By The Numbers: Week 1 (Fantasy Football)
Fantasy football is a game of numbers. The goal is to outscore your opponent every week. The game film tells one story, but innovative statistics and analytics tell another. Have you ever wondered what stats you should review in order to truly understand how productive certain players can be? What impact would that have on your fantasy football team? In essence that is the goal of this column. This article will provide you a line of sight regarding noteworthy stats and trends you should be aware of in order to dominate your league. Past performance is not indicative of future production in fantasy football, but it can provide you a line of sight of what stats to pay attention to.
VOLUME MATTERS FOR FANTASY RUNNING BACKS
Did you know that carries, targets, receptions, and total yardage on a per game basis are the most dependable statistics for running backs year in and year out? From there we can determine how efficient an RB was with that volume. Here is a line of sight of the top-12 RBs in PPR formats from last season and how they performed on a per game basis.
Ask yourself which RBs on this list have the volume on their side in 2017? David Johnson led all RBs in total yards from scrimmage last season and produced 20.7 fantasy points per game. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 2.9 yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus. LeSean McCoy caught 87.9 percent of his targets. DeMarco Murray only averaged 60 yards per game the final six weeks of the season. Devonta Freeman handled 60.2 percent of the red zone touches last season. Melvin Gordon’s 10 touchdowns ranked seventh among all RBs. Mark Ingram averaged 3.1 yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus and handled 67.3 percent of the team’s red zone carries. LeGarrette Blount was the only RB in the top-25 to have fewer than 10 receptions. Jordan Howard had 10 runs of 20 yards or more and handled 74.4 percent of the Bears red zone carries. Jay Ajayi had the third highest Elusive Rating (76.0) according to Pro Football Focus. This metric is built using missed tackles and yards after contact to measure an RB’s success beyond the point of being helped by his offensive line. Frank Gore surprisingly only handled 23.3 percent of the red zone carries.
TARGETS MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND FOR FANTASY WIDE RECEIVERS
Success or failure for wide receivers year in and year out come down to targets per game, receptions per game, and receiving yards per game. From there we can determine how efficient a WR was with those targets. Here is a line of sight of the top-12 WRs in PPR formats from last season and how they performed on a per game basis.
Will each of these WRs receive this type of target volume in 2017? Antonio Brown (30.2), Odell Beckham (33.3), Doug Baldwin (30.9) and Mike Evans (33.0) all had target shares last season above 30 percent. Julio Jones (27), T.Y. Hilton (28), Jordy Nelson (19), Michael Thomas (18), and Davante Adams (17) all excelled with receptions of 20 yards or more. Brandin Cooks (6), Beckham (6), Baldwin (5) and Jones (5) led the top-12 WRs in PPR formats in receptions of 40 yards or more. Brown (13.4) and Nelson (13.1) led all WRs in fantasy points per game.
YARDS AND RECEPTIONS PER GAME MATTER FOR TIGHT ENDS
Yards and receptions per game are also dependable for tight ends. Fantasy points per game also carry significant weight given the supply and demand of the position. Here is a line of sight from last season of the top-10 tight ends in PPR formats and how they performed on a per game basis.
Which TEs could accumulate a high number of receiving yards? It is a high probability that Rob Gronkowski would have finished within the top-10 if he would have played a full season. Gronkowski averaged 9.0 fantasy points per game in the eight he was active in last season. Jordan Reed and Tyler Eifert tied for the second highest with 8.7. Dennis Pitta had the third most targets among tight ends with 121. Did you know Martellus Bennett finished with the fifth highest yards per route run among qualified tight ends according to Pro Football Focus with 1.96? Travis Kelce owned a 24.6 percent target share with Jimmy Graham (23.9) and Delanie Walker (23.5) not too far behind. Graham also owned an impressive 38.5 percent target share in the red zone while Kyle Rudolph owned a 27.5 percent share.
IT IS ALL ABOUT PASSING YARDS PER GAME FOR QUARTERBACKS
Passing yards and attempts per game are the most reliable stats for quarterbacks. Here is a view of how the top-eight quarterbacks performed on a per game basis.
Which quarterbacks do you anticipate to have a high number of pass attempts in 2017? Drew Brees has averaged 309 passing yards per game over the past 10 years. Aaron Rodgers has averaged 270.2 passing yards per game since becoming the starter in 2008. Matthew Stafford has averaged 277.9 passing yards per game since 2009. Can Matt Ryan repeat his phenomenal 2016 season? It is a fair question considering he set career highs in completions of 20 yards or more (69) and passing yards (4,944). I believe Ryan will finish just outside the top-five. Fantasy players also have similar questions about Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, and Andrew Luck heading into this season.
WHAT DOES THE FANTASYPROS 2017 PROJECTIONS TELL US?
What do you notice when reviewing our projections for the top fantasy RBs? Volume is a common thread among all of these players. When you pair that with a player’s efficiency on a per play basis that is where great things happen for your fantasy team.
The target volume is also driving familiar names to the top of our projections. The same trend applies to the TE position.
What names are familiar to you see on our QB projections?
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The purpose of this column is to make you a more informed fantasy player and put you in the best possible position to harness this intellectual capital into a league-winning team.
What statistics stood out to you? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter. You can find me @EricNMoody and I am always open to answering questions or discussing football. Please be on the lookout for this column every Wednesday during the regular season. Until next time!