Throughout the years, there are some standout NFL veterans that have wowed us because they simply seem ageless. Often times, they outshine their younger counterparts around the league by leaps and bounds.
For example, fans of Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley are growing impatient waiting for him to have a 100-yard game this season. Meanwhile, a couple of 30-plus year-old running backs we’ll highlight in this article have already been there and done that multiple times.
With so many amazing older players to cover in the league, we simply do not have the luxury of listing them all. Therefore, we have whittled this list of elder talent to the following 10 players who are the best among those 30 and older.
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots, 39
It is only appropriate that this list begin with a quarterback who is entering his 17th year in the NFL and still performing at an elite level.
Not only has Brady thrown just one interception in 166 passing attempts, but he is averaging 327 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game. Brady has also led his Patriots to a 4-1 record since his return.
For all of this excellence, Brady is the highest-rated quarterback (125.5) in the NFL this year.
Returning from a suspension that prevented him from working out or practicing with his team, until Week 5 Brady continues to defy age. Should the future Hall of Fameer continue performing at his current pace, Brady will finish 2016 with 3,924 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Just for comparison sake, last year’s MVP, Cam Newton, is currently on course for 3,545 passing yards and 17.8 passing touchdowns.
Sean Lee, outside linebacker, Dallas Cowboys, 30
The Dallas Cowboys have the best record (8-1) in the NFC. Coupled with Dallas’ hot young offense is a 13th-ranked defense in which Lee has played a prominent role. This defense is allowing only 18.9 points per game and has been a pleasant surprise all year long.
Entering the 2016 season following an arthroscopic knee surgery, Lee has been lights out and ranks fifth in the league in tackles (86 combined).
Sean Lee has 5 tackles in the 1st quarter of this game. He's once pace for 20 tackles today. He is EVERYWHERE!
— Jordan Ross (@CHQ_Jordan) November 6, 2016
It is not much of a surprise that the veteran Pro-Bowler also leads his team with 54 solo tackles. Provided Lee’s health prevails and he keeps up this level of play, he will finish 2016 with 153 combined tackles. This would best last year’s number by 25.
Lee and his defensive teammates wreaked havoc in a nail-biting road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And, if the Cowboys keep up their pace, Lee might just play in his first Super Bowl come February.
Frank Gore, running back, Indianapolis Colts, 33
Gore proves week in and week out what a tough player and key asset he is to the Colts. A team that did not make a mistake in signing him after the San Francisco 49ers decided to let him walk in 2015.
Gore will always be known for what he accomplished as the lead rusher for the 49ers franchise. But he on pace to finish with a combined 1,284 yards and 12 total touchdowns this year. He also ranks 15th overall in rushing yards.
Involved in receiving plays as well, Gore has been amazing and is catching 77 percent of his targets. He is also averaging 2.7 receptions per game.
Gore is signed with Indianapolis through the 2017 season. So there is still a glimmer of hope that the five-time Pro-Bowler will eventually retire with a ring. Meanwhile, Gore appears to be in excellent health and is still toting around the rock at an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
Terence Newman, defensive back, Minnesota Vikings, 38
According to Pro Football Focus, Newman has performed at an elite and is featured in their 2016 mid-season All-Pro Team. Not just any player qualifies for this hand-picked team.
Newman had an incredible first season with Minnesota when he was was signed in 2015. Enough so that the Vikings decided to re-sign him during the 2016 free agency.
To date, Newman has 23 combined tackles on record. More impressively, receivers are managing a league-low 7.9 yards per catch against him. Pro Football Focus actually ranks Newman at fourth overall among defensive backs. That’s not too shabby considering the oldest player ranked above Newman is Denver Broncos Aqib Talib, who is 30.
Newman’s Vikings need to shed a four-game losing streak to have any hope at seeing the playoffs at the end of the year. Newman was an original first-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys back in 2003, and a Super Bowl appearance would be a great way to cap off his career.
Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints, 37
It was toss-up whether to feature Brees here or Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.We chose Brees purely because his arm is six years older than Ryan’s. And, shocker alert, the future Hall of Fame passer is having a phenomenal season once again.
Nine games into 2016, Brees is completing 69.9 percent of his passes. He is on course for another monster year in which he would finish with 5,319 passing yards and 43 touchdowns. This is if he keeps up with his current average of 332.4 passing yards and 2.7 touchdowns per game.
