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Don't bail on aging wide receivers so quickly

New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) looks back as he scores on a 74-yard touchdown reception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

It’s generally accepted that an aging curve for wide receivers roughly follows a bell curve shape — they struggle a bit early in their career, peak in the age-27 range, and fall off predictably from that point. Some of the elite guys hold value longer, but the age demons get everyone eventually. This is something that I’d always taken for granted to be true.

But it’s always worth checking “conventional wisdom” for flaws. Do receivers as a group really get worse after 27? Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green are just some of the players entering their age-28 season, so should you be concerned?

Over the last week, I’ve gone through PFF’s database of endless statistics, starting at 2007, narrowing it down to wide receivers who saw at least 50 targets (trying to strictly use those who are prominent in fantasy football). That covered guys from age 21 through 37. Obviously, the quantities varied — there were 244 wide receivers who played at age 24, but only 23 player-seasons at age 34.

There are plenty of factors as to why these numbers got where they did, but instead of going through each and every piece of that puzzle, I focused on what matters to our purposes: fantasy output.

Eric Decker might be getting better

The first theme that I noticed when shuffling through all the numbers was that the most upside was captured at age 29, where six of the 50 wide receivers, or 12.0 percent, finished in the top-five at years end. Not included in that was Julian Edelman, who was 29 last year, and was the No. 6 wide receiver before getting hurt in Week 10. The next closest age was in fact 27, where six of the 72 receivers (8.3 percent) finished in the top-five.

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