How Much Does Team Scoring Matter For Fantasy Football?

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 3, 2017

History says that being on a high-scoring offense means everything in fantasy football.

There has been a lot of talk over the years saying that you want a player who’s on a bad team because there’ll be plenty of garbage time fantasy points. While others have attempted to debunk that theory, and successfully I might add, I wanted to approach the subject from a different angle. How many top-tier fantasy options are on bottom-10 scoring offenses? I mean, we know that the Rams and the Bears aren’t going to be among the top half of scoring offenses this year, so what does that mean for guys like Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley, and DeAndre Hopkins?

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The reason I came along this study was Carlos Hyde’s 2016 performance, as he finished as the No. 9 running back from a points per game standpoint despite being on a bad, low-scoring offense. The eight running backs in front of him were all on top-14 scoring NFL offenses. This got the wheels spinning, making me wonder how it’s affected all positions over the last five years.

So, the research is this – I went through each of the last five years and gathered the top 36 running backs, top 36 wide receivers, top 24 quarterbacks, and top 12 tight ends from each of them, leaving me with a sample of 180 running backs and wide receivers, 120 quarterbacks, and 60 tight ends. Again, this is on a points per game basis, because injuries affect the season-long finishers quite a bit. I also eliminated any players who played less than four games, as that could also skew results. Let’s go position-by-position, as the results were rather significant at certain positions.

Running Backs

RB Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 30 33.3% 73.3% 83.3% 93.3% 10.0%
Top-12 60 28.3% 63.3% 75.0% 90.0% 13.3%
Top-18 90 28.9% 55.6% 71.1% 87.8% 18.9%
Top-24 120 24.2% 45.8% 64.2% 82.5% 23.3%
Top-30 150 23.3% 44.7% 64.0% 81.3% 24.0%
Top-36 180 23.9% 45.0% 63.9% 81.7% 24.4%

 

As you can see, the results from 2016 weren’t a fluke, as 63.3 percent of top-12 running backs come from top-12 scoring offenses. Not only that, but if you’re on a team that projects to finish in the bottom-10, the odds of you finishing as a top-12 running back are extremely slim. This is important to keep in mind with a player like Isaiah Crowell, who may in fact have a high floor, but may also lack a true ceiling on the Browns offense. Other players in this territory include Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Bilal Powell. It’s very likely that just one of them finishes as a top-12 back.

This chart is really quite alarming when you think about it, as a running back has a 33.3 percent chance to finish as a top-six running back, just by playing on a top-six scoring offense. This is likely why there are experts clamoring to move Ty Montgomery up draft boards. Other players who should be considered in this category are Mike Gillislee and Mark Ingram. If history has told us anything, it’s that one of those guys are likely to finish as a top-six running back. Each one of them is being drafted outside the top 15 running backs right now.

The takeaway from this should be that you want to aim for running backs who project to be on higher-scoring offenses, as nearly 56 percent of top-18 running backs are on top-12 scoring NFL offenses. If you’re on the clock and are having a hard time deciding between two players, lean towards the one with the better quarterback.

Wide Receivers

WR Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 30 30.0% 56.7% 80.0% 90.0% 13.3%
Top-12 60 38.3% 63.3% 80.0% 90.0% 13.3%
Top-18 90 33.3% 58.9% 76.7% 90.0% 14.4%
Top-24 120 32.5% 57.5% 75.8% 89.2% 15.0%
Top-30 150 29.3% 53.3% 70.7% 87.3% 17.3%
Top-36 180 26.1% 48.9% 68.9% 84.4% 18.9%

 

This is where the whole “garbage-time” points are supposed to come from, right? After nailing it down, it seems wide receivers are even more team-sensitive than running backs. Among the 120 wide receivers who’ve finished top-24 in points per game over the last five years, 91 of them (76 percent) were on top-18 scoring offenses. Some players who’re being drafting early that project to be on a bottom-10 scoring offense include DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, and Demaryius Thomas.

It really struck me as odd with wide receivers that there was such a shortage of wide receivers who finished even inside the top-36 on bottom-10 scoring offenses. This doesn’t bode well for sleepers late in your draft, as they have just a 18.9 percent chance to just be “startable” in fantasy. Instead of selecting someone like Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods late in your draft, you’re better off taking someone who’ll be coming off the bench in a high-scoring offense, like Malcolm Mitchell. I want to be clear, I’m not advocating you even draft someone like Mitchell in shallow leagues, but when you see someone on a low-scoring team have a big week and everyone is rushing to the waiver wire to grab that player, you should let them expend their waiver wire budgets while you wait for someone on a higher-scoring team.

Tight Ends

TE Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 30 36.7% 53.3% 73.3% 86.7% 20.0%
Top-12 60 28.3% 46.7% 68.3% 85.0% 23.3%

 

Everyone knows that tight end is the most volatile position in fantasy football, and this chart further proves that. While every other position has a clear trend, tight end really doesn’t, as nearly half of the top-six tight ends over the last five years have come from offenses outside of the top-12 in scoring. It seems only natural that if there’s more scoring on a team, there’ll be more fantasy points to go around, but it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference with tight ends. If there is one position that you should have no concern for how high-powered their offense is, it’s tight ends.

Quarterbacks

QB Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 30 60.0% 90.0% 96.7% 100.0% 0.0%
Top-12 60 40.0% 75.0% 88.3% 100.0% 3.3%
Top-18 90 31.1% 61.1% 77.8% 92.2% 13.3%
Top-24 120 27.5% 52.5% 71.7% 88.3% 17.5%

 

Since quarterbacks often have control over how often their team scores, it only seems natural that the results would show that the higher-scoring offense, the better. But I will say that it’s rather remarkable that 88.3 percent of top-12 quarterbacks come from top-18 scoring teams. Also, it’s been impossible to finish as a top-12 quarterback while on a bottom-eight scoring NFL offense. In fact, there’s only been a 7.8 percent chance to finish as a top-18 quarterback while playing on a bottom-eight scoring NFL offense.

An important stat to keep in mind from the quarterback numbers, though, is that of the 60 quarterbacks who finished top-12 over the last five years, only 30 of them (because, math) could’ve played on top-six offenses. It’s extremely telling that 24 of them finished in that range, or 80 percent of them. Quarterbacks control their own team, as well as their own fantasy finish a majority of the time, no matter who their running back is.

What It All Means

After seeing all of the charts above, you probably want to know actionable advice. While I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me which teams will finish with the most points in 2017, I do have my set of projections which gives my predictions as to who will finish where, which you can find below. Use this as a guide when putting together your rankings, and know that history doesn’t lie; you want players on high-scoring offenses.

Projected Finish Team
1 New England Patriots
2 New Orleans Saints
3 Green Bay Packers
4 Pittsburgh Steelers
5 Atlanta Falcons
6 Dallas Cowboys
7 Oakland Raiders
8 Indianapolis Colts
9 Tennessee Titans
10 Carolina Panthers
11 New York Giants
12 Arizona Cardinals
13 Los Angeles Chargers
14 Buffalo Bills
15 Washington Redskins
16 Cincinnati Bengals
17 Seattle Seahawks
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19 Detroit Lions
20 Kansas City Chiefs
21 Miami Dolphins
22 Philadelphia Eagles
23 Jacksonville Jaguars
24 Minnesota Vikings
25 Baltimore Ravens
26 Denver Broncos
27 Chicago Bears
28 San Francisco 49ers
29 Houston Texans
30 Cleveland Browns
31 Los Angeles Rams
32 New York Jets

 

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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