Looking to 2017: 100 Fantasy Football Facts-Volume III

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With the NFL season upon us, we present our third volume of “100 Fantasy Football Facts.”  The first edition was published six months ago in March, and centered around returning players. Our second volume was published in July, and featured the post NFL draft news.

Now that the month of September has begun, and the 53-man rosters and depth charts are set, there is no better time to publish our third and final installment of “100 Fantasy Football Facts.”

These are 100 completely true facts that will surprise and confuse fantasy football fanatics. The facts may or may not lead to the obvious conclusion, but the goal is to keep your fantasy football mind racing. It’s one thing to have a grasp of analytics, but it’s another thing entirely to use those numbers as building blocks to some higher truth.

The question remains open for debate: does the data lead to the proper conclusion?

Here are 100 facts to give dedicated fantasy football junkies something to chew over as the NFL season begins.

(Statistical information was taken from PlayerProfiler & FFtoday).

Looking to 2017: 100 Fantasy Football Facts-Volume III

Superstar Jimmy Graham

1. Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham finished third among all NFL tight ends with 923 receiving yards last season.

2. Graham did that despite ranking only seventh among all tight ends with 96 targets.

3. He also ranked second among all tight ends with an 85.7 percent contested catch rate.

4. Josh Hermsmayer at RotoViz explains why air yards are a great predictor of fantasy points. Air yards, he explains, are an almost pure measure of quarterback and coaching intent. In essence, Hermsmayer states that air yards illustrate who the quarterback and coaching staff want to get the ball to.

5. Graham ranked second among all tight ends in 2016 with 604 air yards and 6.5 air yards per target.

6. In the red zone, Graham only received a modest 26.3 percent target share, and only totaled eight red zone receptions (13th among tight ends).

7. In fact, as per Warren Sharp, of the 71 offensive plays Seattle ran inside the ten yard line, Graham was only targeted on four of them.

8. Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had 15 red zone targets last season.  He is now a member of the New York Jets.

9. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce had 20 more receptions and 21 more targets than Graham last season.

10. Yet, if Graham just caught two more touchdowns, he would have been the number one standard scoring fantasy tight end, surpassing Kelce.

11. Jimmy Graham is in the last year of a four-year, $40 million contract.

Putting It Blountly

12.  LeGarrette Blount has 24 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons, tied with Arizona’s David Johnson for most in the NFL.

13.  Blount played 49 games for the New England Patriots. He averaged 13.8 rushing attempts, 59.5 rushing yards, and 0.69 touchdowns per game.

14.  The 30-year-old has played 51 games for teams other than New England (Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh). He has averaged 9.6 rushing attempts, 43.2 yards, and 0.29 touchdowns per game with those teams.

15.  As per Evan Silva, Blount carried an NFL high 121 times from the I-formation with a fullback in front of him.

16.  The Philadelphia Eagles do not have a fullback on their current roster.

17. The Eagles loved using 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE). They used it more than any other team in the NFL. When they lined up in that formation, they passed the ball almost as much as when they only had one tight end on the field. (SharpFootballAnalytics).

18. Last year’s lead running back Ryan Mathews only averaged 7.72 PPR fantasy points per game when Philadelphia faced a top 12 rushing defense.

19. In the 66 NFL games he has started, Mathews has 179 receptions for an average of 2.71 receptions per game.

20. In the games against top 12 rushing defenses, Mathews only averaged 0.6 receptions per game.

21.  Over the 43 career games Blount has started, he has only totaled 46 receptions for an average of 1.07 receptions per game.

22. Last season, the Eagles faced the eighth most difficult schedule of run defenses.

23. This season, the Eagles face the third most difficult schedule of run defenses.

24.  Based off last year’s stats, the Eagles will face the second, third, fifth, and seventh best run defenses against opposing fantasy running backs over the last seven weeks.

25.  Four of those games will be on the road including a brutal three-week stretch with road games against Seattle, the Rams, and the Giants during weeks 13, 14, and 15.

As the Crow Flies

26.  Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell finished 15th among all running backs with 944 rushing yards last season.

27.  Crowell ran behind the 17th best offensive line per run blocking efficiency.

28.  Despite average blocking, Crowell had 13 runs of 15 yards or more which ranked seventh among all running backs.

29. The Browns spent over $100 million in the offseason on their offensive line. They signed Cincinnati Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler to a five-year, $60 million contract. Zeitler rated as the top offensive guard available in free agency.

30.  Cleveland also signed center J.C. Tretter from Green Bay, and gave guard Joel Bitonio a huge extension (five years, $51 million).

