Yesterday, in a discussion of the bounce-back prospects for A.J. Green, a reader asked about how older wide receivers coming off injury have fared the next season. I said I'd look into it; here are those results.
I looked at the last 20 years, to keep the list manageable and not venture too much into the past (there have been some medical advances this century). I went with guys who missed at least half the season, appearing in 8 or fewer games prior to their injury, and were over the age of 30 (Green is 32).
I came up with 26 previous 30-something wideouts who missed at least half the year due to injury and returned the following year (Brandon Stokley did it twice). Slightly under half of those players (11) put up top-40 PPR numbers; four of them finished in the top 12. All injuries are different, and all 30-year-olds aren't the same, but a number of similar talents: Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Andre Johnson.
Table shows their games played and numbers (catches, yards, touchdowns) the year they got hurt, followed by their performance one year later (sorted by rank).
|OLD WRS, COMING OFF INJURY, ONE YEAR LATER (2000-PRESENT)|
|2015||Jordy Nelson, G.B.||30||0||0||0||0||97||1257||14||2|
|2005||Terrell Owens, Phil.||32||7||47||763||6||85||1180||13||2|
|2011||Andre Johnson, Hou.||30||7||33||492||2||112||1598||4||6|
|2006||Bobby Engram, Sea.||33||7||24||290||1||94||1147||6||12|
|2004||Terry Glenn, Dall.||30||6||24||400||2||62||1136||7||15|
|2004||Keenan McCardell, S.D.||34||7||31||393||1||70||917||9||17|
|2017||Julian Edelman, N.E.||32||0||0||0||0||74||850||6||21|
|2007||Marvin Harrison, Ind.||35||5||20||247||1||60||636||5||36|
|2015||Steve Smith Sr., Balt.||36||7||46||670||3||70||799||5||37|
|2001||Ed McCaffrey, Den.||33||1||6||94||1||69||903||2||37|
|2013||Malcom Floyd, S.D.||32||2||6||149||0||52||856||6||40|
|2006||Amani Toomer, NYG||32||8||32||360||3||59||760||3||41|
|2006||David Patten, Was.||32||5||1||25||0||54||792||3||43|
|2013||Reggie Wayne, Ind.||35||7||38||503||2||64||779||2||50|
|2006||Brandon Stokley, Ind.||30||4||8||85||1||40||635||5||53|
|2011||Brandon Stokley, NYG||35||2||1||7||0||45||544||5||60|
|2018||Ted Ginn, N.O.||33||5||17||209||2||30||421||2||81|
|2000||Jake Reed, N.O.||33||7||16||206||0||27||309||1||81|
|2003||Wayne Chrebet, NYJ||30||7||27||289||1||31||397||1||81|
|2012||Nate Burleson, Det.||31||6||27||240||2||39||461||1||83|
|2010||Donte Stallworth, Balt.||30||8||2||82||0||22||309||2||95|
|2009||Joey Galloway, N.E.||38||3||7||67||0||12||173||0||125|
|2002||Oronde Gadsden, Mia.||31||6||16||228||0||4||48||0||143|
|2017||Brandon Marshall, NYG||33||5||18||154||0||11||136||1||144|
|2001||Herman Moore, Det.||32||3||4||76||0||0||0||0||166|
|2009||Kevin Curtis, Phil.||31||3||6||77||0||1||6||0||175|
|2007||Eddie Kennison, K.C.||34||8||13||101||0||0||0||0||189|
Note that for Green I'm showing his 2018 numbers (he didn't play at all last year), so I'll concede he's got a longer period of time on the shelf than any of the other guys. But maybe that's a positive; the injury should be well in the rear-view mirror.
The other thing with Green is that this isn't a single injury. He played all 16 games in 2017, but has missed at least 6 games in three of the last four years. So there needs to remain a buyer beware tag on him.
But I think it's reasonable to say the potential is there for him to vastly outperform where he's being drafted in most leagues. Other, older wideouts of comparable talent and ability have done it.