The NFL's best golden oldies

Peyton Manning

It's a young man's game, or so we're told. But that doesn't mean some of the older generation aren't still contributing at a high level. In fact, right now in the league, there are 33 players over 35 who have contributed this year, with 17 of those offensive or defensive starters.

That number increases to 54 (with 29 starters) when you look at the age of 34 or over, which is the guys we're focusing on this week -- those golden oldies still getting the job done in what for most is the twilight of their career.

As ever, position grades aren't necessarily cross comparable, but here are the top five players 34 years of age and older based solely on their performance in 2013.


1. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos: +26.5
Is there any surprise here? Manning had some issues in November after his fantastic start to the year but rebounded in timely fashion when the Broncos needed him to pull them back from the brink against the Chiefs. The oldest man on the list, he's also our top-ranked quarterback regardless of age and third only to Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers with an adjusted accuracy percentage of 77.5 percent. He's not the player he once was, but when you're that good, you can drop off and still be something special.

2. Justin Smith, DE, 49ers: +12.9
Although Smith isn't the force he was back in 2011 when he was our defensive player of the year, he's still the type of player you have to account for on every down. His playing time has decreased (he's still playing 78.1 percent of all possible snaps on the year, so he's by no means low) but he's still our sixth-ranked 3-4 defensive end, rushing the passer with 44 quarterback disruptions. Smith is certainly aging gracefully.

3. Dominic Raiola, C, Lions: +11.1
It seemed for some as if Raiola might have been done after finishing a creditable 13th in our center rankings in 2012. Not so, and, with the Lions revamping their offensive line, he has looked rejuvenated playing next to excellent rookie Larry Warford. Raiola might not be as powerful as younger men such as  Manny Ramirez or Chris Myers but he is solid at the point of attack and has the sixth-best pass blocking efficiency of all his peers.

4. James Harrison, LB, Bengals: +10.2
It's easy to forget that the aging Harrison spent the early part of his career on the sideline, and he takes exceptionally good care of himself. So, although his 2012 season was disappointing, there was always the possibility of Harrison finding a role that suited him. Consider that role found as a two-down linebacker in Cincinnati, where the team has reinvented him as a run-stuffing enforcer who might not be getting to the passer much but does remind us of a certain Bart Scott when it comes to blowing up blockers. He has the third-highest grade of all 4-3 outside linebackers against the run and makes life easier for  Vontaze Burfict & Co. -- much as Scott used to for David Harris.

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