How Much Does Team Scoring Matter For Fantasy Football? (2018)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 9, 2018

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are projected to finish as a top-six scoring offense

There’s an article that I reference more often than ever thought I would over the course of the offseason, and it was one that I wrote last year on how much team scoring means to fantasy football. While it seems elementary to understand that the more points that a team scores, the more fantasy points the offense will generate, many overlook this simple equation, which is why I ask – why do you view David Johnson as a top-three pick this year?

It’s not to say that you’re wrong for taking him there, but we’re here today to show you the odds that each position has to finish top-six, top-12, top-24, etc. This applies to those you’re looking at as potential breakout candidates in 2018 and whether or not the overall offense can hold them back.

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How many times have you heard that a wide receiver or quarterback is good for fantasy because his team is going to be down a ton and you’re going to get a bunch of garbage time points? There have been others who 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?

The research that went into this study includes six years of data on the top-36 running backs, top-36 wide receivers, top-24 quarterbacks, and top-12 tight ends, which gives us a generous sample of 216 running backs, 216 wide receivers, 144 quarterbacks, and 72 tight ends. I should also mention that 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 36 38.9% 75.0% 86.1% 94.4% 8.3%
Top-12 72 30.6% 62.5% 77.8% 90.3% 12.5%
Top-18 108 30.6% 55.6% 73.1% 88.0% 17.6%
Top-24 144 25.0% 46.5% 66.0% 82.6% 22.2%
Top-30 180 23.3% 44.5% 63.9% 81.1% 23.3%
Top-36 216 23.6% 44.9% 63.4% 81.0% 24.0%

 
When looking at the six-year sample, you can see that top-12 scoring offenses produce 75 percent of the top-six running backs, a percentage that went up last year when five of the top six running backs came from top-12 scoring offenses. The only running back who didn’t was Ezekiel Elliott, who finished No. 2 in fantasy points per game. His offense isn’t going to get better in 2018, which is a problem when you consider the odds he already beat in 2017.

Another thing you’ll notice is that just 3-of-36 top-six running backs have come from bottom-10 scoring offenses over the last six years. When most talk about David Johnson‘s historical 2016 season, they fail to mention that he was playing on a Cardinals offense that ranked as the sixth-best scoring offense in the NFL. Realistically, under new head coach Steve Wilks, with a brand new offensive scheme, with brand new quarterbacks, do you want to bet on them finishing as a top-12 offense in 2018? I don’t think I’d bet on them finishing as a top-18 offense if I’m being honest. There’s a lot of risk built into Johnson’s price.

Looking beyond that, even 63 percent of the top-12 running backs come from just 37.5 percent of the league (12-of-32 teams). Once you get outside the top-18 running backs, the numbers start to even themselves out, as this is where team-scoring doesn’t matter all that much. If you believe that a running back is going to finish top-24 on a low-scoring offense, that’s within the realm of possibilities, just don’t go in expecting much more than that.

The takeaway from the running back section is that team-scoring absolutely matters and that it’s extremely unlikely for a running back on a bottom-10 offense to finish as an elite option and that he’s got just a 12.5 percent chance to finish as an RB1. If you’re on the clock and are left deciding between two running backs, go with the one with the better quarterback who is likely to score more points. Players who are on projected top-scoring offenses this year that are being drafted well outside of the first few rounds include: Sony Michel, Mark Ingram, Jamaal Williams/Aaron Jones.

Wide Receivers

WR Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 36 27.8% 52.8% 77.8% 88.9% 13.9%
Top-12 72 37.5% 62.5% 80.6% 90.3% 12.5%
Top-18 108 32.4% 58.3% 76.0% 88.9% 15.7%
Top-24 144 31.9% 56.9% 75.7% 88.9% 16.0%
Top-30 180 28.9% 52.8% 70.0% 86.6% 18.3%
Top-36 216 25.9% 48.2% 67.6% 83.3% 20.4%

 
The first thing you’ll notice on this chart is that top-tier wide receivers don’t rely on high-scoring offenses nearly as much as running backs do. In fact, 52.8 percent of top-six wide receivers come from top-12 scoring offenses, which is the same percentage as those in the top-30 wide receivers. The difference there for running backs was a massive 31.5 percent difference (75 percent down to 44.5 percent). In fact, the wide receivers don’t have much of a difference throughout those in top-six offenses through those in top-18 offenses when it comes to drafting a top-30 wide receiver.

