You may have seen the NFL All-Pro team, which was recently announced, but I can promise you that you haven’t seen an All-Pro team like the one you’re about to meet. If you’ve been keeping up with RotoViz, you know that player age is becoming of increasing interest, but for the most part, that scrutiny has been directed at college players. For this article I am putting NFL players under the microscope, comparing them both to their peers and their historical age-cohort.
What the hell is a historical age-cohort?
Think about it like this: Peyton Manning played the 2013 season at Age 37. What if you could compare Peyton Manning’s Age 37 quarterback season to every other 37 year old quarterback season in the history of the NFL, a.k.a. his “age cohort”? How would he look compared to that group? (spoiler alert: his 2013 looks amazing compared to anybody). So, extrapolating that out to all positions I have done the following:
1) Searched every age cohort for every position going back to 1920, isolating on 2013 performances that ranked in the top 10.
2) Narrowed down the list to the most spectacular age-cohort performers by position, creating an alternative, “age adjusted” 2013 All Pro Team.
An additional step that I could have taken have taken would be to standardize these performances for the eras in which they occurred. If any one wants to take on that step, more power to you, but I think this gets the point across.
Ladies and Gentlemen, here they are:
Quarterbacks (min 8 games started, sorted by AY/A)
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, Age 37
Do I need to write anything here? TD record. Yardage record. #1 seed. Five of the eight names immediately behind him are Hall of Famers. Simply the best ever.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles, Age 24
Nick Foles is from another planet. Last March I predicted that he would be the future of the Philadelphia Eagles, but I couldn’t have seen this coming. Foles posted– by a mile–the most ruthlessly efficient 24 year old season in NFL history, leaving Russell Wilson, Fran Tarkenton (HOF), Boomer Esiason, Bernie Kosar, and Peyton Manning (future HOF)) in the dust. Furthermore, he is tied for the best winning percentage of anyone on this list. The interesting and bizarre thing to me is that twice in the last week I’ve heard 3-5 minute analyses of the Eagles 2013 success that didn’t mention Nick Foles. Bueller?
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Age 30
It’s easy to forget what a rockstar Aaron Rodgers was before he hurt his shoulder. On an efficiency basis, his 2013 was nearly as good as Tom Brady‘s 2007…you know, the year the Patriots started 18-0 and Brady threw 50 touchdowns. Drew Brees ranks #4 on this list for the season when he led the Saints to the Super Bowl championship. Further down the list you’ll find Jim Kelly‘s 1990 (Superbowl loss), Peyton Manning’s 2006 (Superbowl win) and Eli Manning‘s 2011 (Superbowl win). Could Rodgers be on a similar Superbowl trajectory? Seems like the Packers are getting healthy at the right time.
Running Backs (min 8 games played, sorted by Yards from Scrimmage)
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, Age 25
Marcus Allen was league MVP in 1985. Marshall Faulk, amazingly, wasn’t MVP or 1st team All-Pro in 1998, but, I digress. Fifth best of his age-cohort and 33rd best of all time, McCoy was an absolute stud this year for the Eagles and deservedly was named first team All-Pro. It’s fascinating that the Eagles have “first teamers” at both QB and RB.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, Age 27
LT was MVP in 2006, Peterson was MVP in 2012, Marshall Faulk was MVP in 2000, Jim Brown was MVP in 1963 and Jamaal Charles’ 2013 was just an eyelash behind those incredible performances. He was the centerpiece of the Chiefs miraculous turnaround and was the top Fantasy Football RB in 2013.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 21
What kind of company was Bell keeping during his remarkable 21 year old season? Try this on for size: five Hall of Famers, six Rookies of the Year, 11 All-Pros, ten 10,000 yards-from-scrimmage careers, and five of the greatest running backs to ever live. Oh, and did I mention that Bell missed three games due to injury? The sky is the limit for this agility-score stud. It is an absolute fraud that Bell is not a RoY finalist.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, Age 28
Lost in the shuffle of Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy is the fact that Forte was incredible, yet was omitted from the “real” All-Pro team. To put things in perspective, Shaun Alexander, who Forte finished 25 yards shy of, won the MVP in 2005. Guys like Tomlinson, Westbrook, Faulk and Holmes all ranked #1 or #2 among RBs in Fantasy Football scoring for the seasons listed above.
Wide Receivers (min 8 games played, sorted by yards/game)
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns, Age 22
Adjusting for age, or not, Josh Gordon’s 2013 was one of the most prolific of all time. He became just the 5th man in NFL history to average 115+ yards receiving while playing in at least ten games. The others are Calvin Johnson (Likely HOF), Elroy Hirsch (HOF), Charley Hennigan (All Pro) and Jerry Rice (HOF).
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Age 28
Breaking news: Calvin Johnson is on a historic run. His Age 26 season (2011) was the 5th best, his Age 27 season (2012) was THE BEST, and now his Age 28 season is the 2nd best. There’s not too much more praise to heap on Megatron, but let’s just make sure we enjoy this while it lasts.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers, Age 21
It wasn’t exactly Randy Moss‘ 1998 Rookie of the Year performance, but Keenan Allen’s 2013 was damn good. Despite being one of Allen’s biggest skeptics throughout the Draft process, I think he is the slam dunk pick for RoY for his place on this leader board. He was huge for a revitalized, but WR-injury-depleted, Chargers team.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, Age 32
For one of the leagues most disastrous and non-prolific passing offenses, Andre Johnson posted the 3rd best 32 year old season in history. Maynard, Rice, and Stallworth are all Hall of Famers.
Tight Ends (min 8 games played, sorted by yards/game)
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints, Age 27
What else can you say about a guy who averaged a touchdown/game for an entire season, than “SHOOOW HIM THE MOOONEEEY”?
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, Age 29
Speaking of averaging a TD/game, Vernon Davis came pretty close. He is surrounded on this leaderboard by some of the games all-time great Tight Ends. Harkening back to his freak-combine performance, Davis leads this list in yards/reception and was a critical component of the 49ers injury-depleted passing game.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, Age 37
What Tony Gonazalez has done at the Tight End position is simply unmatched. It’s comical to compare him to any other 37 year old TE (seriously this is the complete list), or any other TE for that matter. On the all-time TE leaderboard he has 5,000 more yards than anyone else and 24 more touchdowns. What an amazing career and what a fine way to close it out.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, Age 33
It’s interesting to see Gates right above Gozalez on this list. Gates is #2 on the all time TE leaderboard for touchdowns and has a good chance to end up #2 all time in TE receiving yards. His stats might not have been jaw-dropping, but his 2013 was the best TE season in 50 years and that has to count for something.