Friday, August 7, 2020

Published August 07, 2020 by with 2 comments

When Do NFL Players Peak?

Aging is brutal. It is particularly bad for top athletes. I wanted to see at what age NFL players peak.
The simplest metric I could think of for performance was 'were they an all-pro?' All-pro players are the players each season who were selected by various voters (AP here) as the best players at their positions. Since performance vs age varies by position, I split it and looked at three: running back (RB), wide receiver (WR), and quarterback (QB). I put the RB one in twice with two different scales so that there's one zoomed in, and one on the same scale as the WR and QB so comparisons are easier.

Since RB and WR rely so much on raw physical performance (speed, ability to take a hit and recover, etc.), it's no surprise that they peak earlier than QBs. It is interesting that both peak at 25-26. It sucks a bit though in that rookie contracts are 4 years long. This means that a WR or RB that wasn't starting with a great contract will be up for a new one at 26 years old or so which is right when they've peaked, so teams should be hesitant to spend heavily on them. It works out sometimes (e.g., Derrick Henry this year), but is still pretty unfortunate timing in general.

One really important thing to call out...Jerry Rice was an all-pro at 40.

That's it. QBs peak at ~30. RBs and WRs peak at ~25. I feel old and sad.

I pulled the data from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/ for each year.


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2 comments:

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