|AP GRAPHIC FANTASY FOOTBALL LOGO|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 09 August 2007 06:53|
Yet one statistic is giving some fantasy football players pause: his age.
Harrison's not just old. He's really, really old. He turns 35 this month, which comes out to something well over 60 when you convert pro athlete years to regular person years.
The question for Harrison - and the many other elderly receivers near the top of most fantasy draft boards - is whether age matters at all. Are their best fantasy numbers behind them in their golden years?
Based on recent production from the 30-ish set, the answer is no, there is no age discrimination for NFL receivers. That's good news for anybody who wants to draft Harrison, Terrell Owens (who turns 34 this year), Donald Driver (32), Torry Holt (31) or Randy Moss (30).
Unlike running backs, who almost always start to wear down from all those hard hits once they're out of their 20s, receivers can be effective well into their 30s.
Last year Owens led the league in touchdown catches. Three of the top-scoring receivers were 30 or older. Harrison ranked second in scores and in yardage, losing out to the 29-year-old Chad Johnson by 3 yards. Four of the top 10 in receiving yards were in their 30s.
A handful of 30-plus receivers go for 1,000 yards or are among the league's top scorers every single year. (Even Bill Schroeder went for nearly 1,000 yards and nine scores when he was 30.)
Still, everyone seems to be waiting for Harrison to drop off.
You'd think he'd be rated as the No. 1 receiver in all the $14 glossy preseason fantasy magazines, but he's not. Some don't even have him in the top three. Concerns about his age must be the big reason, because his numbers show no signs of slippage.
Harrison's yardage totals in 2007 were the fifth-highest in his 11 seasons. He averaged 14.4 yards a catch, his second best season ever and a full yard above his career average. His 95 catches were the most he's had in five years.
And he was absolutely dominant at times, catching three touchdowns against Cincinnati, burning Tennessee for 172 yards and going over 100 yards five other times.
Harrison isn't the only veteran receiver displaying youthful exuberance.
Owens had his highest catch total in four years. (OK, so he also led the league in dropped passes, but for the most part he's aging well.)
Driver posted career highs in catches (92) and yards (1,295) at age 31.
Joey Galloway, who turns 36 this year, has averaged over 1,100 yards and scored 17 times the past two seasons. In fact, his two highest yardage seasons came at 34 and 35. He's still getting open deep, too, averaging 17 yards a catch last year.
Even if Harrison isn't showing age on the field, some fantasy players expect the significantly younger Reggie Wayne to take over as the Colts' top receiver soon. That was true in some games last year, and certainly it'll happen again at times.
But that only helps Harrison over the course of a season. When a team doubles Wayne or plays Harrison straight up, Manning's computer brain instantly detects it and transmits the appropriate signal to Harrison for a big play.
More success for Wayne means more for Harrison in an offense that has room for two top receivers. While Harrison piled up 1,366 yards and 12 scores, there were still enough balls for Wayne to snag 86 catches for 1,310 yards and nine touchdowns.
Still, all the worry comes back to the number 35. There's no denying that it's scary old for a receiver that you'd spend a high draft pick to acquire. (Harrison is three years older than new Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and the same age as new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.)
If there's any lingering concern about his age, though, just remember Harrison's no ordinary receiver. He's one of the best ever, and other receiving greats of his era also succeeded when they were older.
Jerry Rice missed most of his 35-year-old season with an injury but came back to catch 82 passes for nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns at 36. He also surpassed 1,100 yards at age 39 and at 40.
When Cris Carter was 35, he caught 96 balls for 1,274 yards and nine TDs. Tim Brown had 91 catches for 1,165 yards and nine scores when he was 35.
Even some less-than-great receivers had big numbers at 35.
Keenan McCardell had 900 yards and nine TDs. Irving Fryar went over 1,300 yards, Jimmy Smith had about 1,200, and Henry Ellard broke the 1,000-yard mark.
So keep breaking down those receiving stats in preparation for your fantasy drafts.
Just don't factor in the birth dates.