What We Learned: Top 12 Fantasy Scorers (PPR Formats)

by Moody | @EricNMoody | Featured Writer
Jan 12, 2018

Did you know that the top-12 fantasy running backs averaged 289.6 points during the regular season? The top-12 fantasy wide receivers averaged 144.5 targets. The top-12 tight ends averaged 714.8 receiving yards. The top-12 quarterbacks averaged 3,997 passing yards and 27.6 touchdowns. Every fantasy player imagines drafting a team with top-12 fantasy scorers across multiple positions, but you may be asking yourself one question. What does it take to make that a reality? The preferred method to analyze a player’s production at various positions is through a per-games lens. It has the strongest year-to-year correlations because they represent a player’s average performance. T.J. Hernandez, founder of Roster Coach and 4 for 4 Football Associate Editor, wrote a series years ago providing insight into the most predictable statistics from year to year for each position. This article will provide you a line of sight on what you should know about the top-12 fantasy scorers in PPR formats at the running back, wide receiver, tight end, and quarterback positions.

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THE TOP 12 RBs

Player Season ruATTs ruYDS ruTDS reTRGS reRECS reYDS reTDS GMS PPR Points
Ezekiel Elliott 2017 24.2 98.3 0.7 3.8 2.6 24.9 0.2 10 203.2
Le’Veon Bell 2017 21.4 86.1 0.6 7.1 5.7 43.7 0.1 15 341.6
Leonard Fournette 2017 20.6 80 0.7 3.7 2.8 23.2 0.1 13 230.2
Todd Gurley 2017 18.6 87 0.9 5.8 4.3 52.5 0.4 15 383.3
LeSean McCoy 2017 71.1 71.1 0.4 4.8 3.7 28 0.1 16 263.6
Melvin Gordon 2017 17.8 69.1 0.6 5.2 3.6 29.8 0.2 16 288.1
Kareem Hunt 2017 17 82.9 0.5 3.9 3.3 28.4 0.2 16 295.2
Carlos Hyde 2017 15 58.8 0.5 5.5 3.7 21.9 0 16 234
Mark Ingram 2017 14.4 70.2 0.8 4.4 3.6 26 0 16 278
Alvin Kamara 2017 7.5 45.5 0.5 6.3 5.1 51.6 0.3 16 314.4
Christian McCaffrey 2017 7.3 27.2 0.1 7.1 5 40.7 0.3 16 228.6
Duke Johnson 2017 5.1 21.8 0.2 5.8 4.6 43.3 0.2 16 216.1

 

Source: RotoViz Screener

I have ranked the top-12 RBs according to their number of rushing attempts per game. Volume is critical to the position considering how many NFL coaches deploy a committee approach. Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and Le’Veon Bell led the way with a high number of rushing attempts per game. Bell differentiated himself with his usage as a receiver out of the backfield. All three of these RBs had a positive rushing and receiving fantasy points over expectation which suggests they outperformed their volume. Elliott, Fournette, and Bell are viewed in the top-6 fantasy running backs according to Mike Tagliere’s early 2018 rankings. Todd Gurley was a league winner averaging a monster 25.6 fantasy points per game. LeSean McCoy underperformed his volume as suggested by his negative rushing and receiving fantasy points over expectation. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara finished within the top-6 in fantasy points. Kamara was ridiculously effective on a limited number of touches. Christian McCaffrey, on the other hand, was primarily used as a receiver. His stock could trend upward heading into the 2018 regular season if the Panthers use McCaffrey more as a runner. He finished the regular season with 117 carries, 435 rushing yards, and two touchdowns. The biggest surprise on this list is Duke Johnson. Did you know that he scored more fantasy points than Devonta FreemanJordan Howard, and Lamar Miller? He was very efficient with his low number of touches and still managed positive fantasy points over expectation as a runner and as a receiver.

Player GMS Snaps Snap Pct Util % PPR PTS
Todd Gurley 15 796 77 46 383.3
Le’Veon Bell 15 945 85 45 341.6
Alvin Kamara 16 464 45 47 314.4
Kareem Hunt 16 670 65 50 295.2
Melvin Gordon 16 750 71 49 288.1
Mark Ingram 16 570 55 53 278
LeSean McCoy 16 722 68 50 263.6
Carlos Hyde 16 786 71 42 234
Leonard Fournette 13 564 50 56 230.2
Christian McCaffrey 16 757 70 30 228.6
Duke Johnson 16 565 53 31 216.1
Ezekiel Elliott 10 591 68 47 203.2

 

Source: FantasyData

Bell, Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, and McCaffrey were the only top-12 RBs to play 70 percent or more of their respective team’s offensive snaps. All of these RBs had a high utilization percentage during the regular season. This metric shows you what percentage of snaps the RB touched the football or was targeted.

