We all like to pride ourselves as “real” football fans. X’s and O’s, intangibles, defense wins championships. Rub some dirt on it. But let’s not kid ourselves when it comes to fantasy football and sports betting. Those are numbers games. The statistics and the results are all that matter. And it’s okay to be a nerd about that part of the game sometimes because we can make money off it. I’m sure Bill Gates and Elon Musk are over being called “nerds”.
So let’s take a little break from the NFL news and rumors about Alvin Kamara, Calvin Ridley, Deshaun Watson etc. to show some appreciation for the numbers and look at some of the most interesting stats that you need to know for each team. For some extra nerdy fun while you are scrolling, take a second to try to guess what the number might represent before reading the explanation!
Arizona Cardinals – 1.3
Last year Rondale Moore had an average depth of target (aDot) of 1.3 yards. Here’s how insane that is. Of the 234 wide receivers that registered a target, that ranks 230th. But unlike the guys down in that neck of the woods of those rankings, Moore was playing meaningful snaps. In half of his games last year, he actually had a negative aDot meaning every pass he was thrown was behind the line of scrimmage. There were 44 RUNNING BACKS that had a higher aDot than Moore. For Rondale Moore to take the next step and provide any kind of consistent value in fantasy football, he is going to need to expand his route tree and start winning battles downfield.
Atlanta Falcons - 31
When you look around at the starting running backs in the NFL, there are really only two that are older than 27 (unless you believe the 29 year old Melvin Gordon will start over Javonte Williams). You have Derrick Henry, who is 28 years old. And then you have Cordarrelle Patterson, who is 31. That makes the wide receiver turned return man turned running back quite the outlier in the modern NFL. Mike Davis is gone now so this creates an interesting scenario for guys down the depth chart like journeyman Damien Williams or rookie Tyler Allgeier. Running back is easily the league’s most injury-prone position and age is certainly a factor. We could see some of these other backs contribute sooner rather than later.
Baltimore Ravens - 16%
The Baltimore Ravens use more personnel groupings than arguably any other team. They use two running back sets, blocking tight ends, fullbacks, you name it. For instance, before getting hurt in week 13, fullback Patrick Ricard was playing 57% of the snaps on average. Every time you bring in a second back or a tight end, a wide receiver comes out of the game - that led the Ravens to use single WR sets on 16% of their snaps. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for a second WR to have high upside in fantasy football but it does help consolidate the targets among Mark Andrews and the top wide receiver. That’s part of why we like Rashod Bateman so much this year.
Buffalo Bills - 4
Everyone is still talking about the miraculous four-touchdown game that Gabriel Davis had against the Chiefs last year in the Divisional Playoff Round. And it was a record-setting day, no question. But there is another number tied to that performance - zero. Gabriel Davis had zero catches in that game until one minute left in the second quarter when Tyrann Mathieu left with a concussion. Then they spent the remainder of the day picking on Mike Hughes and backup safety Juan Thornhill, where Davis went off.
In the past, Gabe Davis has had mixed results in that flanker role filling in for John Brown or Emmanuel Sanders when they got hurt and now that role opposite of Stefon Diggs is his for the taking. What other guy is having games with only three catches for 39 yards on a whopping 14 targets vs. the Jets then a couple of weeks later catching eight of ten for 201 yards and four TDs against the Chiefs? There is no question the upside for Davis is high but the possibility he could disappoint at his current ADP of WR20 is also very real. This has made Gabriel Davis by far one of the most polarizing players this off-season.
Carolina Panthers - 24.47
Over the last decade, the highest average PPR points per game in a season was Christian McCaffrey in 2020 with 24.47. The next highest was Todd Gurley at 22.36 in 2018. And then the third was Christian McCaffrey again, at 22.20 in 2019. The RB1 last year, Jonathan Taylor, ranks 13th on that list at 19.59 PPR points per game. Despite being the top back in fantasy in 2021, Taylor only caught 40 passes in 17 games. Meanwhile, in his first six games before his season ended against the Dolphins, Christian McCaffrey caught 37 passes. You might want to think twice about which running back to draft first - especially in full PPR formats. There might be some risk but no player offers a greater reward than CMC.
