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|
|1||SFO||3210||29.6||Anquan Boldin (32.9 - 36.7%)||Vernon Davis (29.6 - 26.5%)||Michael Crabtree (26 - 8.8%)||Bruce Miller (26.1 - 7.6%)|
|2||CAR||3379||29.6||Greg Olsen (28.5 - 24.1%)||Steve Smith (34.3 - 22%)||Brandon LaFell (26.8 - 18.6%)||Ted Ginn Jr. (28.4 - 16.5%)|
|3||ATL||4541||29.5||Harry Douglas (29 - 23.5%)||Tony Gonzalez (37.5 - 18.9%)||Roddy White (31.8 - 15.6%)||Julio Jones (24.6 - 12.8%)|
|4||NOR||5162||27.9||Jimmy Graham (26.8 - 23.5%)||Marques Colston (30.2 - 18.3%)||Kenny Stills (21.4 - 12.4%)||Darren Sproles (30.2 - 11.7%)|
|5||DET||4650||27.7||Calvin Johnson (27.9 - 32.1%)||Joique Bell (27.1 - 11.8%)||Reggie Bush (28.5 - 10.9%)||Kris Durham (25.5 - 10.5%)|
|6||TAM||3181||27.3||Vincent Jackson (30.6 - 38.5%)||Tim Wright (23.4 - 18%)||Tiquan Underwood (26.5 - 13.8%)||Mike Williams (26.3 - 6.8%)|
|7||HOU||4183||27.2||Andre Johnson (32.1 - 33.6%)||DeAndre Hopkins (21.2 - 19.2%)||Garrett Graham (27.1 - 13%)||Keshawn Martin (23.5 - 6%)|
|8||DEN||5572||26.8||Demaryius Thomas (25.7 - 25.7%)||Eric Decker (26.5 - 23.1%)||Julius Thomas (25.2 - 14.1%)||Wes Welker (32.3 - 14%)|
|9||KAN||3561||26.8||Jamaal Charles (26.7 - 19.4%)||Dwayne Bowe (28.9 - 18.9%)||Donnie Avery (29.2 - 16.7%)||Dexter McCluster (24 - 14.3%)|
|10||WAS||4057||26.8||Pierre Garcon (27.1 - 33.2%)||Jordan Reed (23.2 - 12.3%)||Santana Moss (34.3 - 11.1%)||Leonard Hankerson (25.3 - 9.2%)|
|11||SDG||4478||26.8||Keenan Allen (21.3 - 23.3%)||Antonio Gates (33.2 - 19.4%)||Eddie Royal (27.3 - 14%)||Danny Woodhead (28.6 - 13.5%)|
|12||PIT||4306||26.7||Antonio Brown (25.1 - 34.8%)||Emmanuel Sanders (26.5 - 17.2%)||Jerricho Cotchery (31.2 - 14%)||Heath Miller (30.9 - 13.8%)|
|13||TEN||3710||26.6||Kendall Wright (23.8 - 29.1%)||Nate Washington (30 - 24.8%)||Delanie Walker (29.1 - 15.4%)||Justin Hunter (22.3 - 9.5%)|
|14||MIN||3645||26.6||Greg Jennings (29.9 - 22.1%)||Jerome Simpson (27.6 - 19.9%)||Cordarrelle Patterson (22.5 - 12.9%)||Jarius Wright (23.8 - 11.9%)|
|15||CHI||4450||26.6||Alshon Jeffery (23.5 - 31.9%)||Brandon Marshall (29.4 - 29.1%)||Martellus Bennett (26.5 - 17.1%)||Matt Forte (27.7 - 13.3%)|
|16||BAL||3914||26.5||Torrey Smith (24.6 - 28.8%)||Marlon Brown (22.4 - 13.4%)||Jacoby Jones (29.1 - 11.6%)||Dallas Clark (34.2 - 8.8%)|
|17||GNB||4538||26.4||Jordy Nelson (28.3 - 29%)||James Jones (29.4 - 18%)||Jarrett Boykin (23.8 - 15%)||Randall Cobb (23 - 9.5%)|
|18||PHI||4406||26.4||DeSean Jackson (26.8 - 30.2%)||Riley Cooper (26 - 18.9%)||LeSean McCoy (25.1 - 12.2%)||Brent Celek (28.6 - 11.4%)|
|19||NYJ||3270||26.4||Jeremy Kerley (24.8 - 16%)||Santonio Holmes (29.5 - 13.9%)||David Nelson (26.8 - 12.9%)||Jeff Cumberland (26.3 - 12.2%)|
|20||DAL||4226||26.1||Dez Bryant (24.8 - 29.2%)||Jason Witten (31.3 - 20.1%)||Terrance Williams (24 - 17.4%)||Cole Beasley (24.3 - 8.7%)|
|21||BUF||3373||26||Scott Chandler (28.1 - 19.4%)||Steve Johnson (26.8 - 17.7%)||Robert Woods (21.4 - 17.4%)||Fred Jackson (32.5 - 11.5%)|
|22||ARI||4291||26||Michael Floyd (23.8 - 24.3%)||Larry Fitzgerald (30 - 22.2%)||Andre Roberts (25.6 - 11%)||Rob Housler (25.5 - 10.6%)|
|23||MIA||3966||25.7||Brian Hartline (26.8 - 25.6%)||Mike Wallace (27.1 - 23.4%)||Charles Clay (24.5 - 19.1%)||Rishard Matthews (23.9 - 11.3%)|
|24||NYG||3875||25.7||Victor Cruz (26.8 - 25.8%)||Hakeem Nicks (25.6 - 23.1%)||Rueben Randle (22.3 - 15.8%)||Brandon Myers (28 - 13.5%)|
|25||IND||3952||25.7||T.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%)|
|26||SEA||3508||25.5||Golden Tate (25.1 - 25.6%)||Doug Baldwin (24.9 - 22.2%)||Zach Miller (27.7 - 11%)||Jermaine Kearse (23.6 - 9.9%)|
|27||OAK||3629||25.5||Rod Streater (25.6 - 24.5%)||Denarius Moore (24.7 - 19.2%)||Andre Holmes (25.2 - 11.9%)||Mychal Rivera (23 - 11.2%)|
|28||NWE||4343||25.4||Julian Edelman (27.3 - 24.3%)||Danny Amendola (27.8 - 14.6%)||Rob Gronkowski (24.3 - 13.6%)||Aaron Dobson (22.1 - 12%)|
|29||JAX||3751||25.3||Cecil Shorts (25.7 - 20.7%)||Ace Sanders (21.8 - 12.9%)||Mike Brown (24.6 - 11.9%)||Justin Blackmon (23.6 - 11.1%)|
|30||CLE||4372||24.4||Josh Gordon (22.4 - 37.6%)||Jordan Cameron (25.1 - 21%)||Greg Little (24.3 - 10.6%)||Davone Bess (28 - 8.3%)|
|31||STL||3360||24.3||Jared Cook (26.4 - 20%)||Chris Givens (23.7 - 16.9%)||Tavon Austin (22.5 - 12.4%)||Austin Pettis (25.3 - 11.9%)|
|32||CIN||4318||24.2||A.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:
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?