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Youngest and Oldest Receiving Groups in 2013

In January, I calculated the AV-adjusted age of every team in 2013. In February, I looked at the production-adjusted height for each team’s receivers. Today, we combine those two ideas, and see which teams had the youngest and oldest set of targets.

To calculate the average receiving age of each team, I calculated a weighted average of the age of each player on that team, weighted by their percentage of team receiving yards. For example, Anquan Boldin caught 36.7% of all San Francisco receiving yards, and he was 32.9 years old as of September 1, 2013. Therefore, his age counts for 36.7% of the 49ers’ average receiving age. Vernon Davis, who was 29.6 on 9/1/13, caught 26.5% of the team’s receiving yards last year, so his age matters more than all other 49ers but less than Boldin’s. The table below shows the average age for each team’s receivers (which includes tight ends and running backs) in 2013, along with the percentage of team receiving yards and age as of 9/1/13 for each team’s top four receiving leaders:

Rk
Team
Yds
Age
Receiver 1
Receiver 2
Receiver 3
Receiver 4
1SFO321029.6Anquan Boldin (32.9 - 36.7%)Vernon Davis (29.6 - 26.5%)Michael Crabtree (26 - 8.8%)Bruce Miller (26.1 - 7.6%)
2CAR337929.6Greg Olsen (28.5 - 24.1%)Steve Smith (34.3 - 22%)Brandon LaFell (26.8 - 18.6%)Ted Ginn Jr. (28.4 - 16.5%)
3ATL454129.5Harry Douglas (29 - 23.5%)Tony Gonzalez (37.5 - 18.9%)Roddy White (31.8 - 15.6%)Julio Jones (24.6 - 12.8%)
4NOR516227.9Jimmy Graham (26.8 - 23.5%)Marques Colston (30.2 - 18.3%)Kenny Stills (21.4 - 12.4%)Darren Sproles (30.2 - 11.7%)
5DET465027.7Calvin Johnson (27.9 - 32.1%)Joique Bell (27.1 - 11.8%)Reggie Bush (28.5 - 10.9%)Kris Durham (25.5 - 10.5%)
6TAM318127.3Vincent Jackson (30.6 - 38.5%)Tim Wright (23.4 - 18%)Tiquan Underwood (26.5 - 13.8%)Mike Williams (26.3 - 6.8%)
7HOU418327.2Andre Johnson (32.1 - 33.6%)DeAndre Hopkins (21.2 - 19.2%)Garrett Graham (27.1 - 13%)Keshawn Martin (23.5 - 6%)
8DEN557226.8Demaryius Thomas (25.7 - 25.7%)Eric Decker (26.5 - 23.1%)Julius Thomas (25.2 - 14.1%)Wes Welker (32.3 - 14%)
9KAN356126.8Jamaal Charles (26.7 - 19.4%)Dwayne Bowe (28.9 - 18.9%)Donnie Avery (29.2 - 16.7%)Dexter McCluster (24 - 14.3%)
10WAS405726.8Pierre Garcon (27.1 - 33.2%)Jordan Reed (23.2 - 12.3%)Santana Moss (34.3 - 11.1%)Leonard Hankerson (25.3 - 9.2%)
11SDG447826.8Keenan Allen (21.3 - 23.3%)Antonio Gates (33.2 - 19.4%)Eddie Royal (27.3 - 14%)Danny Woodhead (28.6 - 13.5%)
12PIT430626.7Antonio Brown (25.1 - 34.8%)Emmanuel Sanders (26.5 - 17.2%)Jerricho Cotchery (31.2 - 14%)Heath Miller (30.9 - 13.8%)