Chicago Bears - 221
The last time that Luke Getsy was calling offensive plays was in 2018 for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. And, in only 12 games, he had his quarterback run the ball an absurd 221 times. Now, obviously, 18 rush attempts a game for 17 games would almost DOUBLE the record for attempts in a season by a quarterback so that’s not going to happen. But, for those looking for a Konami Code quarterback, that type of usage on the offensive coordinator’s resume is certainly promising for Justin Fields. He flashed his rushing ability with an incredible run vs. the 49ers last year and he has a date with them and Trey Lance again Week 1 this season.
Cincinnati Bengals - 3,500,000
That’s how many dollars the Cincinnati Bengals will likely pay Hayden Hurst this year. I said “likely” because he could earn an additional $1M in incentives though only $2M of the contract is guaranteed. Conversely, the New York Jets agreed to a contract with former Bengals tight end CJ Uzomah for three years, $24,000,00 with $15,000,000 of that guaranteed. Perhaps the Jets overpaid Uzomah or the Bengals got a steal with Hurst but money talks in this league and that’s quite the difference in perceived value by the market. Given Uzomah’s lack of fantasy success in this same offense and Hurst also likely behind Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd in terms of targets, he’s probably not a very high upside play in fantasy football.
Cleveland Browns - 6
That’s the current number of games recommended as a suspension for embattled starting quarterback Deshaun Watson by former District Judge Sue L. Robinson. Now, technically the league has its own discretion for the final suspension and they have a couple of days to decide but expect the NFLPA to challenge anything above and beyond the recommendation. And, regardless of how you feel about him, Watson has essentially been a top-five quarterback in fantasy anytime he is on the field. Here’s a full breakdown of the fantasy impact of Watson’s surprisingly short suspension, for those interested.
Dallas Cowboys - 9
The Cowboys DST scored an absurd NINE touchdowns last season. Five pick-sixes, two returned blocked kicks, a fumble returned for a touchdown, and a kickoff returned for a touchdown. That’s the most since the 2014 Eagles had a crazy 11. That’s a big reason why the Cowboys DST led the league in fantasy and scored 27 more points than the next highest teams. That said, defensive and special teams touchdowns can be incredibly fluky so be careful projecting them do that again. They are a solid defense of course but scoring nine touchdowns again is a tall order.
Denver Broncos - 25.7%
Jerry Jeudy only played 25.7% of his snaps out wide last year (the rest were in the slot). Courtland Sutton played 88% and Tim Patrick played 76%. The reality about “slot” receivers is that pure slot guys aren’t actually good for fantasy - we want guys playing slot in 3 WR sets then moving to flanker for 2 WR sets like Cooper Kupp or Chris Godwin. Courtland Sutton is likely locked in at split end so the upside for Jeudy is largely going to be dependent on whether he stays out there when they use guys like Albert O, Greg Dulcich, Eric Tomlinson, fullback Andrew Beck or whether it’s Tim Patrick that stays on the field. If it’s Patrick, perhaps we have been too low on him.
Edit: and just like that in this league, situations can change in an instant. Tim Patrick is now OUT for the season with a torn ACL. What likely happens now is Courtland Sutton is your split end, Jerry Jeudy is the flanker in two wide receiver sets, and KJ Hamler comes on for three wide sets (moving Jeudy into the slot). This kind of solves the question we were posing and it certainly increases the value for Jeudy.
Detroit Lions - 20
Pro Football Focus had Amon-Ra St. Brown graded out as the WR20 overall on the season - a tremendous grade for a rookie and it’s even more impressive when you remember that he was a day 3 pick. But that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. ARSB was actually WR102 for the first 11 weeks of the season, while guys like T.J. Hockenson, Quintez Cephus, D’Andre Swift, and Jamaal Williams were healthy. Over the remaining weeks while those guys struggled with injury, he was the WR4 overall. A shift in play-calling to Ben Johnson could have helped with this change but The Sun God will now not only be contending with Hock, Swift, Williams, Cephus etc. but also DJ Chark, who they paid $10 million guaranteed to, and Jameson Williams, who they traded up in the first round to get. This situation makes Amon-Ra St. Brown one of the most divisive players this off-season as a high-risk, high-reward fantasy option.
Green Bay Packers - 224
On a per-game basis, Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were the top two targets on this team. And, despite Valdes-Scantling missing seven games, Adams and MVS are leaving behind a combined 224 vacated targets as they move on to the Raiders and Chiefs, respectively. Aaron Rodgers said himself that “there’s going to be the same amount of balls and yards and touchdowns to go around. So now it’s a matter of: Who’s going to be in those situations to make those plays?” He’s hinted that Allen Lazard is primed to take that step but a couple of rookies in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs could carve out roles as well as incumbents Randall Cobb, Robert Tonyan, and Amari Rodgers. It’s tough to pick the right guy in that situation and there are also still some free agent pass catchers floating around out there but picking the right player could pay off handsomely.
