Best player over 30 years old at every offensive position

Which NFL players over 30 years old are still going strong? Tackles Andrew Whitworth and Joe Thomas lead the list.

| 4 weeks ago
(AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

Best player over 30 years old at every offensive position


Following up on Pro Football Focus’ first-ever under-25 team (offense and defense) recently, today we are introducing our first-ever over-30 team, starting with the offense. While this list includes purely individuals aged 30 or older, some of them actually represent the best players at their positions in the NFL. Due to the fact that players’ performance can fall off a cliff out of nowhere and older players are less likely to bounce back after struggling, we focus more on recent form and performance on this list rather than looking at potential and historic play.

Quarterback

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2016 PFF overall grade: 99.3)

While Brady will turn 40 in August, he was still not only the best quarterback over 30, but the best signal-caller overall in 2016. Furthermore, Brady’s grade of 99.3 is the highest earned by a quarterback in the PFF era (since 2006). While players tend to decline at this stage of their careers, the New England quarterback has surprisingly been able to further improve in recent years, especially when it came to his performance under pressure and extending play. Brady had a passer rating of 84.9 under pressure in 2016, which ranked fifth in the league. In addition, he was sacked on just 10.6 percent of the plays when he was under pressure, which was the third-lowest rate among quarterbacks.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (93.3)

Running back

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (73.9)

The age 30 is associated with a decline in performance for running backs, or even worse, some might be out of the league by the time they turn 30. While that is not the case for Carolina’s Stewart, in 2016 he did earn his lowest grade since 2013 and also had to miss some time with injury. However, when he is on the field he is still a reliable starting running back as his grade of 73.9 ranked 20th among running backs last season. Furthermore, although he’s not a threat as a receiver, Stewart earned the fifth-highest elusive rating in 2016 with 59.6. The Carolina running back’s 47 forced missed tackles on runs were tied with Le’Veon Bell for the second most broken tackles despite the fact that Bell had 43 more carries in 2016.

Jonathan Stewart

Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders (2015 PFF overall grade: 86.2)

Wide receiver

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (85.1)

While every year there are speculations regarding Fitzgerald’s decline and expectations regarding other Arizona receivers stepping up, he still remains the Cardinals’ top pass-catcher even though he had to transition from an outside receiver to a slot receiver over the years. As a matter of fact, Fitzgerald has become one of the most frequently used slot receivers in the league as his 63 receptions were tied with Julian Edelman for the second most catches from the slot. In addition, Fitzgerald ranked among the top 10 receivers in eight of the last 11 seasons, including 2016.

Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers (85.8)

Garcon signing with the 49ers might be the most underrated move of the offseason since, while the veteran wide receiver turns 31 in August, he has not showed any sign of decline so far. Although DeSean Jackson was considered the primary receiver in Washington, Garcon was flying under the radar and the two earned similar grades in every season until 2016. Last season Garcon earned a grade of 85.8 – the highest in his career – which ranked eighth among receivers while Jackson’s 77.0 ranked 36th. In addition, Garcon was tied with Emmanuel Sanders for the second-best drop rate in the NFL as he dropped only 1 of his 80 catchable targets.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (83.9)

Although Nelson turned 32 Wednesday and he just came back from a serious injury, he was still the 14th-highest-graded receiver in 2016 with an overall grade of 83.9 and is still considered to be Aaron Rodgers’ primary target going forward. Nelson still led all wide receivers with 14 touchdown receptions at the age of 31 and Rodgers threw only one interception and had a passer rating of 122.4 when targeting Nelson, which was the fifth-highest for a wide receiver in 2016.

Honorable Mention: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (81.2); DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (77.0); Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens (75.7)

Tight end

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (87.5)

Although his run-blocking has never become a strength, Olsen’s receiving skills more than make up for his work in run blocking and eventually earn him a spot on this team ahead of Jimmy Graham and Delanie Walker. Olsen’s usage makes his strengths even more evident as he ran the eight-highest percentage of routes from the slot and finished with the most receiving yards from the slot among tight ends with 509 yards.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks (85.1)

Offensive tackle

Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams (91.3)

Whitworth’s play has to decline at some point, right? Well, it has not so far, as the former Cincinnati Bengal just finished his eighth consecutive season with an overall grade of at least 85.0. Although Whitworth will be facing new challenges with the Rams, he was still going strong at the age of 35 last season as he led all offensive tackles with a pass blocking efficiency rating of 98.0 since he allowed only 14 total pressures on 561 pass-blocking snaps.