13TEN371026.6Kendall Wright (23.8 - 29.1%)Nate Washington (30 - 24.8%)Delanie Walker (29.1 - 15.4%)Justin Hunter (22.3 - 9.5%)
14MIN364526.6Greg Jennings (29.9 - 22.1%)Jerome Simpson (27.6 - 19.9%)Cordarrelle Patterson (22.5 - 12.9%)Jarius Wright (23.8 - 11.9%)
15CHI445026.6Alshon Jeffery (23.5 - 31.9%)Brandon Marshall (29.4 - 29.1%)Martellus Bennett (26.5 - 17.1%)Matt Forte (27.7 - 13.3%)
16BAL391426.5Torrey Smith (24.6 - 28.8%)Marlon Brown (22.4 - 13.4%)Jacoby Jones (29.1 - 11.6%)Dallas Clark (34.2 - 8.8%)
17GNB453826.4Jordy Nelson (28.3 - 29%)James Jones (29.4 - 18%)Jarrett Boykin (23.8 - 15%)Randall Cobb (23 - 9.5%)
18PHI440626.4DeSean Jackson (26.8 - 30.2%)Riley Cooper (26 - 18.9%)LeSean McCoy (25.1 - 12.2%)Brent Celek (28.6 - 11.4%)
19NYJ327026.4Jeremy Kerley (24.8 - 16%)Santonio Holmes (29.5 - 13.9%)David Nelson (26.8 - 12.9%)Jeff Cumberland (26.3 - 12.2%)
20DAL422626.1Dez Bryant (24.8 - 29.2%)Jason Witten (31.3 - 20.1%)Terrance Williams (24 - 17.4%)Cole Beasley (24.3 - 8.7%)
21BUF337326Scott Chandler (28.1 - 19.4%)Steve Johnson (26.8 - 17.7%)Robert Woods (21.4 - 17.4%)Fred Jackson (32.5 - 11.5%)
22ARI429126Michael Floyd (23.8 - 24.3%)Larry Fitzgerald (30 - 22.2%)Andre Roberts (25.6 - 11%)Rob Housler (25.5 - 10.6%)
23MIA396625.7Brian Hartline (26.8 - 25.6%)Mike Wallace (27.1 - 23.4%)Charles Clay (24.5 - 19.1%)Rishard Matthews (23.9 - 11.3%)
24NYG387525.7Victor Cruz (26.8 - 25.8%)Hakeem Nicks (25.6 - 23.1%)Rueben Randle (22.3 - 15.8%)Brandon Myers (28 - 13.5%)
25IND395225.7T.Y. Hilton (23.8 - 27.4%)Coby Fleener (24.9 - 15.4%)Reggie Wayne (34.8 - 12.7%)Darrius Heyward-Bey (26.5 - 7.8%)
26SEA350825.5Golden Tate (25.1 - 25.6%)Doug Baldwin (24.9 - 22.2%)Zach Miller (27.7 - 11%)Jermaine Kearse (23.6 - 9.9%)
27OAK362925.5Rod Streater (25.6 - 24.5%)Denarius Moore (24.7 - 19.2%)Andre Holmes (25.2 - 11.9%)Mychal Rivera (23 - 11.2%)
28NWE434325.4Julian Edelman (27.3 - 24.3%)Danny Amendola (27.8 - 14.6%)Rob Gronkowski (24.3 - 13.6%)Aaron Dobson (22.1 - 12%)
29JAX375125.3Cecil Shorts (25.7 - 20.7%)Ace Sanders (21.8 - 12.9%)Mike Brown (24.6 - 11.9%)Justin Blackmon (23.6 - 11.1%)
30CLE437224.4Josh Gordon (22.4 - 37.6%)Jordan Cameron (25.1 - 21%)Greg Little (24.3 - 10.6%)Davone Bess (28 - 8.3%)
31STL336024.3Jared Cook (26.4 - 20%)Chris Givens (23.7 - 16.9%)Tavon Austin (22.5 - 12.4%)Austin Pettis (25.3 - 11.9%)
32CIN431824.2A.J. Green (25.1 - 33%)Marvin Jones (23.5 - 16.5%)Giovani Bernard (21.8 - 11.9%)Jermaine Gresham (25.2 - 10.6%)

Three teams stand out as far older than the rest. All three have young, franchise quarterbacks, but all enter 2014 with question marks at wide receiver.

