethlisberger sounding the horn this offseason that he may retire grabbed my attention for two reasons. First, how is this possible? I just bought that pack of cards yesterday. Secondly, it turns out I bought that pack of cards 13 years ago and now all three are considered the old guys of the league.
How Changes in the NFL are Affecting QBs
The NFL is now in a youth movement, one that I’m old enough to experience and analyze like never before having seen some of the greatest to ever play our game now fade into the background. It still seems like yesterday Adrian Peterson was telling the world how he was going to beat the all-time rushing record. Boy, those were the days. Now the best running back in the league is a 25-year old David Johnson, seven years younger than 32-year old AP. The funny thing about the whole changing of the guard thing is, when you look at the best quarterback, 39 (almost 40)-year old Tom Brady is still considered the best in the league. This is due to the NFL’s rules that make the quarterback virtually untouchable without laundry being thrown on the field and favoring home run plays from quarterback to receiver.
Another change helping quarterbacks gain more yardage was the moving of the kickoff to the 35-yard line in 2011. That season marked the first time over the past ten years that the top five fantasy quarterbacks total fantasy points averaged out to more than 300 points per game. In fact, over the past ten seasons, 2011 was the highest average scoring year for fantasy quarterbacks, as the top five averaged 373.62 points per game. Ironically enough, the top five quarterback’s age average came out to be the youngest over the past 10 seasons as well. It helped this group included Cam Newton’s breakout year and Matthew Stafford’s coming out party as well. Both quarterbacks were in their early 20s and are two of the youngest in the past 10 seasons to make the top five quarterbacks in the league in terms of fantasy points.
The Top Quarterbacks are older
Despite what appeared to be the changing of the guard in 2011, the top five quarterbacks gradually got older. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers putting their names among the top numerous times helped that fact, but there have been plenty of young quarterbacks drafted in recent history that have yet to surpass the experienced veterans. Names such as Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson are looking to change this. All of the aforementioned names are 28 years and younger and outnumber the grizzled vets. Luck, Cousins, Newton, Wilson, Bortles and Dalton have already proven they are ready to take the mantle having top five finishes of their own.
The veterans, however, have no intention of relinquishing their crown without a fight. Over the past five seasons, the average age of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy points has gone up (with the exception of a .4 decline from 2014 to 2015.) In 2012 the average age of a QB who finished in the top five in terms of fantasy points was 28.4. In 2013 the age rose to 29, in 2014 it went to 30.4, then 30 in 2015 and finally 31.2 in 2016. The odds of Brady and Brees continuing to beat the odds and post top five seasons aren’t in their favor. The difference between the quarterbacks in the past that have tried to play past their prime and two of the greatest in recent memory is the rules that have helped to increase the longevity of their careers. In 2009, Brett Favre became the oldest quarterback to break the top five in fantasy points dating back to 2007. Since then Brady and Brees have continued to creep towards the feat as they each go about their personal 1 on 1 battles with father time, but in the end, the man who holds the sand always wins.
Enjoy the next few seasons as we watch some of the best that have ever played the game pass the torch to the youth. Rodgers and Matt Ryan serve as a roadblock between the group of 28 and younger quarterbacks and the fading veterans of the league, but when it comes to Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, they are falling on the wrong side of 30 and with concussions running rampant, it may not be long before they join Brady and Brees in the soon to be retired group.