31.  In 2017, the Browns had the second best offensive line as per ProFootballFocus.

32.  The Browns ranked second to last in the league with 350 team rushing attempts last year.

33.  Through the first four weeks of the 2016 season, Crowell produced three top 16 fantasy running back weeks in PPR formats.

34.  Crowell was on pace for 1,756 total yards and 12 total touchdowns.

35.  He also ranked 18th among all running backs with 40 receptions and was second among all running backs with 104 pass blocking snaps. (ProFootballFocus).

36.  Back in 2014, Joe Redemann at NumberFire proved there is a relationship between quarterback rushing and the rushing value of their respective running back.

37.  In two years at Notre Dame, DeShone Kizer rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns.

38.  The Browns scored the second fewest points of any team last year. Their 264 points only finished ahead of the 224 put up by the Los Angeles Rams.

39.  Despite the limited attempts, Crowell did convert five of his nine rushing attempts inside the five yard line to touchdowns.

Ted Ginn Jr. On The Bayou

40.  Over the last two seasons, Ted Ginn Jr. has averaged 96 targets per season. He is averaging 49 receptions and 745.5 yards per season.

41.  Ginn’s quarterback those two seasons was Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, whose completion percentage in those seasons has been 59.8 and 52.9 percent respectively.

42.  Currently, his quarterback in New Orleans is Drew Brees. Over the last 13 seasons, Brees has never had a completion percentage below 63 percent. Over the past four seasons, Brees has never finished the season with less than a 68.3 percent completion percentage.

43.  Ginn’s 4.43 40-yard dash speed is an advantage with deep ball targets.

44. In 2016, Newton ranked ninth in deep ball attempts but only 27th in deep ball completion percentage (26.3 percent).

45.  In 2016, Brees ranked 11th in deep ball attempts but first in deep ball completion percentage (51.4 percent).

46.  Saints wide receiver Willie Snead had 104 targets last season.

47.  Snead is suspended for the first three games of the season due to an offseason DUI.

48.  Ginn is currently starting in two wide receiver sets for New Orleans in week one.

49.  In 2016, the Saints faced the third most difficult schedule of defenses, as well as the third most difficult schedule of pass defenses.

50.  In 2017, the Saints face the fifth easiest schedule of defenses.

51.  New Orleans is projected to be an underdog in their first four games of the season:  at Minnesota, home vs New England, at Carolina, and at Miami.

52.  However, in weeks 11-15, the Saints are favored in four games and play Atlanta in a dome in week 14.

Martavis Bryant?  Only in Best Ball

53.  In 2014, Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant was inactive for the first six weeks of the season after a poor preseason and an A/C joint sprain.

54.  From week six through week 13, Bryant caught seven touchdown passes. His 21.1 yards per reception was first among all NFL wide receivers.

55. In 2015, Bryant was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. After his return in week six, Bryant again caught seven touchdown passes over the remainder of the season.

56.  In 2016, Bryant was suspended for the entire season for again violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

57.  Charlie Kleinheksel of RotoViz took a look at the impact of suspensions on the career length of NFL players. He stated that a player suspended for substance abuse will play on average just eight more NFL games in his career, with a 50 percent chance of being suspended again. There is no history of a player having NFL success after multiple substance abuse suspensions.

58.  Over his two seasons, there are 11 games in which Martavis Bryant has caught at least one touchdown pass. In those games he has averaged 3.73 receptions, 85.9 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns.

59.  There have also been ten games where Martavis Bryant has not caught a touchdown pass. In those games, he is averaging 3.5 receptions and 36.9 receiving yards. (RotoViz)

60. When Bryant catches a touchdown he averages 20.1 PPR fantasy points per game. When he doesn’t catch a touchdown Bryant averages 8.1 PPR fantasy points per game.

61.  According to FantasyPros, Bryant’s 20.1 PPR fantasy point average would rank him as the WR2 last season.  His 8.1 PPR fantasy average would rank 80th, tied with Demarcus Ayers, who failed to make the Steelers 53-man roster this year.

Wiping Out the Slot

62.  Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder had 67 receptions, 847 yards, and seven touchdowns last season.

63.  Crowder was one of the most efficient wide receivers in the NFL, ranking 15th at the position with a +17.8 Production Premium.  This measures a player’s productivity across all league-average situations, discounting non-standard situations such as two minute drill and garbage time.

64.  He also was fifth among all wide receivers with a 55.7 percent slot rate in three and four wide receiver sets.

65. Crowder was third among Washington receivers with 99 targets, behind Pierre Garcon (114 targets) and DeSean Jackson (100 targets).

