The Impact of Age on Rookie Wide Receivers
Hakeem Nicks was one of the high performing rookies who also happened to be very young (Image via Football Schedule/Flickr)

After yesterday’s post on Terrance Williams, where I noted that Williams will be 24 when the season starts, I’ve begun to look into the issue of age and I have at least some preliminary information that I think is going to be useful.  I’ve plotted out the curve for college WRs to figure out how much they should improve with each additional year in school.  I’ll be sharing that in the coming days as I get it into a plottable form.  Today though I just wanted to throw out a graph which shows receiving yards per game for rookies of various ages.

Edit: I should have noted that I threw in an arbitrary cutoff in order to limit the total sample of players so I wouldn’t be copy/pasting all day from PFR.  So all of the players shown had a minimum of 400 yards in their rookie season.  For future iterations of this I’ll be sure to include the entire population of rookie WRs.

There are, I think, just a couple of quick takeaways from this graph.  First, the 21 year old rookies performed well.  There were a small number of them, but they performed pretty well (I have a table at the bottom of the post with the 21 year old rookies from this period).  The 24 year old rookies had the fewest yards per game.  That’s not to say that 24 year old rookies are necessarily worse football players.  It could be that NFL teams just take age into account when they draft and thus end up allocating playing time according to the draft position.  I haven’t looked at it enough to really know for sure.  More to come on this front.

Rookie Receiver Yards/Game by Age – 2003-2012


21-Year Old Rookie Wide Receivers (According to PFR)

Player Year Tm G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Y/G
Josh Gordon 2012 CLE 16 13 50 805 16.1 5 50.3
Percy Harvin 2009 MIN 15 8 60 790 13.17 6 52.7
Hakeem Nicks 2009 NYG 14 6 47 790 16.81 6 56.4
Larry Fitzgerald 2004 ARI 16 16 58 780 13.45 8 48.8
Jeremy Maclin 2009 PHI 15 13 56 773 13.8 4 51.5
Kenny Britt 2009 TEN 16 6 42 701 16.69 3 43.8
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