Houston Texans - 9
If you take the receiving stats for every wide receiver in league history before the age of 29, Brandin Cooks is ranked 9th on that list in career PPR fantasy points. He currently has 1,684.9. Here are the guys ahead of him, per Pro Football Reference:
- Randy Moss - 2,266.9
- DeAndre Hopkins - 2,101.3
- Larry Fitzgerald - 2,094.0
- Mike Evans - 1997.1
- Calvin Johnson - 1,909.5
- Antonio Brown - 1,807.0
- Julio Jones - 1,757.3
- Jerry Rice 1,750.7
Pretty good list to be on huh? And Cooks actually turns 29 on September 25th in Week 3 when they play the Chicago Bears so he can still add to his total (Mike Evans is the only other one still 28 or under but he turns 29 this month before the season starts). It's unlikely Cooks gets the 70+ points needed to move up on the list but just being on that list alone means that we might be underestimating how good Brandin Cooks actually is.
Indianapolis Colts - 5
Back in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons ran for the 5th most yards in the league. They ran the ball 26.3 times a game and threw the ball 33.6 times a game. In that season, Matt Ryan was the number 2 overall quarterback in fantasy football and the MVP of the league. Last year the Colts ran for the 2nd most yards in the league. They ran the ball 29.3 times a game and threw the ball 30.6 times a game. So both teams were essentially running 60 plays a game with that Falcons team skewing slightly more passing by three plays a game.
The Colts might not have exactly the same caliber of receiving weapons as that Falcons team but the argument that “the Colts run too much for Matt Ryan to be good” doesn’t hold as much water as we might think. The Colts might be willing to throw the ball more with Matt Ryan than Carson Wentz and, if the Colts offense is good, Matt Ryan will likely be good as well. Like we just said, the last time his team was top five in rushing he was the MVP of the league. He’s currently going off the board at QB19.
Jacksonville Jaguars - 17
Trevor Lawrence tied for the league lead in interceptions with 17. Granted, he was tied in the stat with Super Bowl winner and SB MVP Matthew Stafford. Throwing 17 interceptions as a rookie isn’t the end of the world either considering Peyton Manning threw 28 as a rookie but Manning also threw 26 touchdown passes (Lawrence threw only 12). I’m willing to give Lawrence a pass on a dysfunctional Urban Meyers offense but he needs to take a step big forward this year under Doug Pederson and regain some of that time he lost. The Jaguars went out and got some new weapons to help with that as well as star lineman Brandon Scherff so he has the tools needed to do so. All eyes on him now.
Kansas City Chiefs - 3
There is a stat out there called “air yards”. This is the distance the ball travels in the air when thrown to a receiver (anything after a completed pass is yards after the catch or YAC). Air yards also account for incomplete passes as well so seasonal air yards are the combined distance of passes targeting your receiver, regardless of whether it is caught or not.
In 2021, Tyreek Hill was 3rd among all wide receivers in this stat. In 2020, he was also 3rd. In 2019, he got hurt. But in 2018, guess where he finished? 3rd. With him leaving for the Dolphins, that is a lot of potential air yards that are up for grabs. If a speedy wide receiver like Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or Skyy Moore can capture a meaningful portion of that role, they could put together some big chunk plays. Which is especially valuable in formats like best ball where it’s not so bad if you are “boom/bust”.
Los Angeles Chargers - Zero
You might be surprised to find that, in five seasons now, this is the number of 1,000 yard rushing seasons that Austin Ekeler has. Zero. In fact, his 993 receiving yards in 2019 is more yards than his best rushing season (911 yards in 2021). And now these are the rumors we are hearing out of camp.
Ekeler is always going to be an incredibly valuable pick, especially in full PPR formats, but perhaps the Chargers have found their one-two punch in the short yardage game with Isaiah Spiller? Could be some fantasy football value in that.
Los Angeles Rams - 86%
You might have heard folks label personnel groupings numerically, like 11 personnel or 12 personnel. The secret to this system is the number of running backs on the field followed by the number of tight ends. So 11 personnel means one running back and one tight end (with three wide recievers). 12 personnel would then be one running back and two tight ends (with two wide receivers). And so on.
