Player Points - Reggie Wayne
By Chase Stuart
July 21st, 2010

Is it time to sell Reggie Wayne in dynasty leagues? Or is it time to buy?

The case to sell:

Wayne is coming off his fourth straight pro bowl appearance, and he hit the 100 catch/10 touchdown plateau for the second time in three seasons in 2009. At "just" 31 years old with a QB who is "just" 34 years old (and coming off another MVP season), things look great for Reggie Wayne ... on the surface. While Wayne was again a stud wide receiver in 2009, almost all the signs seem to point towards a decline for Wayne in the near future:

  • Dallas Clark became the second tight end to ever hit the 100-catch mark, and he gained 1100 yards and scored 10 TDs last year. He's younger than Wayne.
  • Pierre Garcon had 765 yards as a 23-year-old rookie in 2009.
  • Austin Collie had 60 catches and 7 touchdowns as a 24-year-old rookie last season.
  • Anthony Gonzalez missed essentially all of 2009, but had 57 catches as a 24-year-old in 2008, and should be fully recovered for 2010.
  • All four of those targets are younger than Wayne (not to mention new prospect Blair White from Michigan State). Meanwhile, Wayne and his quarterback are both past the half-way marks on their careers. Further, the 2009 Colts had 601 pass attempts, second most in the league. That's because Indianapolis ran just 366 times, 2nd fewest in the league. Considering the Colts spent a first round pick on RB Donald Brown in 2009, and former first round pick Joseph Addai had a very impressive performance in the Super Bowl, the 2010 Colts will probably pass less frequently than the '09 version. And, if you believe in those sort of things, Wayne's Super Bowl performance could be a bad omen: Wayne was largely invisible in the Super Bowl until being the intended receiver on the game-changing interception.

    The case to buy:

    But let's not be too quick to write off Reggie Wayne. Over the last forty years, wide receivers have played better for longer by nearly every measure. The NFL used to be a young man's game for wide receivers, but with more sophisticated passing routes and better training regimens, older wide receivers are more valuable than ever before. The table below shows what percentage of all VBD accumulated by receivers was earned by those over the age of 30 and 32 (the age Wayne turns in November):

    Year
    30+
    32+
    2009
    29.1%
    17.0%
    2008
    24.2%
    13.8%
    2007
    37.8%
    14.7%
    2006
    34.7%
    21.8%
    2005
    32.8%
    22.6%
    2004
    41.5%
    21.2%
    2003
    22.7%
    6.2%
    2002
    30.8%
    8.9%
    2001
    36.7%
    13.6%
    2000
    29.5%
    15.1%
    1999
    25.5%
    13.7%
    1998
    26.6%
    16.4%
    1997
    30.9%
    13.7%
    1996
    34.2%
    14.4%
    1995
    36.1%
    11.2%
    1994
    26.7%
    18.2%
    1993
    26.1%
    4.1%
    1992
    21.4%
    4.0%
    1991
    23.6%
    14.6%
    1990
    14.0%
    5.7%
    1989
    12.7%
    8.7%
    1988
    16.1%
    8.6%
    1987
    24.8%
    14.5%
    1986
    26.4%
    4.5%
    1985
    20.9%
    10.8%
    1984
    22.3%
    10.3%
    1983
    8.2%
    4.0%
    1982
    17.8%
    10.3%
    1981
    16.7%
    16.2%
    1980
    21.5%
    9.0%
    1979
    27.4%
    13.7%
    1978
    20.4%
    4.6%
    1977
    15.6%
    1.8%
    1976
    9.9%
    5.1%
    1975
    10.1%
    4.8%
    1974
    19.8%
    6.0%
    1973
    18.0%
    6.3%
    1972
    13.0%
    0.4%
    1971
    2.0%
    1.6%
    1970
    7.1%
    2.5%

    Recall that 2004 has been, in some ways, the mark of the modern passing game. It was after the 2003 playoffs that the NFL cracked down on the illegal contract rule, which has enabled passing games to explode. And it makes sense that wily veterans are able to take better advantage of that rule than their younger and more athletic counterparts (there was also a spike following the similar rules changes of 1978). And Wayne will be a "young" 32 this year since he's got a November birthday -- he could have another three or four years of strong production. Plus, it's not just the 32-year-old guys who are doing well. Wide receivers aged 33 or older are enjoying the later stages of their career better than at any other time in NFL history. The table below shows the number of top-20 wide receivers at that age over the last five eight-year periods in the NFL:

    Time Span
    #
    2002-2009
    21
    1994-2001
    14
    1986-1993
    10
    1978-1985
    10
    1970-1977
    4

    Hines Ward, Derrick Mason and Donald Driver are still going strong. As long as Wayne stays with Manning and the Colts -- an increasingly shaky proposition as he is currently unhappy with his deal and the Colts are in no rush to extend his contract -- he'll be undervalued in dynasty leagues like Ward, Mason and Driver have been the past few years.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.

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