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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Top 10 Active Non-Fantasy Ageless Wonders

Brett KeiselThe average age for current NFL players is just over 26 years old. Most of the pro players don't play past the age of 30 due mainly to injuries. Of course, there have been exceptions. Most of the players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have played at least in their early thirties. And each season there are quarterbacks and placekickers playing at the top of their game well past the age of 35. This season it's no exception: At 38 years old, Peyton Manning is leading the league in touchdown passes and is searching for another MVP award and a Super Bowl berth. Tom Brady, at 37, is still going strong and helping the Patriots to another AFC East title. Carson Palmer, at 35, has the Arizona Cardinals in first place of the competitive NFC West. Drew Brees, also at 35, is still gathering strong passing numbers. And amongst kickers, Adam Vinatieri (the NFL oldest active player at 42), has not missed an extra point or field goal this season and is second in the league in total points scored, and 39-year old Phil Dawson is in the top 10 in scoring. And this season there has been a resurgence by wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. who at 35 showed the Carolina Panthers that he is still one of the top wide receivers in the game. And Reggie Wayne, at nearly 36, has proven that he's still an elite receiver without Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

But in these times of Fantasy Football and stats everywhere, the non-skill position players (offensive linemen, defensive players, and special team non-placekickers) have been forgotten. Currently, there are 26 active players who are 35 years or older, half of them are quarterbacks, wide receivers and placekickers, the other half are non-Fantasy players. I believe it's time to recognize these long-standing football players. A couple of years ago, NFL Network had a show named "The top 10 Ageless Wonders", where long-time standouts like Brett Favre, George Blanda, Jim Marshall, Morten Andersen and Bruce Matthews, amongst other greats, were featured. So these are the 2014 NFL season top 10 ageless wonders:

1. - Dominic Raiola (center, Detroit Lions, 35 years old)

In his fourteen seasons with the Lions, Raiola, has been a standout with poor teams. Although he has never been selected to the Pro Bowl, he has been a starter since his second season and only has missed four games (all in 2008) in his career. He has been the center for many not-so great quarterbacks, including Charlie Batch, Ty Detmer, Mike McMahon, Joey Harrington and Dan Orlovsky, and also with veterans Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna and Daunte Culpepper. With Matthew Stafford, however, the Lions have had stability and a chance to return to the playoffs this season.


2. - Jonathan Goodwin (center, New Orleans Saints, 35 years old)

Goodwin returned to the Saints this season after three seasons in San Francisco (he played in New Orleans for five seasons before playing with the 49ers). Although used as a guard in his first seasons in the league with the New York Jets, Goodwin (as Raiola) has been one of the most consistent centers in the league for the past seven seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009, the year the Saints won their first Super Bowl title.


3. - Roberto Garza (center/guard, Chicago Bears, 35 years old)

Another long-time starter in the league, Garza is entering his tenth season in Chicago after playing his first four seasons in Atlanta. Although slowed by injuries at the beginning of the year, Garza has started the past three games and has regained his position as the anchor of the Bears offensive line.


4. - Ryan Pickett (defensive tackle, Houston Texans, 35 years old)

Pickett is in his first season in Houston after playing the past eight seasons in Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl title with the Packers. As a rookie, he played in Super Bowl XXXVII as a member of the St. Louis Rams. He has started 176 games over his career, good for 12th place amongst active players.


5. - Brett Keisel (defensive end, Pittsburgh Steelers, 36 years old)

In his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh, Keisel (better known for his long, viking-style) beard has been a valuable contributor of the new Steel Curtain defense, and has played in three Super Bowls, winning two. Just yesterday, he intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick at the end of the first half to set up a touchdown that helped the Steelers beat the Texans on Monday Night Football.


6. - Justin Smith (defensive end/tackle, San Francisco 49ers, 35 years old)

One of the most underrated players in the National Football League, Smith has been chosen to five straight Pro Bowls and has no signs of slowing down. He played his first seven seasons in Cincinnati, where he was a starter since his rookie year, and then he moved to San Francisco in 2008. He is widely considered the best 3-4 defensive end in football, and usually is moved to defensive tackle in the 49ers 4-2 nickel defense (he got votes for the All-Pro team at both positions in the same year in 2011 and 2012, one feat that maybe never be duplicated).


7.- Charles Woodson (cornerback/safety, Oakland Raiders, 38 years old)

The oldest active defensive player in the NFL, Woodson has been one of the few bright spots since he returned to the Raiders for the past two seasons (previously, he played seven seasons in Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl title). He has intercepted a pass for the 17th straight season (second all-time, Darrell Green intercepted at least a pass in 19 seasons) and only Peyton Manning has started more games amongst active players. If he can return another interception for a touchdown, he will tie Hall of Famer Rod Woodson's record with 12. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a sure lock for the Hall of Fame when he will decide to retire.


8.- Terance Newman (cornerback, Cincinnati Bengals, 36 years old)

While Woodson has been playing at safety for the past three seasons, Newman is the oldest starting cornerback in the league, not an easy task with today's world-class receivers. He is in his third season in Cincinnati, after starring for nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.


9.- Ryan Clark (safety, Washington Redskins, 35 years old)

Clark returned to the Redskins after playing the past eight seasons in Pittsburgh, and is one of the most consistent safeties in the league. The 13-year veteran (who started his pro career with the New York Giants in 2002) has been a starter since his second year in the NFL and was chosen to the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season.

10. - Shane Lechler (punter, Houston Texans, 38 years old)

In his 15th season, Lechler has no sign of slowing down and is in third place in punting average for this season with a 48.1 yard/punt average (he is the all-time leader in that category, with a 47.6 yard/punt average). The future Hall of Famer, who is in his second year in Houston after starring for 13 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, is searching for an all-time record 8th Pro Bowl selection and 7th All-Pro selection as a punter.


Honorable Mention. - Mike Leach (long snapper, Arizona Cardinals, 38 years old)

Last, but not least, the 15th year veteran Leach has been one of the top long snappers for the past decade. He is in his 6th season in Arizona after starting his career with the Tennessee Titans in 2000. He moved to the Denver Broncos in 2002, where he played seven seasons. Although he is also a tight end, he has never caught a pass in the NFL.





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