How Much Does Team Scoring Matter For Fantasy Football? (2019)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 8, 2019

Saquon Barkley is special, but he’s going to have a hard time repeating his 2018 performance

One thing that continually blows my mind is just how little thought some put into what team or coach a player plays for. A few years ago, I wanted to find out just how much team scoring mattered to fantasy football? Can a player on a bad team be a fantasy superstar? What are his range of outcomes and what’s most likely?

It seems elementary to understand that the more points a team scores, the more fantasy points that will be available to that player, but many overlook this simple equation. How do I know that? Well, everyone drafted David Johnson as a top-five pick last year, Saquon Barkley is the consensus No. 1 overall pick this year, and Le’Veon Bell is still going in the top-eight overall.

It’s not to say you’re crazy for taking those players there, but understanding what team scoring means should help you decide between two players. This can apply to players you’re viewing as potential breakout candidates or those who should be considered as high-bust potential.

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The research behind this study goes through the last seven years of data on the top 36 running backs and wide receivers, top 24 quarterbacks, and top 12 tight ends, which gives us a rather large sample size of 252 running backs and wide receivers, 168 quarterbacks, and 84 tight ends. This is based on a per-game basis, as injuries can severely impact fantasy outcomes at year’s end. I’ve also eliminated those who played in less than four games, as that small of sample size can skew the final results. Let’s go position-by-position, as the results were 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 42 42.9% 73.8% 88.1% 95.2% 7.1%
Top-12 84 33.3% 61.9% 78.6% 90.5% 11.9%
Top-18 126 31.0% 54.8% 73.0% 87.3% 18.3%
Top-24 168 25.0% 45.8% 65.5% 81.5% 23.2%
Top-30 210 23.8% 44.8% 63.8% 80.5% 23.8%
Top-36 252 23.8% 44.4% 62.7% 80.6% 25.0%

 

We have a big sample here and you can see that top-12 scoring offenses produce nearly 74 percent of the top-six running backs. In fact, we can even move to the top-six offenses (that account for just 18.8 percent of the teams in the league) to see that they produce 43 percent of the top-six fantasy running backs. The only running backs who weren’t on top-12 scoring teams but able to finish as top-six running backs the last two years are Saquon Barkley (Giants were 16th in 2018), Christian McCaffrey (Panthers were 14th in 2018), and Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys were 14th in 2017). As you can see, they were all extremely close to that top-12 cutoff. Bottom line, it’s nearly impossible to finish as a top-six running back unless you’re on a top-16 scoring offense.

Another thing you’ll notice is that there’s been just three top-six running backs who’ve come from bottom-10 scoring teams over the last seven years. Those are terrible odds, my friends. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. likely drops the Giants into a bottom-10 scoring team, which means Saquon Barkley needs to overcome even more than he did last year. That’s a lot for the consensus No. 1 overall pick in 2019 fantasy drafts.

Moving beyond the elite tier of running backs, even 62 percent of top-12 running backs come from top-12 scoring offenses. Think about that. 12 teams make up just 37.5 percent of the league, but they produce 62 percent of the RB1s in fantasy football. If you can predict which teams will finish top-12 in scoring, you can likely identify which running backs should be in your first few rounds. Of the 84 running backs who’ve been RB1s over the last seven years, just eight of them have come from bottom-10 scoring offenses.

The primary takeaway from running backs is that team-scoring absolutely matters and it should factor into your drafting process. If you know a running back is extremely talented but on a horrible offense, you must understand that it’s very unlikely he finishes inside RB1 territory, and even more rare for him to finish top-six at his position. A 7.1 percent chance, to be clear. If you’re on the clock and are left deciding between two running backs, go with the one who has the better quarterback, as his offense 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: Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, Sony Michel/James White, Chris Carson/Rashaad Penny, Tarik Cohen/David Montgomery, Ronald Jones, and Lamar Miller.