San Francisco is the most run-heavy team in the NFL, although part of that is due to the team’s great defense. No running back saw fewer defensive backs on the field than Frank Gore. Along the same lines, Colin Kaepernick faced base defenses (i.e., and not nickel and dime fronts) more often than any passer in football. As a result, one might argue that wide receiver is not an important position for San Francisco in general.

That’s undoubtedly true on some level, but only to a point: Kaepernick was very efficient when throwing to Boldin, Davis, and Michael Crabtree, but not when he was forced to look to anyone else. Davis is now 30 and Boldin will be 34 in September: even a small decline from either player could torpedo Kaepernick’s numbers, which likely prompted the 49ers to bring back Brandon Lloyd on Tuesday. The A.J. Jenkins whiff was a painful one, and the team must either go back to the wide receiver well early in the 2014 draft or hope they can get something out of Lloyd (who was out of football last year) or Quinton Patton.

What’s worse than a set of old receivers? Ask Carolina fans how they feel after the mass wide receiver exodus. Steve Smith is now in Baltimore, Brandon LaFell is in New England, Ted Ginn is with Arizona, Domenik Hixon joined the Bears, and even David Gettis went to Washington. In their stead, Carolina has signed Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Tiquan Underwood, and Joe Webb. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Carolina has the worst set of wide receivers in the NFL, so you can be sure that the Panthers will spend significant draft capital to address the position. The Panthers have a great defense, but there’s only so far a great defense and a one-man offense can go, even if that man is Cam Newton.

Unless you were paying very close attention to a very bad team, you probably had no idea that the leading wide receiver on the 2013 Falcons wasn’t Roddy White or Julio Jones or even Tony Gonzalez. Instead it was 29-year-old Harry Douglas, who had one of the most surprising 1,000-yard seasons in recent memory. Douglas’  breakout season was the product of injuries to White and Jones and Steven Jackson, which left the Falcons to throw 659 passes and only Douglas and Gonzalez there to catch them. Wide receiver remains a problem issue heading into 2014: Gonzalez has retired and White will be 33 in November (while Douglas will be 30 in September). The Falcons have pressing needs on the offensive line and on defense, but reloading Matt Ryan’s targets can’t be a task that gets ignored.

Three teams stand out on the other side with very young receivers. And while the Browns are still looking for a franchise quarterback, Cleveland can point to two silver linings: Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are just entering their prime years. In free agency, the Browns snatched 5’7 Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati, although the fourth-year player and former CFL star turned 28 in March. Cleveland later added Nate Burleson, who…

Timeout. Did you know that Burleson has had nearly identical production over three franchises? He gained 1,789 receiving yards with the Vikings, 1,758 with the Seahawks, and 2,083 with the Lions. That makes him one of just eight receivers to record 1,750 receiving yards with three teams. Six of them are pretty obvious:

Show

Those are six really good receivers. The other two are Burleson, and a former Patriot, Charger, and Falcon.

After serving as a “mentor” of sorts for Calvin Johnson, bringing in Burleson to help keep Gordon on the straight and narrow is probably wise. And Hawkins has the potential to give the Browns what they thought they were getting when they traded for Davone Bess. But the average age of this group looks to be a lot higher in 2015 (which, of course, is not in and of itself a bad thing).

