April 13, 2024

Ageism in Fantasy Football

6 min read

Ageism in Fantasy Football

By Tim Lazenby


Fantasy football is many things to many people. It can offer the greatest thrills you’ve felt and at the same time, it can utterly destroy your world. No matter what format you play, if you are a fantasy manager, savvy decisions are constantly being made in order to bring you all the way to the top. And to make matters more complicated, if you play dynasty, these decisions weigh more heavily. On top of considering a player’s skill level and if they fit the make of your team, age always comes into the minds of anyone running a team.

But how old is too old? This question has many different answers, especially when considering certain positions, but the question must be pondered all the same. I, like almost any other manager, am guilty of ageism in fantasy football. While I am a little more reasonable with the quarterback, or even wide receiver, the running back always seems to have a ticking clock attached to their name.

And while it’s normal and even wise to take age into consideration, there has to be a limit as to how much weight it brings to the equation. When do you take the lesser talent because the player is simply too old? I was reminded of this by two community members in a charity pool we’re in this season. Let’s see where you sit.

The conversation came up when discussing the King, Derrick Henry. At 28 years old, he can’t be trusted like he was even two seasons ago. And considering the injury he is coming back from, @ApolyonLC stated that he’d rather have a younger, albeit inexperienced option in Cam Akers. He put forth an argument that Henry’s value is too high and he’d rather have the much cheaper, yet still comparable option.

Well, this lit a fire under @NatedBeall who thought that notion was ludacris. While it’s true he’s certainly not as young as he once was, he’s still near the top of his game. Why would you want Cam Akers, who suffered a devastating injury of his own and is also unproven? Why not go with the guy who you know what he’s capable of? Push comes to shove, even though Henry is more expensive, there is a good reason for it.

And while I have an opinion of my own, obviously, I can definitely see both sides. The decision is way easier for me in redraft, but in dynasty, the waters are much more muddied. Let’s talk about why you should take Derrick Henry:

I feel like I have to state the obvious. Derrick Henry is not alone here. There is a laundry list of aging veterans who are being looked down upon simply because they are a year older than they were. But we’ve seen time and again where veterans can lead the pack. There are special players who laugh at their expiry date. I was the same guy who refused to draft Tom Brady for the last eight years because I was sure the cliff was looming, by the way.

But, even if Henry, or that other veteran you’re thinking of, isn’t the numero uno, it is a rarity to be among the upper echelon and fail to meet any version of expectations completely. There is a real danger that you pass on someone only to have them score 20 less points. And you take the younger option who isn’t even close to the other “too old” guy. I remember specifically passing on Adrian Peterson one year because I thought he was too old, only to have him destroy the league. Meanwhile, the “young stud” I took was near worthless at the time.

There’s also the mistake we make in dynasty of always planning for our future, but never considering our present. Why abandon a perfectly good “old” option so you can win in the next three seasons? Meanwhile, you never win a season because you have no established talent, but you’re super excited about your team in 2026…

Now I’d be selling you up the river if I let you believe there isn’t some logic in avoiding aging veterans over comparable youth. While I personally am not heavily invested in Cam Akers, I can see why people are. There are people who will lead you to believe the gamble is all on taking the youngster, but there are gambles on either side.

And, since we’re talking dynasty, building your future can’t be ignored. You simply have to sell high when the timer is ticking and buy low before the star explodes. There’s a reason why stock market experts are rich, after all. Those who were smart enough to gain any star player before their current worth are certainly rewarded. And when it comes to Derrick Henry specifically, there aren’t too many players his age who dominate at running back, let alone as the years press on.

So on this side of the argument, you’re essentially getting Derrick Henry or two really great pieces. And to most, two things sound better than one. So why hinge all your hopes on one older piece, who’s coming off an injury, when you can instead get a couple great pieces who will most likely last you much longer?

Many statistical studies have shown that running backs, on average, improve until the age of 27, and then they will begin to regress. And while there are unicorns, betting on a player to break the odds is not statistically probable. And for most of us with money and pride invested in our teams, it makes the most sense to go by the numbers and shift our team before it’s too late. It’s simply the smarter decision to move on from Derrick Henry now, at his age, and get comparable pieces for both your present and your future.

So, verdict time. Where do I sit on this proverbial wall? The decision for me is quite easy in redraft formats. Derrick Henry at his current ADP is worth more to me than Cam Akers and a good piece. But, to get to the meat and potatoes, in dynasty I swing the direction of Cam Akers and a piece. That is, unless there is no trading. In which case, I would rather gamble on Derrick Henry for a couple seasons than be stuck with Cam Akers, in whom I have no trust.

Lastly, to make this super spicy, there was a bet that was made:

Cam Akers finishes better than RB15 and Derrick Henry finishes worse than RB7.

This season, I predict that Cam Akers finishes below RB15 and Derrick Henry finishes above RB7, if he stays healthy that is.

I’d love to write more about what’s pressing for anyone. If some fantasy football thing is on your mind, I’d love to give you my thoughts and if you want to be mentioned in an article by me, let me know!

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