I actually find the article to be incredibly flawed. If you want to know how a player is going to age, you don't just look for players that had similar levels of production and make a comparison. You want to look for players that have similar physical attributes and skill sets. You also have to look at the pieces around them, specifically their QB. Remember, we're not talking about your average receiver, you should definitely cut bait with them when they're 30.
Randy Moss was productive past the age of 30, and fell off of a cliff when he did because he wasn't a good route runner.
Keyshawn caught 70 passes for 815 yards and 4 TDs in his last year. He was the #2 receiver on the Carolina Panthers (to Steve Smith) catching passes from Jake Delhomme and Chris Weinke. The Panthers only had 17 passing TDs that year. That seems like excellent production from a #2 receiver to me.
Torry Holt put up his best as part of the Greatest Show on Turf and in its immediate aftermath. The Rams didn't manage 3,000 passing yards as a team when Holt was 32 in 2008. They had a total of 11 TD passes and only scored 14 points per game. Marc Bulger stunk, Steven Jackson got hurt halfway through the year, and the offensive line was terrible. Holt played one more year, in Jacksonville, as the #2 receiver on a run first team. I believe Holt could have found a better situation and continued to play as a good #2 option, but he opted to retire.
Reggie Wayne caught 75 passes for 960 yards from the triumvirate of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky. Under Peyton Manning, the Colts were coming off 2 consecutive seasons of 4,500 passing yards. They had less than 3,000 in 2011. That's a lot of lost production for the receivers.
It's a fantasy football article, it has relevance in that sphere. But NFL teams don't and shouldn't evaluate players the same way that a fantasy football owner does. Does anyone think Matt Stafford is better than Eli Manning? Is Matt Ryan as good as Roethlisberger? Are Nate Washington and Mike Wallace the same player? Is Wes Welker better than Larry Fitzgerald? (Would the writer of the article say that Fitzgerald is "in decline," or is does he realize that he's just been stuck with bad QB play?)
I also like how he brushed aside the fact that Jimmy Smith maintained his production. That was because he was relatively healthy and stayed with the same team. I believe that older players are always better served by staying with the same organization or following a coach. The team or coach that doesn't know you is going to go with the young guy because: a) he's young, and; b) they invested a draft pick in him and they signed you off of the street for short money. Which is the other thing: A lot of older vets don't want to sign for short money. As a result, they pass up offers that would put them in a good situation and wind up on a team where it's going to be hard for them to produce.
I really think that if you have an [B]elite[/B] receiver at the age of 30 that is not dependent on their speed, you can count on them until they're 33 or 34, as a #1. They can probably still play as a #2 until they're 37, if they want to play that long.
What 37 year old receiver caught 72 passes for 983 yards and 9 TDs in 2010? We'll get back here in a second.
Joey Galloway (who had the best 3 year stretch of his career from 34-36)
Steve Smith (who people thought was washed up when all he needed was a competent QB)
Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice, who are the two best old receivers in NFL history.
All of these guys were top level, #1 receivers in their 30s.
TO is the answer to the question above. He treated his body like a temple, which allowed him to maintain a remarkably high level of performance.
Jerry Rice. I refrained from mentioning him until now because he's a special case. The greatest player ever, in my opinion. No one should ever count on a receiver holding up for nearly as long as he did. TO could have done it if he wasn't such an a$$hole.
83 catches; 1,139 yards; 9 TDs at 39
92 catches; 1,211 yards; 7 TDs at 40