Andrew Whitworth

Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (89.1)

While Thomas posted his first grade below 90.0 in the last four seasons in 2016, he was still our fifth-ranked offensive tackle with an overall grade of 89.1. Although Thomas took a slight step back in pass protection as his pass-blocking efficiency rating of 96.0 was tied for 17th among offensive tackles, his track record and consistency over the years speak for themselves: Thomas graded above 85.0 and was among the Top 10 offensive tackles in every season of his career.

Honorable Mention: Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles (88.3); Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders (87.3)

Guard

Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (92.0)

The fact that offensive linemen have a longer career in the NFL is supported by the fact that both of PFF’s two highest-graded guards in 2016 are above 30. Yanda continued his streak of dominance in 2016 as his grade of 92.0 was actually his lowest since 2013. Baltimore’s versatile guard not only earned the highest pass-blocking grade among all guards, he also ranked in the top three in run-blocking in 2016. Furthermore, Yanda was one of only three guards not to allow a single quarterback hit or sack last season.

Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh Steelers (89.1)

Although Foster played only 14 games in 2016, his performance in those outings was enough to earn him a grade of 89.1, the second-highest among guards. In addition, he was part of a unit that gradually became the best offensive line in the NFL by the end of the season. While Foster did allow 25 total pressures and ranked only 32nd in pass-blocking efficiency, he was one of four guards to play more than 500 pass blocking snaps and not allow a single sack all season.

Honorable Mention: Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills (87.2); Josh Sitton, Chicago Bears (86.2)

Center

Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons (89.5)

While Mack’s play seemed to decline in 2014 and 2015, reuniting with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta did wonders and helped him earn an overall grade of 89.5, the highest of his entire career. As a result, he ranked just behind Matt Paradis and Travis Frederick as PFF’s third-highest-graded center in 2016. While Mack surrendered two sacks and ranked just 19th in pass-blocking efficiency among centers, his consistent execution of some difficult blocks in Atlanta’s outside zone-heavy run game earned him a spot on this list.

Honorable Mention: Max Unger, New Orleans Saints (83.8)

  • JudoPrince

    Aaron Rodgers is just better than Tom Brady. I don’t see slot receivers and RB’s running wide open all day in GB like they do in NE.

    • Richard

      Actually, there are, Rodgers just doesn’t throw the ball to them unless there gets to a point where the offense has struggled for too long in the game (or season). Then Rodgers starts completing the short stuff to get the Packers back into the game, his receivers produce with plenty of YAC yards and people think Rodgers is the reason for the comeback when in reality, he was the reason the Packers weren’t scoring in the first place. That offense is unstoppable when Rodgers just looks to complete passes rather than look to make big plays.

      • JudoPrince

        Here is the difference: Brady is fundamentally sound. He gets the ball out on time and is accurate on short to medium routes. But take away the ability of his receivers to get open via mismatches and he’s toast, much like in the first half against Atlanta and Seattle in their last two Superbowl appearances.

        Rodgers meanwhile has the ability to do far more on his own if his teammates are failing him. Based on individual ability, I will always chose that type of player.

        • Richard

          What you say about Brady is true but Brady wins because he allows the players around him to be the stars and doesn’t make things harder than they need to be just to show how great he is. Individual ability only matters in moments and doesn’t matter at all if the QB doesn’t maximize the team around him. The question with Rodgers is whether or not his physical abilities actually make the Packers a better team. I’m not sure that they do based on the games I have graded so far from last season. I have done many of his bad games and I can easily see why he was able to play much better after he made his guarantee that the Packers would run the table. He was able to follow through with that because he was the reason the Packers offense was struggling in the first place. It is easier to turn things around for a QB when he is the problem, especially when it is because he just wants to make big plays.

        • WR

          You’re wrong about Brady. He’s accurate to all parts of the field. The reason NE runs the offense they do is because they can gain a competitive advantage, not because Brady is unable to throw deep.

          Also, did you see how much Rodgers’ numbers went down in 2015 and the first half of 2016, when his receivers were struggling? How do you explain that, if Rodgers is so much better, and isn’t reliant on his teammates?

    • Rolo Tomassi

      Scramble drill Hail Mary offense is NOT better than Brady.
      Combine that with the SOUL crushing playoff meltdowns, throwing teamates and coaches under the bus .
      Aron is the Definition of a celibrity DIVA QB

  • Dirk Diggler

    I think you guys are bored. Best players under 25, best players over 30. What’s next – best retired players who can still play? Just busting your balz. Great site and podcasts.

  • Jack

    I don’t know if I want my team’s players on this list or not. On one hand, yeah my team has good players. On the other, your about to lose your good players. It’s just hard to be excited about making this list.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Pretty good selections but how does Frank Gore (8th all time in rushing yards) not even get an honorable mention against the guy who is 70th on that list?

    • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

      at least there’s only 11 guys on offense this time, progress