THE TOP 12 WRs

Player Season reTRGS reRECS reYDS reTDS GMS PPR Points
Antonio Brown 2017 11.6 7.2 109.5 0.6 14 310.3
DeAndre Hopkins 2017 11.6 6.4 91.9 0.9 15 309.8
Jarvis Landry 2017 10.1 7 61.7 0.6 16 260
Larry Fitzgerald 2017 10.1 6.8 72.2 0.4 16 261.4
Keenan Allen 2017 9.9 6.4 87.1 0.4 16 284.2
Michael Thomas 2017 9.3 6.5 77.8 0.3 16 258.5
Julio Jones 2017 9.2 5.5 90.2 0.2 16 251.9
A.J. Green 2017 8.9 4.7 67.2 0.5 16 226.8
Adam Thielen 2017 8.9 5.7 79.8 0.2 16 239.7
Golden Tate 2017 7.5 5.8 62.7 0.3 16 224.5
Tyreek Hill 2017 7 5 78.9 0.5 16 239.2
Marvin Jones 2017 6.7 3.8 68.8 0.6 16 225.1

 

Source: RotoViz Screener

I have ranked the top-12 WRs according to their number of targets per game. Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, and Larry Fitzgerald were the only WRs to average double-digit targets per game during the regular season. All of these receivers had a positive receiving fantasy points over expectation. Hopkins (35) and Brown (30) were the only ones to have a target share of 30 percent or higher. Tyreek Hill (105) and Marvin Jones (107) both finished in the top-12 but had less than 110 targets. Hill had nine receptions for 40 yards or more and scored five touchdowns on targets outside of the red zone. He had the highest receiving fantasy points over expectation among this group. Allen, Brown, and Hopkins were the only WRs with more fantasy points than Michael Thomas from Week 10 on. The lack of touchdowns from Thomas and Julio Jones dragged down their fantasy production. Landry and Allen led all WRs with 24 red zone targets. The perception is that Jones is not targeted in the red zone, but he actually had 2o which resulted in five receiving touchdowns. Targets, receptions, and receiving yards per game are very predictive from one season to the next. Air Yards is another advanced statistic that should not be overlooked.

Name reTRGS reRECS reYDS Air Yards YAC reTDS Target Share
DeAndre Hopkins 174 96 1378 2243 359 13 0.35
Antonio Brown 162 101 1533 2176 481 9 0.3
Keenan Allen 159 102 1393 1479 501 6 0.27
Jarvis Landry 161 112 987 1023 498 9 0.27
Larry Fitzgerald 161 109 1156 1354 408 6 0.27
Michael Thomas 149 104 1245 1424 425 5 0.28
Julio Jones 148 88 1444 2105 486 3 0.28
Adam Thielen 144 91 1277 1506 454 4 0.27
Tyreek Hill 105 75 1183 1227 451 7 0.21
A.J. Green 143 75 1078 1910 297 8 0.28
Marvin Jones 107 61 1101 1624 195 9 0.19
Golden Tate 120 92 1003 716 613 5 0.21

 

Source: AirYards.com

It should not come as a surprise that Hopkins, Brown, and Jones are at the top of this list. They are the only WRs to accumulate 2,000 or more Air Yards. RotoViz contributor Josh Hermsmeyer introduced WR Air Yards at RotoViz in August 2016. They are the total number of yards thrown toward a WR on a play in which he is targeted, both complete and incomplete. If you add them up over a game or a season, you get a receiver’s total Air Yards. They measure the potential yards a WR would have produced if he caught the football and then was immediately tackled. Air Yards, as Hermsmeyer describes it, provides us another way to quantify volume.

Landry’s production was defined by his high number of touchdowns and receptions. He had a low number of Air Yards but led all WRs with 112 receptions. Landry became the first WR to have 100 or more receptions and not have 1,000 or more receiving yards according to Pro Football Focus. Let’s apply this same methodology to the TE position.

THE TOP 12 TEs

Player Season reTRGS reRECS reYDS reTDS GMS PPR Points
Rob Gronkowski 2017 8.1 5.3 83.3 0.6 13 235.5
Travis Kelce 2017 8.1 5.5 69.2 0.5 15 225.3
Zach Ertz 2017 7.9 5.3 58.9 0.6 14 204.4
Evan Engram 2017 7.7 4.3 48.1 0.4 15 173.6
Jack Doyle 2017 7.2 5.3 46 0.3 15 173
Delanie Walker 2017 6.9 4.6 50.4 0.2 16 178.5
Jimmy Graham 2017 5.9 3.6 32.5 0.6 16 167.4
Jared Cook 2017 5.4 3.4 42.9 0.1 16 134.7
Jason Witten 2017 5.4 3.9 35 0.3 16 149
Kyle Rudolph 2017 5.1 3.6 33.2 0.5 16 158.2
Benjamin Watson 2017 4.9 3.8 32.6 0.2 16 137.2
Cameron Brate 2017 4.8 3 36.9 0.4 16 142.9

 

Source: RotoViz Screener

I have ranked the top-12 TEs according to their number of targets per game. Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski were the only TEs to generate 1,000 or more receiving yards. It should not come as a surprise that they were also led the position in Air Yards.