66.  Garcon (San Francisco) and Jackson (Tampa Bay) are no longer a member of the Redskins.

67.  Crowder has now ascended to an outside receiver position and is one of the preseason favorites for a breakout season in his pivotal third NFL season.

68.  Tight end Jordan Reed has already suffered injuries during the preseason.

69.  Crowder was the most targeted Redskins wide receiver in the red zone (16 targets) and specifically inside the five yard line (seven targets).

70.  The popular fantasy narrative is that Jordan Reed will take away short to intermediate passing targets from Jamison Crowder.

71.  However, Crowder actually averaged more receiving yards and more PPR fantasy points when Reed played.

72.  According to Warren Sharp, the Redskins faced the toughest schedule of opposing defenses last year by far. Yet, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for the third most passing yards in the league last season.

73.  The Redskins open the season facing the 30th (Philadelphia) and 31st (Los Angeles Rams) ranked defenses against opposing fantasy wide receivers in 2016.

Believe In Gillislee

74.  Last season, only five teams had more had more fantasy running back points than the New England Patriots. In addition, the Patriots have finished in the top six in four of the last five seasons (Chris Raybon).

75.  The goal line running back in the New England offense for the past five seasons has been: LeGarrette Blount, LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray/LeGarrette Blount/Steven Ridley, LeGarrette Blount/Steven Ridley, and Steven Ridley.

76.  The total touchdowns generated by those running backs respectively have been: 18, 7, 10, 14, and 12.

77.  The Patriots are at their best offensively in the shotgun formation, which they could not do with Blount.

78. Over 74 percent of Mike Gillislee‘s career carries have come from the shotgun formation. (Chris Raybon)

79.  Blount faced a base defensive front 65.6 percent of the time which ranked in the top 20 among all running backs. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry against a base front which ranked 29th among all running backs.

80.  Gillislee averaged 5.8 yards per carry against a base defensive front, which ranked third among all running backs.

81.  Blount’s breakaway run rate was 3.7 percent, which represents the percentage of carries that went for 15 yards or more. This ranked 36th among all running backs.

82.  Gillislee’s breakaway run rate was 9.9 percent. This was first among all fantasy running backs in 2016.

83.  After the Patriots week nine bye week, they only face defenses ranked 20th or worse in points allowed to opposing fantasy running backs. In order: Denver (20th), Oakland (25th), Miami (21st), Buffalo (29th), Miami (21st), Pittsburgh (23rd), and Buffalo (29th).

84.  The Patriots are projected to be a favorite in every game they play this season, which means they should be leading in a strong majority of their games.  (Warren Sharp)

85. Teams that are winning in the second half tend to have heavy rushing game scripts.

All Out on Alshon

86. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was in a contract year with the Chicago Bears last season.

87.  He suffered a knee sprain and hamstring strain during the season, and was suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the policy on performance-enhancing substances.

88. Jeffery totaled 52 receptions for 821 yards and just two total touchdowns.

89.  He has a history of soft tissue injuries and already suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason.

90.  Jeffery’s quarterback is second-year player Carson Wentz, who threw 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.

91. Wentz’ 62.3 completion percentage ranked 20th among NFL starting quarterbacks last season.

92. In the red zone, Wentz was even worse. His red zone completion percentage of 49.5 percent ranked 23rd among starting NFL quarterbacks.

93. Last season, the Eagles faced the 20th rated pass defense. This year they face the sixth most difficult pass defenses. This represents the second largest jump in difficulty for any team in the NFL. (Warren Sharp).

94.  Jeffery has eight games against defenses that rank in the top 11 in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers.

95.  In week one, reports are that Washington cornerback Josh Norman will shadow Jeffery throughout the game.

Remember This Titan

96.  Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota improved each of the following statistics from his first to second NFL season: passing yards, touchdown passes, interceptions, rushing attempts, and total rushing yards.

97.  Throughout his career, when in the red zone, Mariota has completed 60 of his 94 pass attempts (64 percent) with 33 touchdowns and zero interceptions. (ProFootballFocus).

98.  The Titans added one of the best red zone wide receivers in football, Eric Decker, during the offseason.

99.  Mariota also showed great improvement in deep ball completion percentage, improving from 25.5 percent in 2015 to 42.1 percent in 2016.

100.  In 2016, the Titans had the seventh best pass-blocking offensive line. This season, ProFootballFocus ranked their offensive line as the fourth best in the NFL.

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