Helping Brees achieve these amazing stats is one of the best young wide receiving units in the league. There is not much to suggest that Brees’ level of performance will suddenly drop off. A fine example of Brees’ connection with his young receivers was when he launched this touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Cooks was blanketed in coverage in the end zone and made a beautiful catch.
The Saints are just two wins out of first place in the NFC South. They will look to build on their record in a Thursday Night Football showdown against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11.
Eric Weddle, safety, Baltimore Ravens, 31
At the end of his 2015 season Weddle parted ways on a sour note with a San Diego Chargers team that drafted him in 2007.
On to greener pastures, Weddle is thriving with the Ravens. At the mid-way point of the season, Pro Football Focus has Weddle ranked at 91.3, above all safeties in the league.
Two interceptions and one forced fumble add to the 41 combined tackles Weddle has registered in 2016.
Eric Weddle is so damned good. Just pinpoint wherever you want him to be. Virtually mistake-proof.
— Doug Farrar (@BR_DougFarrar) November 6, 2016
Weddle’s excellent efforts, in combination with Baltimore’s other defenders, have the Ravens defense ranked No. 1 overall in the league. A playoff appearance for Weddle and the Ravens might be a little early to call. But if Baltimore can hold on to its first place status in the AFC North, playoff reality will inch nearer.
Considering the stagnate state of Weddle’s former team, the San Diego Chargers, it would appear he made the right move at this stage of his career.
Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals, 33
Talk of when Fitzgerald will finally throw in the towel and retire has been tossed around each year since he turned 30.
And like a fine wine, Fitzgerald improves with age. The future Hall of Famer currently ranks second in the NFL in receptions, averaging 7.5 per game. He remains quarterback Carson Palmer’s favorite target and has a catch rate of 68.7 percent. And, he is on pace once again to crest the 1,000-yard mark with 1,221.3 yards and 9 touchdowns on the horizon.
Outside of the young David Johnson, Fitzgerald is the cornerstone of the Cardinals offense.
Eventually, the day will come when Fitzgerald decides to hang up his cleats. But hopefully, he will do so as a Super Bowl champion. He is a fan-favorite, admired locker room leader and certainly deserves a ring.
Lorenzo Alexander, defensive tackle, Buffalo Bills, 33
Currently, Alexander has one-half more sacks than Denver Broncos Super Bowl MVP, linebacker, Von Miller.
A magnificent fit for his new team, the veteran ties the league with 10 sacks. If he keeps making life this rough on opposing quarterbacks, Alexander will finish the season with 20 total sacks. He also has 39 combined tackles on record.
Alexander is rightfully earning his keep as a starter after the job was up for grabs in the preseason.
He credits his smashing success to his former Washington teammate and mentor, London Fletcher, according to Chris Brown of the Bills’ official website.
Just a few months removed from competing for the starting job, Alexander just earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors. It would appear the sky is the limit for what the veteran will accomplish as he turns back the clock on Father Time.
Matt Forte, running back, New York Jets, 30
After eight years, Forte’s Chicago Bears turned their back on him and decided to let him walk in 2016. Reaping the benefits of Forte’s ever-lasting youth, the New York Jets took their chances with the veteran back.
Forte will turn 31 this December and has so far racked up the 10th-most rushing yards in the league. He is the oldest running back within the top 10 in this category. And, for those who follow fantasy football, Forte ranks No. 6 in PPR scoring formats.
Currently, Forte is on track for a grand total of 1,458 yards and 13 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his Jets are floundering and rank last in the AFC East. Though it is not due to any lack of effort on Forte’s side of the field.
Eventually retiring as a Super Bowl champion might be a stretch. But, the two-time Pro-Bowler is definitely one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL.
Adam Vinatieri, kicker, Indianapolis Colts, 43
Now that we have discussed nine players 30 and over, it is time to toot the horn of the oldest active player in the NFL.
Kickers, by all means, are big factors in the NFL. Vinatieri should know. He has had his fair share of game-deciding field goals and is a legend in that regard.
This season, Vinatieri has a flawless 19-of-19 field goal record. The only other kicker in the league with a perfect record is the young Justin Tucker.
Vinatieri’s longest field goal this season was a 54-yarder scored against the Chicago Bears in Week 5. So far, he has also made every one of his 24 extra point attempts.
Originally with the New England Patriots from 1996-2005, Vinatieri has missed only 14 of his 329 games. Whenever he decides to put his leg in retirement, he will do so as at least a four-time Super Bowl Champion.