Name reTRGS reRECS reYDS Air Yards YAC reTDS Target Share
Travis Kelce 122 83 1038 1277 406 8 0.24
Rob Gronkowski 106 69 1083 1284 344 8 0.23
Zach Ertz 110 74 824 862 243 8 0.23
Delanie Walker 111 74 807 1075 245 3 0.22
Evan Engram 115 64 722 1015 306 6 0.2
Jack Doyle 108 80 690 530 337 4 0.24
Jimmy Graham 94 56 514 712 211 10 0.17
Kyle Rudolph 81 57 532 614 224 8 0.15
Jason Witten 87 63 560 596 105 5 0.18
Cameron Brate 77 48 589 715 141 6 0.13
Benjamin Watson 79 61 522 489 266 4 0.14
Jared Cook 86 54 687 781 240 2 0.15

 

Source: AirYards.com

Gronkowski generated 16.2 fantasy points per game while Kelce produced 15.2. Zach Ertz also proved to be dependable for fantasy owners week in and week out and was a tremendous value given his ADP or average draft position. Evan Engram had his moments throughout the season but only produced 11.6 points per game. He also had a negative receiving fantasy points over expectation along with other highly touted TEs Jimmy Graham and Delanie Walker. Engram led all TEs in dropped passes with 11 according to Pro Football Focus. If you are not able to draft Gronkowski, Kelce, or Ertz then you are better off streaming the position in 2018. Hope is not a winning fantasy football strategy.

Let’s close out this article by discussing the QB position.

THE TOP 12 QBs

Name Season paATTS Games Fantasy Points
Ben Roethlisberger 2017 37.4 15 260.7
Tom Brady 2017 36.31 16 295.5
Philip Rivers 2017 36 16 270.4
Matthew Stafford 2017 35.38 16 273.6
Russell Wilson 2017 34.56 16 347.9
Carson Wentz 2017 33.85 13 281.7
Kirk Cousins 2017 33.75 16 277.6
Alex Smith 2017 33.67 15 295.2
Drew Brees 2017 33.56 16 262.6
Jared Goff 2017 31.93 15 255.3
Cam Newton 2017 30.81 16 299.5
Dak Prescott 2017 30.56 16 260.7

 

Source: RotoViz Screener

Passing yards per game is the most predictive QB stat from one season to the next. Russell Wilson and Cam Newton‘s rushing yards helped to propel them to finish as the QB1 and QB2. Wilson scored 48.44 more fantasy points than any other quarterback this season. He also led the Seahawks in rushing yards and had a positive passing and rushing fantasy points over expectation. Rushing yards and rushing touchdowns can be deceptive because very few quarterbacks consistently run out of the pocket. The biggest surprises on this list are Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, and Jared Goff. The latter two were essentially free in fantasy drafts this past summer.

Wentz can be viewed as a top-four fantasy QB heading into the 2018 season. Tom Brady surprised fantasy owners with his performance this season. He averaged 21.2 fantasy points per game from Weeks 1 through 10. Brady only averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game from Week 10 to Week 17. His passer rating went from 110.9 to 87.3 over these time frames. The preferred approach to the QB position in 2018 would be to draft one early or stream.

CONCLUSION

It is never too early to begin looking to the 2018 fantasy football season. The purpose of comprehending what happened in the past is to put you in a better position to identify trends in order to correctly predict the future. The NFL calendar does not stop and neither should your own analysis. You can find me @EricNMoody, and I am always open to answering questions or discussing football. I will continue to be very active with FantasyPros during the offseason helping to provide analysis on free agency, the draft, and other events. Until next time!


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Eric Moody is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Eric, check out his archive and follow him @EricNMoody.

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1Todd Gurley (LAR)RB
2Le'Veon Bell (PIT)RB
3Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
4David Johnson (ARI)RB
5Antonio Brown (PIT)WR
6DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)WR
7Alvin Kamara (NO)RB
8Saquon Barkley (NYG)RB
9Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)WR
10Kareem Hunt (KC)RB
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11Julio Jones (ATL)WR
12Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
13Melvin Gordon (LAC)RB
14Michael Thomas (NO)WR
15Dalvin Cook (MIN)RB
16Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
17A.J. Green (CIN)WR
18Davante Adams (GB)WR
19Devonta Freeman (ATL)RB
20Mike Evans (TB)WR
21Jordan Howard (CHI)RB
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23Rob Gronkowski (NE)TE
24Doug Baldwin (SEA)WR
25Christian McCaffrey (CAR)RB
26T.Y. Hilton (IND)WR
27Joe Mixon (CIN)RB
28Travis Kelce (KC)TE
29Adam Thielen (MIN)WR
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