St. Louis is the genesis of this post. Sam Bradford has had a very unusual career from a supporting cast standpoint: after all, no Ram has gained 700 receiving yards in a single season since Torry Holt. It seems like Bradford has been throwing to inexperienced receivers his entire career, and the numbers (at least for 2013) support that notion. And unlike the other two teams that had average receiving ages under 25, Bradford lacks a superstar wideout. Perhaps Tavon Austin will be that player, but I can’t blame the Rams if they decide to go after Clemson’s Sammy Watkins with the second overall pick. That will only add to the youth, of course, but talent, and not experience, may be the bigger issue at the position. On the other hand, if the Rams don’t go after Watkins or another wide receiver early in the draft, that may be a vote of confidence for players like Stedman Bailey, Austin Pettis, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, and any other young wide receiver the Rams manage to roster between the time I wrote this and the time you’re reading it.

Finally, we get to the team with the youngest group of targets in the NFL: the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati’s skill position players are the envy of the league. Read that sentence again, and think about how odd that sentence reads to anyone who remembers the pre-Marvin Lewis Bengals. A.J. Green won’t be 26 until the start of training camp. Marvin Jones just turned 24. Giovani Bernard is only 22 and recorded 514 receiving yards last year despite being just a part-time player as a rookie. Jermaine Gresham will be 26 in June, which must mean he’s getting too old to be a Bengal. That’s not an exaggeration: expect Tyler Eifert (24 in September) to steal the tight end job this season, and for Gresham to be with a new team in 2015. And Mohamed Sanu will be just 25 in August.

That statement above was not an exaggeration. Andy Dalton has everything a quarterback could ask for and more. He even has a pair of bookend tackles in Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Ignoring the quarterback position, the Bengals almost certainly have the top roster in the AFC, after accounting for age and talent. The real question in Cincinnati: after 100 starts in college and the pros, are there any more “steps” for Dalton to take?

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Quinton April 17, 2014, 9:53 am

    If Keenan McCardell had three more yards in San Diego, he would have qualified. Sooooooo close

    • Laverneus Dinglefoot April 17, 2014, 10:30 am

      If Terrell Owens hadn’t gotten injured and/or didn’t have such a bad reputation, I think he my have been able to do it for 4 teams (Bengals). Then again, if he had a better reputation, he might not have had to play for five teams.

      Randy Moss’ time in Oakland sticks out to me too. If hadn’t been clearly mailing it in, he would totally be on the list. He had a single season with the Vikings that gained more yards than his time in Oakland, and he had eight(!) seasons with the Vikes or Pats that matched his two year TD output in Oakland. I always wondered what would happen if you took Jerry Rice’s mind/heart and put in in Moss’ body.

      • Kibbles April 17, 2014, 2:12 pm

        If you took Jerry Rice’s mind/heart and put it in Randy Moss’ body, you’d probably just wind up with Randy Moss again. Heart and mind are not intrinsic, unchangeable qualities birthed into a vacuum; instead, they are shaped and formed in the crucible of experience. If Jerry Rice had been so athletically gifted that he never had to work for anything, he’s unlikely to have been so dogged about working for everything. Jerry Rice joined a team with a Hall of Fame QB and coach that had won two SBs (and reached a third NFCCG) in the prior four years. Jerry Rice played fifteen years- FIFTEEN YEARS- before he played for a team that finished with single-digit wins (yes, San Francisco finished with 10 or more wins in each of Rice’s FIRST FIFTEEN SEASONS). Who knows how much effort Rice would have given for what he perceived to be a lost cause. In fact, from 1986 to 2003 (and ignoring 1997, when Rice missed the whole season), Jerry played for three teams that failed to reach 10 wins. Jerry also had three seasons where he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards. I’ll let you take a wild guess as to which three seasons those were. You can say that the causal arrow runs from Rice’s success to San Francisco’s- that the 49ers were so good because Rice was so productive, and a downtick in his output is what caused the decline in wins. Of course, it’s hard to reconcile that interpretation with the fact that San Francisco went 13-3 and lost the NFCCG to the juggernaut Packers in 1997.

