The NFL is a cutthroat business with youth at the forefront of success. However, to win in this league, you also need that savvy veteran to push you toward greatness.
Every year we see countless veterans being pushed out the door. Whether it is for salary cap reasons or because of their diminishing skills, several veterans are being squeezed from their jobs. In fantasy football, we sometimes tend to have an age bias too, but the following players in this slideshow should be exempt from such discrimination.
The eight players listed here (ranked in order of impact) still have plenty of gas left in their tank, so give these guys a good, hard look before draft day, as they can be impact performers in 2013.
During the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, Boldin showed exactly why he is still a dangerous weapon in the passing game. Boldin proved to be Joe Flacco’s most trusted target in the playoffs, as he compiled 22 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns in four postseason games while leading the Ravens to their second NFL title.
Boldin was then traded in the offseason to the 49ers, and with Michael Crabtree going down with a (likely) season-ending Achilles injury, Boldin’s value to San Francisco gets more significant by the day.
With a young, electrifying quarterback in Colin Kaepernick in the infancy stages of his career, he’ll need the services of a veteran receiver to rely on. Boldin provides that for him in spades.
Even though he’ll turn 33 this year, Boldin will not go quietly into the night, and he remains a very productive wide receiver (think high-end No. 3 WR) for fantasy purposes.
A lot of people have already written Gates' fantasy obituary. After turning 33 a little more than a week ago, not many people are giving him a chance to rebound this coming season.
Sure, Gates’ production has taken a nosedive of late, but between nagging injuries and the Chargers’ offense going into a funk, he has not been properly used in the past couple of years.
With a change in coaching philosophy and the Chargers hiring Mike McCoy, perhaps Gates and his quarterback Philip Rivers can recapture the old magic that made Gates such a lethal weapon for the better part of the past decade.
While he is no spring chicken, Gates still has amazing athletic ability, and he has enough left in him to be a productive, reliable fantasy starter at tight end in 10-12-team leagues.
With Cam Newton struggling early in sophomore campaign, it affected the fantasy value of Smith last season. Some people argue that Smith, who just turned 34, is just getting a little worn down because of Father Time catching up to him.
While he won’t be the speedy receiver he was in the early and mid-2000s, Smith has enough know-how, moxie and experience to help fantasy players for a few more years. As Newton continues to morph into a complete quarterback, he will still rely on Smith to get him there. After all, 73 receptions for 1,174 receiving yards and four touchdowns (which he recorded in 2012) isn't too shabby.
Smith still makes for a low-end No. 2 wide receiver and excellent flex play.
Coming off of a season in which he registered 93 receptions (second among tight ends), 930 receiving yards (second among tight ends) and eight touchdowns (tied for fourth among tight ends) and appeared in the NFC Championship game, Gonzalez couldn’t resist coming back in 2013 while putting off retirement. Hey, a two-year, $14 million extension doesn’t hurt either.
In any case, the ageless wonder—for the record, Gonzalez is 37—was begged to come back, as he still showed he can still play with the kids at a high level. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan loves targeting Gonzalez as his safety valve and is still a preferred target in the red zone.
Considering the stats he’s still putting up, treat Gonzalez as top-five tight end for fantasy purposes.
Witten, who turned 32 last month, just keeps going about his business as usual.
Witten is a pass-catching machine, as his receptions (110) and receiving yards (1,039) were tops among tight ends in 2012. In PPR leagues, Witten has exponentially more value, as he still—for some odd reason—has trouble finding pay dirt (only scoring a total of eight touchdowns in the last two years).
Witten is a gutsy, dependable and durable (playing in all 16 games since his second year in the league, which stretches nine seasons) of a tight end as you’ll ever find.
With that sort of consistency, Witten is a no-brainer tight end to target on draft day.
Under the tutelage of Bruce Arians and with a young, hotshot quarterback in Andrew Luck coming in, Wayne had a fantastic rebound season in 2013.
In 2013, Wayne placed sixth in the NFL in receptions (106) and seventh in receiving yards (1,355) while also chipping in with five touchdowns.
While Arians is in Arizona, Wayne should be fine considering that he still has a stabilizing quarterback getting him the ball. While he is creeping up there in age (34), Wayne has the experience, poise and wisdom to continue to shine in this league for a few more years.
A change of scenery is exactly what Jackson needed to rejuvenate his career, and going from a ho-hum offense in St. Louis to being part of the explosive offense in Atlanta should help make Jackson a safe selection in fantasy drafts this summer.
With 2,395 carries in nine seasons, Jackson looked like he was heading toward breaking down, but now that he is part of an offense that will still air it out while managing his carries effectively in the process, Jackson should feel refreshed in Atlanta this year. Simply put, Jackson should not feel the burden to carry the offense like he had to in St. Louis.
Jackson, who will turn 30 next month, has some productive seasons left in his body, and he makes for a high-end No. 2 running back.
I think we can all agree that the Falcons are likely to feature Julio Jones more in the passing game this year, but it will not come at the expense of White being pushed out the door.
At 32, White is still in tip-top shape and will unquestionably be a big part of the Falcons’ plans. This is a guy who is consistency personified. White is coming off of six straight years of producing at least 1,100-plus receiving yards while also averaging 102 receptions and 8.3 touchdowns in the past three years.
There may be some wear on the tires, but White is still a productive piece of the Falcons’ explosive offense and will remain an integral part of fantasy lineups for the foreseeable future.