Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.


Age is just a number, right?

Well, when it comes to the NFL Draft, it’s not as black and white as you’d expect, but it’s also not something to take lightly either.

In years past, we’ve heard people talk about how players like wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin are less coveted players because of their older ages – he was 24 years old during his rookie seasons. But to counter that, I saw many people (smart people, I may add) argue the point of, “who cares?” when it comes to age with Top 100 prospects.

I would say that neither side is completely correct. You never want to just throw a player out because he’s on the older side, but it’s also ignorant to believe that age, relative to their collegiate production, doesn’t have something to do with predicting how their success will translate to the NFL.

Jon Moore of Rotoviz wrote and article a while back that explained the age conundrum pretty well for the wide receiver position. In it, he established that a player’s market share, or individual production relative to the team’s total production, is the tool to use when determining whether or not a player’s age should be a concern.

The examples he chose to use with wide receivers were a couple of former Bucs in Keyshawn Johnson and Joey Galloway, in addition to Marvin Harrison and Roddy White – all players who were 24 years old in their rookie seasons. Moore notes that all four of those players had good NFL careers. So, what he did was compare the collegiate production of those four players to the averaged market share production they had in college with all wide receivers who were considered above-average in the NFL.

The main takeaway from that chart is that the average slope for market share production in college for wide receivers who are successful in the NFL starts at right above 20 percent at age 18 and is between 40 and 45 percent for receivers who were still in school between ages 23 and 24.

What that boils down to is the emphasis and biggest takeaway from the age-production metric. It is not a bad thing for a wide receiver to be older, but there is something to be said about dominance at each age. If a player is commanding more than 20-25 percent of his team’s market share at age 18 and 19, that should be viewed as on track for NFL success – those aren’t my words or even Moore’s, those are historical numbers saying that. Similarly, statistics show that players between 23 and 24 years old  are not commanding above 40 percent of their team’s market share success, chances are they don’t have the skills to make it in the NFL.

Now, there are certainly cases where this metric could be skewed. For example, if one receiver is on a team that is schemed incorrectly for their skill, such as Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette, who is a very good receiver on a run-first team that deploys the option, that could affect the truthfulness of the metric in their situation. However, the averages are what they are for a reason.

Moore also did a specific chart to single out how it was right on schedule that Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was having such early success in the NFL base on his market share while at Texas A&M.

The chart above compares Evans to other elite, 21-year-old wide receivers throughout the NFL’s history. The chart put Evans right on par with the other great young NFL receivers based on the fact that his production and reliability went up at the correct rate while at Texas A&M relative to how old he was when he was commanding such output.

So you can see there’s some truth to all this. It’s not that a player has to be below a certain age to be successful, but history tells us that there are certain thresholds that need to be met in order to predict success.

This age metric isn’t just for the wide receiver position either. Jim Cobern is a master of metric in his own right, and has established production, athleticism and age scores that players must hit in order to be considered All-Pro predictions by going through the data for every single player drafted since the 1987 draft.

In it, he explains that determining potential seriously favors those who have the talent to make it to the NFL at a young age – sort of a “duh”, but many people fail to use age as the tool it is. Of the edge rushers who became long-term starters, 79 percent of them were below the average age of their edge rushing classmates in whatever year they were drafted. In fact, of the All-Pro edge rushers who were drafted since the 1987 draft, 82.66 percent of them were below that average draft age of whatever class they were in.

“Every multiple All-Pro to Pro Bowl Edge Rusher since the 1987 NFL Draft class were above average in age on their draft day compared to their 877 Edge Rusher peers.”

At the end of the day, age may be just a number, but that number can be just as much of a factor as those other numbers we love to score like height, weight, hand size, 40-yard dash time, etc. Being an older player is fine as long as a player has the correct production output to go along with it.

I think Cobern put it perfectly when he said this,

“Age is a indicator of potential protégés or Mozart-like prospects. Players who are “dominant” at a younger age than their peers usually carry onto become the special players [in the NFL].”

When it comes to potential, everyone is looking to better predict who will be successful. Age metrics deserve to be included in whatever formula you use to determine outlook. If they’re not dominating their team’s production when they’re two, three or four years older than most of their competition, chances are they won’t be factors when both experience and talent is increased at the next level.
And with the important of age and potential fresh in our minds, let’s take a look at one of the youngest players in the entire draft.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

We need a solid WR2 not a WR1. What I like about Juju is he could be a WR1 but we could get him in round 2 or even three (maybe). We are not likely getting the top two and most high speed guys (like Ross) go bust in the pros (looking at you Hayward-Bay). Drafting speed is always a gamble.

Michael WestDominguez
Michael WestDominguez
5 years ago

This is just my opinion: Its a WIN NOW league, that being said: FREE AGENCY 1) grab jackson or Jeffrey, prefer Jeffrey with his size over the two – proven WR 2) get Calais Campbell from the Cardinals and Micah Hyde from the Packers who are free agents- needed edge killer at 6-8 300+ lbs and presence in the secondary at safety. DRAFT Swap #1’s with someone to move up and also give up our second round pick to go get Dalvin Cook DO NOT go after AP All other draft picks can be used for another OL, WR, CB… Read more »

David DeLeon
David DeLeon
5 years ago

Age is a funny thing, some players deal with it better than others. But I always believe people show you who they are, they don’t really change. I’m not talking about maturity, we all mature, some more than others. If you watch closely and take it for that you won’t be disappointed. Example, Lawrence Phillips was never going to become Walter Peyton as a person. I like Ju Ju, for a second round even more of he’s a third rounder but is he better than Reynolds in the 4th (most have him projected a 4th Rd) don’t know yet. As… Read more »

5 years ago

Hey TS
Did you load a third page? Only got 2 pages, could be my issue on my end.

Reply to  chetthevette
5 years ago

Same for me, only firt 2 pages loaded.