        Put Randy Moss in Jerry Rice’s situation, where he had to work hard for every scrap and his efforts were rewarded beyond his wildest dreams. Put Jerry Rice in Randy Moss’s situation, where everything always came easy for him and he knew that no matter what he did it wouldn’t make much difference. What do you think happens? Would people focus more on Jerry Rice’s selfish ways? Would they say Jerry Rice pouted his way out of San Francisco because his ego couldn’t stand playing second fiddle to the transcendent Terrell Owens? Anyone who witnessed Jerry Rice’s consecutive-games-with-a-catch streak as it hung on to life support at the end of his career knows he was every bit as selfish as Moss was. But because Rice won a ton early, he had already built his hagiography, and all contrary evidence was overlooked. And because Randy Moss came into the league with baggage, he never got the same benefit of the doubt.

        Words like “heart” are often just code for “who knows what?”. We can never really know for sure what made Jerry Rice so special, so we just roll it all up into convenient catch-alls- He had heart! And gumption! A blue-collar mentality!- but that does a disservice to everyone else. Randy Moss had plenty of “heart”, too. You don’t play 14 seasons in the NFL without “heart”. Everyone in the NFL has natural ability- nobody just lucks into 15,000 career receiving yards without “work ethic”. There were certainly attributes that Rice had that Moss didn’t, including undoubtedly some genetic advantages over his more “naturally gifted” counterpart. But suggesting that Randy Moss “wasted” his ability is patently unfair to Randy Moss, whose “wasted ability” still resulted in one of the no-question top-10 careers by any receiver in history. Why must we ask “what might have been” with Randy Moss? Why don’t we accuse Larry Fitzgerald of wasting his talent, or wonder what Lance Alworth could have done with a little work ethic?

        As for questions of what Randy Moss would do with Jerry Rice’s mind… I’ll admit that I can’t comment too much about the quality of Jerry Rice’s mind, but I know that Randy Moss has always been one of the most intelligent, self-aware, and engaging receivers I’ve seen. Randy Moss understood defenses as well as- if not better than- any of his peers. He knew how to beat them, and he knew how to open things up for his teammates. Over the years, he’s developed a reputation as a one-trick pony who just ran really fast and jumped really high and hopefully caught the ball. This does a tremendous disservice to Moss and the beauty of his game. Bill Belichick called Moss the smartest receiver he’s ever been around. Much like with Ricky Williams, the easy tropes and simple stereotypes belied the intelligence and craft lurking below the surface.

        • Laverneus Dinglefoot April 17, 2014, 2:37 pm

          I must say, you read more into that than I intended. I mean, if we really put Rice’s heart in Moss’s body, he would probably have had to take at least a year off to recover from the transplant. Maybe more. I don’t know; I’m not a medical professional. And by mind, I mean effort level, not intelligence. I have read what Belichick said about Moss, and I imagine Owens would have to have some sort of intelligence to get so many people on his side on divided locker rooms.

          Perhaps you would prefer a rephrase. Given what Randy Moss and Terrell Owens were able to accomplish in their incredible careers, it is amazing to think about what they could have accomplished had Moss not obviously taken plays off and Owens not been a borderline sociopath.

          Your mention of winning making Rice play harder and losing making Moss slack off seems pretty solid to me. I don’t have any empirical evidence to back it up, but experience sure shows that it can be discouraging to be on a losing team. So I totally agree with you there.

          I can’t speak to why no one talks about Lance Alworth, but I imagine one of the reasons we don’t accuse Fitzy of wasting his talent is because he doesn’t seem to have the same otherworldy talent that Moss has. Moss just has a natural talent that I have personally only seen mirrored in Calvin Johnson.

          Sorry for the misunderstanding, my hopefully fake-named friend.

    • Richie April 17, 2014, 6:33 pm

      Yeah, that was one of my bad guesses.

      Tony Martin and Randy Moss were also within 50 yards of making the list.

      I thought Rison and Plaxico might be on, but their 3rd-best teams were well short of 1750.

      I completely forgot about Keyshawn playing with the Cowboys, and can’t believe Fryar didn’t cross my mind.

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