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Age is just a number

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Football and the NFL may be a young man's game, but that doesn't mean you can't find value by using "more experienced" players on your fantasy roster.

While there are very few running backs who can take the pounding and still perform to a high level past the age of 30, that's not an issue at the quarterback, wideout or tight end positions.

Below you will find 20 quality fantasy players worthy of a starting spot in your lineup.

Quarterback

Peyton Manning, Denver (36) - Manning collects 4,000-yard passing seasons with ease and 2012 should be no different despite the year layoff due to neck surgery. He'll make Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker into the next Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Okay, maybe not that good, but both receivers along with tight end Jacob Tamme will be every week starters.

Tom Brady, New England (35) - Last year Brady threw for a personal best 5,235 yards and all the Patriots brain trust did was give him more weapons in the form of deep threat Brandon Lloyd and veteran Jabar Gaffney.

Drew Brees, New Orleans (33) - Brees hasn't thrown for less than 4,388 yards since 2006. In fact, he's thrown for 5,000-plus yards in two of the past four seasons and that won't change in 2012.

Tony Romo, Dallas (32) - He's a 4,000-yard passer when he plays a full schedule and the fact that he doesn't win playoff games isn't relevant to fantasy owners. He's got great weapons to throw to, and if healthy, should produce big numbers.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (31) - The "other" Manning became a fantasy stud last season with the emergence of Victor Cruz and as long as Hakeem Nicks is ready to go in Week 1, Manning will have another big season under center.

Philip Rivers, San Diego (30) - Rivers turned 30 last December and had one of his best months, throwing 11 TD passes against just three INTs over the final five games. The loss of Vincent Jackson will hurt, but Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates provide plenty of quality targets.

Running Back

Fred Jackson, Buffalo (31) - Jackson was just coming into his own last season when he broke his fibula. He averaged 137 ypg from scrimmage for the 10 games he played in 2011-12. By comparison, the first running back selected in most drafts this year will be Arian Foster who averaged 141 ypg last season. With just 817 career carries, he hasn't been overused and his age means almost nothing.

Willis McGahee, Denver (30) - Peyton Manning's arrival in Denver is actually a help to the running game, not a hindrance. From 1999-2005, Manning's starting tailback in Indianapolis, Edgerrin James, rushed for more than 1,100 yards in five of seven seasons (he was injured in 2001 playing just six games and had 989 yards in 2002). And the oft-injured Joseph Addai cracked the 1,000-yard mark twice. McGahee rushed for 1,199 yards and four touchdowns last season, mainly against eight-man fronts. Expectations are that he can run for a similar total in 2012, but score more touchdowns now that Tim Tebow (six rushing TDs last year) is playing with the Jets.

Wide Receiver

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (33) - Wayne still caught 75 balls for 960 yards and four touchdowns from the likes of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins. Rookie Andrew Luck is better than last year's trio and Wayne should crack the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth time in his career.

Steve Smith, Carolina (33) - With rookie Cam Newton under center, Smith rebounded from two weak seasons to post 79 receptions for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns. That was without much of a training camp. Smith will have another good season.

Santana Moss, Washington (33) - Like Wayne, Moss had to deal with mediocre quarterbacking last season along with injuries. He's come to camp 15 pounds lighter and with Robert Griffin III at quarterback a renewed vigor. Moss should get close to the 1,000-yard plateau this season.

Wes Welker, New England (31) - It doesn't matter whether Welker has a long- term contract in hand or not, he's going to be a PPR giant again this season. He averaged 110 receptions per season over the past five years and the addition of Lloyd as a deep threat will only open up more room for Welker.

Andre Johnson, Houston (31) - After three relatively healthy seasons from 2008-2010, Johnson fell victim to injuries last season and posted career lows in receptions (33) and yards (492). He'll have his starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, back under center, but he's already had to deal with injuries in training camp this year. He's a high-risk, high-reward fantasy play.

Brandon Lloyd, New England (31) - It didn't matter whether he was catching passes from Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley or Kellen Clemens, he was still his team's top receiver (70-966-5). He won't be No. 1 or No. 2 in New England, but catching passes from Tom Brady will more than make up for the lack of targets.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego (30) - With Vincent Jackson signing in Tampa Bay, Floyd gets a chance to be the No.1 receiver for Rivers in San Diego. As a "secondary option," Floyd caught 43 balls for 856 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games and should easily top those numbers.

Roddy White, Atlanta (30) - White has produced more than 1,153 yards for five consecutive seasons and led the league over the past two seasons in targets. Though the improvement of Julio Jones may take some opportunities from White, the Falcons will be throwing the ball more often in 2012 and White should still reach his most recent five-year average.

Devery Henderson, New Orleans (30) - Henderson has never been one of Brees' top targets and will still be behind Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham, but with Robert Meachem playing for the Chargers, Henderson will have his first true chance to be a 1,000-yard receiver.

Tight End

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta (36) - He'll be a member of the NFL Hall of Fame in the first season he becomes eligible, but in the meantime he's still a viable fantasy option. He caught 80 balls for 875 yards and seven touchdowns last season and with Matt Ryan becoming the focal point to the Atlanta offense, should be able to reproduce those numbers this year.

Antonio Gates, San Diego (31) - Injuries have taken parts of Gates' game away from him, but he's still a favorite target for Rivers. He's healthier than he's been in a long time and with Vincent Jackson gone, he'll be featured by Rivers, particularly near the goal line.

Jason Witten, Dallas (30) - Assuming Witten doesn't need surgery for his lacerated spleen, he should once again be the favorite target for Romo. He's played in every game since 2004 despite rib, knee and ankle problems that would keep many out of the lineup and averaged 82 receptions for 945 yards in that span.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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