Age Curves and NFL Breakouts: How to Win in Dynasty – The Wrong Read, No. 34

Welcome to the 34th installment of the “The Wrong Read.” This article series started as one that reflected on recent podcast episodes and extended the ideas discussed there to logical conclusions with broader applications. Since then it’s become a space for me to write about whatever I want, with irregular references to various podcast episodes. Nevertheless, I’ll link to the episode that started my train of thought if applicable. Last week I presented the results of some of my research on wide receiver age curves and how a WR’s age affects NFL production. Whereas the traditional age curves have inadvertently tricked many a dynasty owner into thinking that WRs (and all other offensive skill position players) tend to improve until reaching their peak production around the age of 27, my results show that WRs on average do not improve after the age of 22. In fact from age 23 on, WRs tend to see a decrease in fantasy scoring. In other words, most NFL WRs will never be better (from a fantasy perspective) than they are at age 23. These results are rather counterintuitive, particularly because many of the best players in the NFL — the most valuable dynasty assets, that is — are within the so-called peak production window. But my findings suggest you should be filling your team with younger assets and selling the players in the peak-production window. That is, you should be moving the best players off your team in favor of younger assets. The question therefore obviously arises: if you don’t have any of the best players on your team, how can you win?

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By Blair Andrews | @AmItheRealBlair | Archive

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  1. bmoff says:

    @hba24 This is great work. Your TWR series is solid and really appreciate the work you've put into it.

    Question re: the data for your age curve research. You said you consider a WR3 finish as a breakout. Is that purely by rank on where they finish for the year? (ie: WR3 would be between 24 and 36 at end of year?). Or are you using a point scale range? I'm comparing your research to what I've done on my own. Wondering where a guy like Robert Woods falls on your scale? I'm concerned how strict the parameters need to be and if I should adjust my data accordingly...

    IMO, Woods was close enough to be considered a WR3 in 2014 (his age 22 season). I think he finished in the low to mid 40s by total points. But that was also a big year for WR scoring. Or do you consider 2017 (his age 25 season) to be his breakout season, because he finished as an actual WR3, while scoring as a whole was down.


  2. Thanks--really appreciate it. It's been fun stuff to research and write about, and there's still more to come.

    Yes, it's based on the actual end of season rank. So a breakout would be anything ranked higher than WR37.

    Woods' breakout was in 2017, according to my criteria. In 2014 he was the WR45, so not quite high enough. Although as you point out, he had almost the same number of PPR points, so there's a potential case to be made for an earlier breakout. Neither method is perfect and both are somewhat arbitrary.

    That said, the rank matters, because the changing fantasy landscape makes the same performance more valuable depending on its relative strength. Woods' 165 PPR points in 2014 are not as valuable to your fantasy team as his 165 PPR points in 2017. His 2014 season was more replaceable at the time.

  3. bmoff says:

    Gotcha. Makes sense to me. Thank you!

  4. bmoff says:

    @hba24 Are you planning doing a RB version? Do you think the results would be similar? Or more varied?

  5. Yes, a RB version is in the works. I expect the results to be very similar--surprisingly so, perhaps. If anything my guess is it will show less variation--my sense is that later breakouts happen even less frequently at RB.

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