The Rams last year used 11 personnel on an absurd 86% of their snaps. The next closest was the Bengals down at 77% and there were only five total teams at 70% or higher. And when you factor in other sets that use three or four WRs, that number gets even closer to 90%. Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson should be on the field just about every play but that consolidation of snaps could create some upside for the third wide receiver as well. Van Jefferson is currently in line for that role but Odell Beckham Jr. is out there lurking in the shadows. Sean McVay has said he wants Odell back, Cooper Kupp says he wants Odell back, and Odell says he wants to be back so it seems like the most likely landing spot for the veteran if they can figure out the contract.
Miami Dolphins - 2013
The last time a team had two wide receivers finish in the top 24 and a tight end finish in the top five was the 2013 Denver Broncos. In that season, Peyton Manning threw 55 touchdown passes - the all-time record in a season. Currently, based on our composite ADP, Tyreek Hill is going off the board as WR9 and Jaylen Waddle at WR16. So, for Mike Gesicki to have any sort of upside, you really need to fade Hill and/or Waddle. Unless you think Tua Tagovailoa is in for an absolute monster season. But, if that were the case, you should probably just take a stab on Tua at his ADP of QB17.
Minnesota Vikings - 24
Adam Thielen has scored 24 touchdowns over his last 28 games. And, realistically, he got hurt in week 13 and was banged up in week 16 last year so it’s more like 24 touchdowns over his last 26 games. The Vikings brought Kevin O’Connell over from the Rams, a pass-happy coordinator who specializes in three-WR sets, as we mentioned in the Rams section. And the Vikings didn’t make any major pass-catching acquisitions in the draft or free agency. Apparently, it’s a problem for some people but I’ve never had an issue because my player consistently scored “too many touchdowns”. Despite being a top ten wide receiver in back-to-back years when healthy, Thielen is currently going off the board at WR32.
New England Patriots - 2018
Trey Burton, in 2018, was the last tight end to crack 100 receiving yards against the New England Patriots' defense. Even Travis Kelce has never had a 100 receiving yard game against New England, in the playoffs or regular season. And the last time he had more than 70 yards against them was way back in 2014. The Patriots have been top five vs. the tight end in back-to-back years now and the coaching/personnel responsible for that are largely still there. Unless I have a top-tier tight end, I practically treat the New England Patriots as a tight end bye week. And I avoid them whenever possible in DFS.
New Orleans Saints - 15%
In our concept article on What Makes An Elite Tight End, we talked about a pivotal metric. So pivotal that it was listed second in the article. And that’s pass blocking percentage. It’s incredibly rare to have a high-end tight end blocking on over 15% of pass plays. In fact, George Kittle in 2019 is essentially the only one in recent years. For two years now, Adam Trautman has been at 15.2% and 20.9% in this stat which isn’t going to cut it. On top of that, the first criteria listed in the article is being a top 2 target on the team. Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Alvin Kamara are pretty tough competition. So, despite rumors that Trautman is having a great camp, be careful about getting swept up in the hype.
New York Giants - 189
We expect guys like Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase etc. to drop monster receiving games from time to time. But it came as a bit of a surprise when Kadarius Toney went wild with a 189-yard receiving performance against the Dallas Cowboys - the 8th highest receiving total of any wide receiver in 2021. And some of those passes came from backup Mike Glennon. If you believe that Brian Daboll can turn around the fortunes of Daniel Jones, that type of ability presents rare upside that few guys are even capable of, which is especially valuable in best ball formats. Coach Daboll seems to be a fan of Toney’s and not just of his football abilities.
New York Jets - 80.1
Run blocking is a wide receiver skill that is largely ignored by fantasy gamers. But in real-life football, it gets you on the field. Pro Football Focus gave Corey Davis a run blocking grade of 80.1 which is 7th best among wide receivers that played at least 40 run snaps. It’s up there with guys like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. That’s probably why Davis was playing upwards of 93-94% of the snaps at times last year before getting injured. Even though we all want explosive smaller guys like Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson to be out there every snap, the 6’3” split end could find himself on the field often once again. And, with the addition of two tight ends as well as Robert Saleh employing a fullback, snaps could get a little thin over there at times. This isn’t the Rams or Bengals we are talking about, using three wide receivers on virtually every play.
