37 year-old Donald Driver is currently starring in ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," but what fantasy football players really want to know is if he is worth a drafting. In 2011, Driver had his lowest reception (37) and yardage (445) totals since the 2001 season, but he did log 6 TDs, which was tied for the most he's had since 2006. Driver has been very healthy during his career and started in 108 of the Packers 112 regular season games since 2005.
Driver is entering the final year of a three year contract that he signed back in 2010. He is due $2.6 million, plus a $1.5 million roster bonus due in late July and $200,000 workout bonus.
The Green Bay Packers selected Donald Driver out of Alcorn State in seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft, he was the 213th overall pick. To put that in perspective, only 40 players were selected that year after Driver was drafted, and a total of 24 wide receivers were drafted ahead of Driver. Such notables as Torry Holt, David Boston, Tai Streets, Peerless Price and Marty Booker were all selected before the Packers took Driver. Oh, and here are some less than household names that also were drafted before Driver would hear his name called. How can we forget Na Brown, D'Wayne Bates, Karsten Bailey and Craig Yeast? Yep, they all went higher than Driver did in the draft, not exactly a murderers row of wide receiving talent there, eh? In fact, only one wide receiver that was also drafted in 1999 is still active in the NFL, and that man is Brandon Stokley. Yes, the same Brandon Stokley who managed to play 2 games for the Giants in 2011, catching one pass in week three, before being released with an injury settlement in October, 2011. Driver has outlasted them all and more importantly, has been a productive fantasy wide receiver for the majority of his NFL career, from 2002-2009 he was a top 30 fantasy wide receiver 7 times and a top 10 fantasy point producer in 3 of those seasons. Of course, it does not hurt that Driver has played for only two starting quarterbacks throughout his 13 year career, and those quarterbacks are Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Not a bad combination of quarterback talent there to have throwing the ball to you, a nice wide receiving gig if you can get it. The question heading forward is whether or not Donald Driver is worth drafting in a 12- team league heading into the 2012 fantasy football season.
It would be easy to just look at the age of Donald Driver, he turned 37 in February, and the list of wide receivers that Green Bay currently rosters and say it is the end of the road for the all time leading receiver in Packers history. However, before we send Driver out to pasture, let's take a good, hard look at his possibilities to stay fantasy relevant for at least one more season. The Packers seem to be ready and willing to keep Driver on their roster for the 2012 season, but in just what capacity is what the savvy fantasy owner must try and determine.
Throughout his career Donald Driver has defied the odds, even making a NFL team as a seventh round draft pick is no easy feat, and then to remain in the league for 13 seasons is remarkable. Driver currently ranks 32nd in NFL history in total receptions, 35th in all time receiving yards, and 71st in receiving touchdowns. He has been a very durable receiver throughout his career. Excluding his rookie season of 1999, Driver has played 13 or more regular season games in 12 straight seasons, and has only missed a total of 6 games in that time span. One of the toughest receivers to ever play the game, Driver has always been willing to go over the middle and make the difficult reception, and has a sideline awareness that rivals Cris Carter. Never the biggest, strongest or fastest receiver on the field, Driver has led the Packers in receptions on six different occasions, most recently in 2009 (70).
OK, enough of the trip down memory lane, as it has been established what Driver has accomplished to date, but we need to try and determine what he might be able to accomplish moving forward. The NFL, as well fantasy football, both are "what have you done for me lately?" environments, and in the realm of fantasy football, 2009 was an eternity ago. It is necessary to look at all the factors that will determine just how useful Donald Driver could be in fantasy football for 2012.
The numbers do not lie, and the number of quality receiving options on the Green Bay roster is staggering. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are both top ten fantasy wide receivers, Jermichael Finley is a top ten fantasy tight end, Randall Cobb is an ascending talent and James Jones is an established top 50 fantasy receiver. Driver has seen his targets, as well as reception totals drop significantly in each of the past two seasons. The 51 receptions in 2010, and the 37 receptions in 2011 are his lowest reception totals since 2003. He did manage to catch a touchdown in the Green Bay loss to the Giants last year in the playoffs; he finished with 3 receptions for 45 yards in the game. In the 2010 post season, he managed 14 grabs and 169 yards, before spraining an ankle on his second reception in the Super Bowl, and missing all but the final play of the game. The 6 receiving touchdowns that Driver scored in 2011, still only placed him fifth on the team in that category. Driver received 11 red zone targets last season, converted 7 of those targets into receptions, and 5 of those receptions into touchdowns. Jennings, Nelson and Finley all had more red zone looks than Driver, and he was tied for third, with Jennings in red zone touchdowns. There are a lot of mouths to feed in the Green Bay passing attack, and year after year, Driver has seen his role diminish. It is the natural progression of the NFL; there is someone younger, faster and more coveted by the franchise, looking to take your position. Driver had successfully fended off all comers for 10 years, but his declining number of targets and receptions the last two seasons signify that he can no longer make that claim.
The elephant in the room when looking at the possible fantasy potential of Donald Driver is his age. Driver turned 37 in February of 2012, and very few receivers have still been serviceable at that age. Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Rod Smith, Andre Reed and Jimmy Smith are some fantasy 'blasts from the past', that were all out of the league at 37 years of age. Terell Owens put up 72 receptions and 9 touchdowns for the Bengals in 2010 at 37, he proceeded to blow out his knee late in the season and has not returned to the league since. Tim Brown managed to have 76 receptions after turning 37, but that was over the course of two seasons, and he managed only 3 touchdowns in those seasons. There is only one receiver in recent history that was still a dominant fantasy wide receiver past the age of 37, and that was Jerry Rice. Rice amassed 410 receptions, 5,712 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns in the years 37 and beyond for his career. At the age of 36, Jerry Rice had 82 receptions, 1157 yards, and 9 touchdowns for the 49ers. At the same age, Driver put up 37 catches, 445 yards, and 6 touchdowns last season for the Packers. Donald Driver may be a lot of things, but those statistics show one thing for certain, he is no Jerry Rice.
In a nutshell folks, Donald Driver IS NOT WORTHY of being drafted in 12 team fantasy football leagues. His advanced years, combined with the reduction of his role in the Green Bay offense, have left Driver as a name to avoid come your fantasy draft day. He is the fifth, or even sixth receiving option for Aaron Rodgers and there are plenty of younger options to fill out fantasy wide receiving positions. Names such as Danario Alexander , Andre Roberts, Jeremy Kerley or Jon Baldwin are all more attractive, later round fantasy options than Driver. Green Bay is making a wise move in bringing Driver back to help mentor their younger receivers such as Randall Cobb, and any receiver they may draft this April. The consummate professional, Driver can show the youngsters the work ethic needed to make it in the NFL. What he can no longer do is help fantasy owners win games. Thanks for the fantasy memories Donald, and good luck on the dance floor.