For this top 10 list I’ve looked at players who I think are most likely to find 2015 just one season too far and fall away from their previous heights.
It’s a gut feel top 10 with an eye on the salary they take home being a factor as to their value versus their returns. All of these players are stars of the NFL and have been producing at a high level for a number of years and most haven’t yet shown that they’re completely spent. I have gone for guys who I think are pushing their bodies just one year too far and this will turn out to be a disappointment and possibly their last year.
I hope I’m wrong as I’d happily pay to watch them play in 2016.
Counting down from number 10 here we go…
10. Larry Fitzgerald
One of the best receivers in the league for years his recent numbers, including only 2 touchdown receptions in 2014, have been declining in a Cardinals team that has otherwise proved to be quite successful. Recently signed to a multi year deal guaranteeing some big money I’m not sure his performances in 2015 will support this contract. At 31 he should still have a couple of years left in the tank but if he is taking up a lot of cap room he will need to show that he earns it sooner rather than later.
Despite being voted into the top 100 NFL players by his peers, father time has to catch up with Vinatieri soon. With more and more being asked of kickers in both distance and accuracy on FG’s and PAT’s I think the Colts will be looking towards a cheaper more long term option after this season. I mean the guy has kicked competitively around 2500 times, there is no way his hamstrings and other leg muscles are in tip top shape with that repetition over the last 20 years although he hasn’t been on kick off duties since 2008.
After such a fantastic start to his career it’s all gone terribly wrong for RGIII. Unlike most of this list he is still young enough to have a second chance but I think he’s already past his peak. As a mobile quarterback he’s suffered too many injuries to keep that style going and hasn’t adapted to improve his pocket passing game. I can see him finishing the season on the bench and his career as a starter or franchise player all but ending by week 16.
7. Antonio Gates
Antonio will be 35 when the 2015 season starts which is clocking on for tight ends, even fountain of youth sipper Tony Gonzalez started to think heavily about retirement at that age. His connection with Phillip Rivers has been a major plus point for the Chargers over the last decade but they can’t keep relying upon the combination to win them games and I think this will be the season where Gates drops off from being Rivers’ go to receiver.
6. Peyton Manning
Write him off at your peril? Even operating at 75% of Peyton Manning’s normal levels would put him above the Dalton scale but the tail end of the 2014 season suggested that Manning couldn’t keep up his normal standards for 16 games a season. He’ll still go down as one of if not the greatest quarterback of all time and his records will take some beating, he deserves respect simply for coming back from neck surgery and playing at a level most players can only dream of but like most of this list he just can’t beat old age. I think it’s widely accepted that this is one last roll of the dice at getting a SuperBowl but this is looking like coming up as a bust.
5. Carson Palmer
Has enjoyed a rebirth akin to the name of the town in which he now plays the past couple of seasons when on the pitch, however that is also the main reason why he’s made this list. After being dumped out of Cincinnati and being unfortunate enough to land at the Raiders during some of their worst seasons it seems the curse has followed him to his knee now he’s blessed with one of the toughest defences in football on his side. At 35 time would be running out for him anyways but after his injury plagued past few seasons I can’t see Carson returning to the levels he had at the start of 2014 and sadly I don’t see him playing beyond next season.
4. Anquan Boldin
A fantastic piece of business two seasons ago by the 49er’s to pick up the tough veteran WR to add to an exciting array of offensive weapons, he delivered with 2 1000+ yard seasons in the twilight years of his career. Now with the 49er’s decimated as a team with players retiring left and right it looks like too much pressure to be placed on Boldin’s aging shoulders. With the best will in the world I can’t see him producing anywhere near the numbers he has done in the past 2 years and having had 12 tough seasons as the possession receiver maybe an easy life in retirement would be an easier choice than fighting it out for a team rebuilding.
3. Frank Gore
A San Francisco warhorse who has come to the end of his run as a top level running back. His body has seen 11,000+ hard yards over the past 10 seasons in the NFL and at the wrong side of 30 the move to the Colts looks like being a good final pay day for Gore but not the numbers on the field to match it. I wasn’t sure about putting Gore this high up the list as he is a beast of a man and the Colts have a great offence but there’s only so many miles on every running backs meter and the Colts have broken their fair share of backs in recent years, it’s a combination I can’t see working in 2015.
2. Drew Brees
Probably my most controversial choice in both making the list and placing him this high on the list. I’ve always had a soft spot for this guy ever since he was struggling on San Diego and I loved watching him play at Wembley the year the Saints won the Superbowl. The guy is gunslinger that makes Brett Favre look conservative and you’ve got to watch this YouTube video to appreciate just how accurate he can be. But…. and it’s a big but…. he’s 36, earning more in salary than any other NFL player by a considerable margin and he’s just lost his #1 receiver in the off season. Last year was statistically great for Brees but not great for the Saints winning games and I think after this year New Orleans will be moving on.
1. Wes Welker
Currently still a free agent after an injury plagued 2014 season and question marks over his future due to lingering concussion fears. God bless him he’s probably the leagues greatest underdog, or he was until he went to the Bronco’s and became the guy with the giant helmet. At 34 I think one more season is too much to ask of his body in such a high impact position of slot receiver, if a team does decide to pick him up I can’t see him producing anywhere near the same numbers as he has in the past, but part of me hopes he does and it’s against Denver.
That’s all folks, if you agree or disagree strongly with these choices then please let us know @3legs4thdown or @Rhumsaa I look forward to hearing from you