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What is the fantasy shelf life of the top current wide receivers?

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28: A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals carries the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even at the relatively stable wide receiver position, (fantasy) football is a game of attrition. Look back five seasons at the position, and yes, Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, and Antonio Brown are all hanging out near the top of the fantasy standings, but so are retired (Calvin Johnson), past his prime (Brandon Marshall), and fearing release (Dez Bryant).

We just don’t know how long things will last on the broad scale. Looking more narrowly, though, we can place some bets. A 24-year-old wide receiver off back-to-back WR1 seasons, or a 29-year-old who has only played 16 games once in the last three years — we never know, but we can get closer.

That’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks. I gathered three PFF Fantasy writers (Dan Clasgens, Michael Moore, Dan Schneier), and they and I have been attempting to figure out how long the current fantasy starters will remain as such.

The premise: You can keep Player X for as long as you want, but you have to decide on that duration right now.

The cost: You can keep the player indefinitely at the cost of the last starter at the position. So a quarterback will cost you the draft slot of the 10th quarterback off the board, while a wide receiver will cost you the 20th receiver. In short, the question at hand is: How long will Player X be a fantasy starter?

Quarterbacks and running backs got their turn the last two weeks. Tight ends are up next week. This time, it’s wide receivers. Who has the longest remaining shelf life? And who will be just another guy by next season?

How long will the top wide receivers be fantasy starters?
Number of years
Team Age Clasgens Moore Schneier
Davante Adams GB 25 4 4 3
Keenan Allen LAC 25 2 3 3
Doug Baldwin SEA 29 1 1 4
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 25 5 5 8
Antonio Brown PIT 29 3 4 4
Brandin Cooks LAR 24 3 5 4
Amari Cooper OAK 23 2 5 2
Stefon Diggs MIN 24 2 1 3
Mike Evans TB 24 5 5 6
Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 34 0 1 1
Josh Gordon CLV 26 1 0 3
A.J. Green CIN 29 2 2 5
Tyreek Hill KC 24 2 5 3
T.Y. Hilton IND 28 1 3 2
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 25 4 5 6
Julio Jones ATL 29 3 3 5
Allen Robinson CHI 24 2 3 4
Adam Thielen MIN 27 2 4 1
Demaryius Thomas DEN 30 1 0 2
Michael Thomas NO 25 4 2 5

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Age G Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Receiving TDs Fantasy Rank
25 14 108 74 885 10 WR12

4 years: Still just 25, Adams has taken over as the Packers’ No. 1 wide receiver and will have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football for years to come. — Dan Clasgens

3 years: Adams' production level with Aaron Rodgers in the lineup never rose to the level of expectation after the Packers drafted him in Round 2, but this is a franchise that re-signs their own, and he did enjoy a nice breakout season. I'm skeptical of Adams' ability to operate as the true No. 1 wide receiver in all areas of the field with Jordy Nelson gone. — Dan Schneier

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