The one area where it seems to hurt a wide receiver is when it comes to those who are on bottom-10 offenses, as just 14 of the last 108 wide receivers who have finished top-12 have been on a bottom-10 scoring team. Those who accomplished that in 2017 included just one player, and he just barely made the cut, playing four games: Odell Beckham Jr. Unlike Ezekiel Elliott, who we talked about earlier, Beckham’s offense is going to move in the right direction this year.

The takeaway from wide receivers is that team-scoring doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does for running backs. As long as you don’t think a player will be a part of a bottom-10 scoring team, team-scoring shouldn’t really affect your decision on which player to draft. But again, if you’re having a tough time deciding on one of two wide receivers, lean with the guy who is on the better overall offense.

Tight Ends

TE Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 36 36.1% 58.3% 75.0% 86.1% 19.4%
Top-12 72 26.4% 45.9% 69.4% 84.7% 22.2%

 
At a position with such a small sample, it’s hard to come to any concrete evidence, but it appears that you’d ideally be drafting a tight end from a top-12 scoring offense. Now let’s be fair about this, Rob Gronkowski skews the numbers in a big way, as the Patriots have been a top-12 offense the entire time he’s been there, and he’s always finished among the top-six tight ends in points per game. Knowing the much larger sample size that we have with wide receivers, I’m inclined to say that team-scoring doesn’t affect tight ends as much as some might think. As the percentages show, nearly 20 percent of the top-six performers at the position come from bottom-10 offenses, which cannot be said for running backs or wide receivers. If there was one position I wouldn’t worry about with team-scoring, it’s the tight end position.

Quarterbacks

QB Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 36 55.6% 88.9% 97.3% 100.0% 0.0%
Top-12 72 38.9% 73.6% 88.9% 100.0% 2.8%
Top-18 108 31.5% 61.1% 79.6% 93.5% 12.0%
Top-24 144 27.1% 51.4% 71.6% 89.6% 16.7%

 
When talking about team-scoring, almost everything has to go through the quarterback, right? But the question becomes – can a quarterback put up decent fantasy numbers even if he’s on a low-scoring team? The answer is a resounding “no.” Over the last six years, no quarterback has been able to finish top-six in points per game while being on a bottom-10 scoring offense, and I’ll add that just two quarterbacks have been able to finish inside the top-12.

The quarterback position is the most important one on the football field and it shows in this study. Of the 72 quarterbacks that have finished inside the top-12 over the last six years, only 36 of them could’ve played in top-six offenses (obviously, because six teams multiplied over six years). The craziest stat of this whole thing is that 28-of-36 of them finished as top-12 quarterbacks. Quarterbacks control their own team, as well as their own fantasy finish, no matter who their running back is.

What It All Means

After seeing all 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 2018, 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 Green Bay Packers
2 New Orleans Saints
3 New England Patriots
4 Philadelphia Eagles
5 Pittsburgh Steelers
6 Minnesota Vikings
7 Los Angeles Chargers
8 Atlanta Falcons
9 Los Angeles Rams
10 Tennessee Titans
11 Kansas City Chiefs
12 Detroit Lions
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14 San Francisco 49ers
15 Indianapolis Colts
16 Chicago Bears
17 Seattle Seahawks
18 New York Giants
19 Carolina Panthers
20 Jacksonville Jaguars
21 Houston Texans
22 Washington Redskins
23 Cincinnati Bengals
24 Oakland Raiders
25 Dallas Cowboys
26 Baltimore Ravens
27 Arizona Cardinals
28 Miami Dolphins
29 Denver Broncos
30 Cleveland Browns
31 New York Jets
32 Buffalo Bills

 

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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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