Most receivers do not get better with age like fine wine or Betty White. They lose a step, have a tougher time separating from sticky cornerbacks and get phased out of offenses for receivers with younger, fresher, more explosive legs.
That was not the case last season for Jabar Gaffney and Malcom Floyd. These two veterans had the most impressive fantasy seasons of their careers even though they have been in the league a long time. Maybe they finally figured out how to get open. Maybe they just got lucky.
But the problem is that they will be hard-pressed to duplicate or top their 2011 stats in 2012 for fantasy football owners.
So here are the reasons why Gaffney and Floyd will not be having back-to-back career years:
Jabar Gaffney, New England Patriots
Gaffney was Washington’s No. 1 wideout last season, consistently bailing out the erratic Rex Grossman and always quietly piling up yards. When you looked at boxscores after watching his games, you would wonder when he made so many catches.
Gaffney had a career-high 68 receptions and 947 yards in 2011, pretty impressive since he was 30 years old and was in his 10th NFL season. Even more impressive when you consider that Grossman and John Buck were his quarterbacks.
But Gaffney goes from being the main man to being the 14th-best option in New England’s vaunted passing attack. Okay, maybe 14th is a little disingenuous, but with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead on the roster, Gaffney is maybe only the sixth or seventh-best option for Tom Brady.
Gaffney is familiar with Brady and the Patriots intricate offensive system, but he never had a 500-yard season with the Pats during his first go-round, let alone a 900-yard one. And Gronkowski, Hernandez and Lloyd were not around back then.
Gaffney would have received some late-round looks in fantasy drafts if he stayed with Washington or went somewhere else where he could at least be a No. 2 or No. 3 WR. But returning to New England means a return to fantasy mediocrity.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers
You might figure with Vincent Jackson fleeing to the equally sunny skies of Tampa Bay that Floyd would be primed for another career year because he could become Philip Rivers’ No. 1 wide receiver. Hmm, not so fast there, Devin Hester....
Floyd, like Gaffney, waited until he turned 30 to have the most productive season of his career. His 856 receiving yards and 19.9 yards per catch average in 2011 were personal bests, and he probably would have ended up with over 1,000 yards had he not missed a month due to injury.
Yet Floyd comes with more questions than Columbo. There are several factors to consider before taking Floyd too high in drafts.
Floyd and tight end teammate Antonio Gates have been battling it for most banged-up Charger pass catcher the past two seasons. Floyd missed five games in 2010 and four more in 2011, thanks to assorted injuries. In fact he has only played one full 16-game season in his seven pro years. This is a prime reason why he still does not have a 900-yard year to his credit.
Floyd was always able to generate big plays downfield because Jackson and Gates were the ones getting double-covered and freeing Floyd up for man-to-man coverage against less-talented defensive backs. Now with Jackson gone, Floyd will probably face more top-tier cornerbacks and could have trouble getting open on deep patterns.
San Diego wasted no time or expense in replacing Jackson when he signed with Tampa Bay. The Chargers brought in Robert Meachem from New Orleans, Eddie Royal from Denver and Roscoe Parrish from Buffalo, and this trio could be a train wreck for Floyd’s fantasy value.
Meachem was signed for multiple millions and could overtake Floyd as the No. 1 WR, especially since he too has the ability to speed down the field and stretch defenses like they are Silly Putty.
Royal will be the slot receiver who catches more underneath passes that Floyd would not catch anyway, and Parrish is a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver who is more dangerous when returning punts, but their presence will still take away targets from Floyd.
I would not draft Floyd any higher now than I would have in 2011. His injury history, age and competition is too daunting.
But if you are looking for a receiver who can get you 800 yards and six touchdowns in the later rounds of your draft, I would take Floyd before I would take Gaffney.