Wide Receivers

WR Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 42 28.6% 54.8% 81.0% 90.5% 11.9%
Top-12 84 36.9% 63.1% 83.3% 91.7% 10.7%
Top-18 126 34.1% 59.5% 78.6% 90.5% 14.3%
Top-24 168 32.7% 57.7% 77.4% 89.9% 14.9%
Top-30 210 29.0% 53.3% 71.0% 87.1% 17.6%
Top-36 252 26.6% 49.6% 69.1% 84.5% 19.1%

 

You’ll notice right away that the elite tier of wide receivers don’t rely on a top-12 scoring offense nearly as much as running backs do, though it still tilts in their favor. The biggest break at the wide receiver position comes down to WR1 upside, as 53-of-84 of them (63.1 percent) came from top-12 scoring offenses, which again, make up just 37.5 percent of the league. If you wanted to extend that out to the top-18 offenses (nearly top-half of the league), that number would rise to 70-of-84 (83.3 percent). If you’re thinking about being sneaky and drafting a target-hog on a bad team, understand that may be a bad strategy. Over the last two years, there was just one receiver who finished as a WR1 on a bottom-10 scoring team, and that was Odell Beckham Jr. in 2017. In fact, none of the top 16 wide receivers in 2018 came from a bottom-10 scoring team.

When looking at early 2019 ADP, we can try to identify wide receivers who may lack upside to finish as a WR1 despite being drafted inside the top-24 at their position. Kenny Golladay stands out as one of them, as many are expecting a breakout season, but unless the Lions drastically change their offense and start producing points, it seems unlikely. Outside of him, most receivers being taken inside the top-24 are on teams who could contend for top-12 scoring offenses.

There’s a steep drop-off at the running back position once you get outside the elite territory, but it’s not as steep at wide receiver. If a receiver is on a top-12 scoring offense, they have a great chance to finish as a WR1, while those on bottom-10 scoring teams are facing an extremely uphill battle. All the way down to the top-24, there’s still 77.4 percent of them who come from top-18 scoring offenses (account for just 56 percent of the league). Similar to running backs, you ideally get players attached to high-scoring offenses. If torn between two players in the same area, lean towards the one in the higher scoring offense.

Tight Ends

TE Finish # of Players T-6 Off. T-12 Off. T-18 Off. T-24 Off. Bottom-10
Top-6 42 33.4% 57.1% 71.4% 85.7% 19.0%
Top-12 84 25.0% 47.6% 70.2% 85.7% 20.2%

 

At a position with such a small sample, it’s hard to say with any concrete evidence, but it appears that you’d ideally be drafting a tight end from a top-12 scoring offense, as 57.1 percent of them have come from there. To be fair, Rob Gronkowski skewed the numbers in a big way, as the Patriots were a top-12 offense the entire time he was there, and he finished among the top-six tight ends in points per game in 6-of-7 years. 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 42 52.4% 90.5% 97.6% 100.0% 0.0%
Top-12 84 38.1% 75.0% 90.5% 100.0% 2.4%
Top-18 126 31.7% 62.7% 81.0% 94.4% 10.3%
Top-24 168 26.8% 51.8% 72.0% 90.5% 14.9%

 

This is the position that might be the most obvious, as the quarterback controls what the offense produces in the end. But the question most should ask themselves is, “can a quarterback put up top-12 numbers even if he’s on a low-scoring team?” To answer that question, I give you an emphatic “no.” Throughout the last seven years, there’s been exactly zero quarterbacks to finish top-six while on a bottom-10 scoring offense.

Lowering the bar even more, there’s been just two quarterbacks who’ve been able to finish top-12 over the last seven years while being a part of a bottom-10 scoring offense. For those suggesting Josh Allen could have a breakout season, the Bills are going to need to come out of the cellar in order for that to happen, as they ranked 30th in points per game in 2018. He’s not a great bet to finish as a top-12 quarterback, though he may be able to sneak into the top-18, as 10.3 percent (not even great odds) of those come from low-scoring teams.

One stat I’ll leave you with in regard to quarterbacks: Over the last seven years, there’s been 84 quarterbacks who’ve finished inside the top-12. Only 42 of them could’ve come from top-six scoring offenses, because, well, math. 32-of-42 quarterbacks in top-six scoring offenses finished as top-12 quarterbacks. In short, aim for quarterbacks who are on high-scoring teams. This is not a position to get cute with, as history suggests you’ll lose.

What It All Means

After seeing the charts above, you likely understand that team-scoring matters quite a bit to fantasy football. While some positions matter more than others, when torn between two players, lean towards the one in the better offense. But Mike, which teams will be high scoring in 2019? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have some projections as to who will finish where, which you can find below. Use this as a loose guide when putting together your rankings and know that history doesn’t lie; you want players on high-scoring offenses.

 

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

 


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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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