Las Vegas Raiders - 35
The Raiders brought in offensive guru Josh McDaniels to run the modified Erdhart-Perkins offense that they run in New England. And that offense has notoriously been a split backfield. For over 20 years now, no back in that offense has had both 200+ carries and 35+ receptions. The last two to do it were Robert Edwards and Curtis Martin back in the 90s when Pete Carrol was the Patriots coach. Josh Jacobs is in line for that early down role but the depth chart is stocked with guys like Kenyan Drake, Brandon Bolden, Zamir White, and Ameer Abdullah to play the “James White role”. Damien Harris scored 15 touchdowns for McDaniels last year but he only caught 18 passes so he wasn’t an RB1 in either PPR format. For Josh Jacobs to truly have high-end upside, he might need to buck this trend.
Philadelphia Eagles - 5.1
Miles Sanders has thus far been a disappointment for fantasy gamers - in large part due to his inability to stay healthy. But he also quietly has been fairly efficient. Here’s how his 5.1 yards per carry stacks up against other backs in the league.
That’s pretty interesting company. And last year, his yards per carry was a whopping 5.5. Of course, Jalen Hurts is a threat to red zone touches and Kenneth Gainwell is an emerging talent but we did a full write-up on why you can do worse than Miles Sanders at ADP.
Pittsburgh Steelers - 2.26
Tom Brady is notorious for getting the ball out of his hands quickly (and possibly getting away with intentional grounding at times). But last year there was another quarterback getting the ball out faster. Per PFF, at 2.26 seconds on average, Ben Roethlisberger led all quarterbacks in time to release. We don’t know whether Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett will be an immediate upgrade at the position or not but we can expect that their mobility and Matt Canada’s RPO offense will lead that “time to release” number to increase. That could have a positive impact on higher aDot players like the wide receivers and a negative impact on lower aDot players like the tight ends and running backs. And this is only part of our concern for Pat Freiermuth’s upside.
San Francisco 49ers - 650,000
Deebo Samuel got a shiny new contract which isn’t surprising considering he uses the same agency to represent him as AJ Brown and DK Metcalf. Within that contract, there is some fine print that suggests that he will make an extra $650,000 for every season he has 380 or more rushing yards and $150,000 for three or more rushing touchdowns. Over the course of his three-year contract, he could make almost an additional $2 million. So any concern about Deebo not wanting to take on the additional risks that come with running the football should go out the window.
Seattle Seahawks - 52.3%
There is a stat known as “breakaway runs” that is charted by Pro Football Focus. This tracks designed run plays that go for more than 15 yards. Your breakaway run rate is the percentage of your total yards that comes on these breakaway plays. For Rashad Penny, that number was an absurd 52.3% which is by far the highest of any player with over 75 carries (he had 119). The next highest would be Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, and Dalvin Cook who were all around 36-39%. You probably recognize a couple of those names. This ability to generate huge chunk plays makes Rashad Penny an intriguing option, especially in best ball where big plays are everything.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 8
Coming into the 2020 season, there were two players to start their careers with six consecutive seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards. Those players were Randy Moss and Mike Evans. Evans then became the sole leader with seven. Last year, after registering 1,035 yards, he extended that number to eight. There are only two players with more than eight 1,000-yard seasons in their entire career in Jerry Rice and Randy Moss so another one here in season nine could put Evans in rare company. He’s also had double-digit touchdowns in both of the last two season since Tom Brady came to town, making him one of the safer options in all of fantasy football.
Tennessee Titans - 2
Over the last five years, there have only been two running backs to finish top ten in full PPR fantasy football with less than 20 receptions. And they are both Derrick Henry. The most recent player before that was LeGarrette Blount on the Patriots in a year where he only caught seven passes but scored 18 touchdowns. Henry is one of the best pure rushers in the game but his lack of pass-catching prowess does cap his upside a bit in PPR formats. Though he did match his career high with 18 receptions last year while only playing half of a season so maybe this year we see the best version of Derrick Henry that we’ve seen yet?
Washington Commanders - 100%
It’s extremely rare for any wide receiver, running back, or tight end to play every single snap. In the modern era, it’s pretty much just quarterbacks and linemen that do that on the offensive side of the ball. But that’s essentially what Logan Thomas was doing in 2020 and early 2021. In fact, he played 100% of the offensive snaps in three straight games to start the season last year before getting hurt. He suffered an ACL tear late last year so might not be ready to start the season. But, if he gets fully healthy and gets back to that usage, he could have some sneaky upside down the stretch.
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